Page last updated at 13:35 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Zimbabwe pays wages in US dollar

Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Harare, Zimbabwe, 13 February 2009
Tendai Biti said the measures aimed to get the country "working again"

Zimbabwe's new finance minister says soldiers and civil servants have started to be paid in US dollars to help revive the shattered economy.

Tendai Biti, a member of the opposition party, said some 130,000 government employees were receiving $100 (70) a month tax-free.

The state had enough foreign currency to pay the wages for February and March, Mr Biti told a news conference.

Hyperinflation has left Zimbabwe's local currency almost worthless.

Soldiers were paid in vouchers redeemable at selected banks on Tuesday, while teachers were to be paid on Wednesday and other civil servants on Thursday.

We have to get Zimbabwe working again; getting teachers to school is part of efforts to get Zimbabwe to work again
Tendai Biti

Mr Biti, a member of newly installed Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said the measures were designed to get the country back on its feet.

"We have to get Zimbabwe working again; getting teachers to school is part of efforts to get Zimbabwe to work again, having examination papers being marked is part of having Zimbabwe work again," Mr Biti said.

The country has the world's highest official inflation rate - estimated by some economists at 10 sextillion per cent.

Zimbabwe's political and economic crises have reduced the country's dollar, once on par with the British pound, to almost nothing, forcing Zimbabweans to pay trillions of dollars for a loaf of bread.

The central bank in February knocked 12 zeros off the local currency - reducing one trillion dollars to one dollar.

Mr Tsvangirai announced last week that civil servants would be paid in foreign currency and appealed for them to return to work.

Analysts say the dollar allowance is the first concrete step from the new government towards rebuilding Zimbabwe since its new cabinet was sworn in last week by President Robert Mugabe.

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