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The United Nations has joined Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government in appealing for more than $700 million in humanitarian aid for the ruined country.
But while Western countries may show willing when it comes to emergency aid, they are still reluctant to give money to the government between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his old rival.
First, they say, there must be broader political reforms and a clearer demonstration of respect for human rights.
The Western countries have long been at odds with Mugabe, accusing him of ruining Zimbabwe after the seizure of white-owned farms, of widespread human rights abuses and of making a mockery of elections last year that were widely condemned outside Zimbabwe.
For Zimbabwe’s long-suffering people, the true meaning of the signing of a power-sharing agreement between President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC would be how quickly it leads to an improvement in their daily lives. An economic crisis that began in 1998 has turned the once prosperous Southern African country into a basket case economy with the world’s highest inflation at over 11 million percent. Millions of Zimbabwean’s who have fled across the borders to escape unemployment and severe shortages are waiting to see if the political deal will result in economic rebound paving the way for their return.
The agreement negotiated by South African President Thabo Mbeki provides for the sharing of power between veteran President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Tsvangirai takes on the new role of Prime Minister with extensive powers, with Mugabe’s 28-year hold on power significantly eroded.
All economies, no matter how decrepit, can be revived through good institutions and economic freedom. That said, it is impossible to predict how quickly the people of Zimbabwe will be able to enjoy a notable improvement in their standard of living.
Zimbabwe today is one of the least politically and economically free countries in the world. The speed of Zimbabwe’s social and economic recovery will depend on the speed and extent of reforms.
The signing of an agreement between Robert Mugabe’s ZanuPF party and the two formations of the MDC marks the beginning of an exciting period in the political history of Zimbabwe. The national economy has been devastated by, inter alia, disastrous political and economic policies formulated and implemented by the Mugabe regime. Fortunately, most of the development and economic infrastructure still remains largely intact, and the Zimbabwean economy could recover from the current meltdown in a fairly short time.
Zimbabweans are reputed to be hard-working people. Although many highly skilled Zimbabweans have since left the country for greener pastures both in the region and further afield, the country still boasts a highly skilled labour force.