Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Sunday, 12 April 2009 16:21 UK

Zimbabwe dollar 'not back soon'

50 billion dollar Zimbabwean bank note
The Zimbabwean dollar has virtually disappeared from the streets

Zimbabwe's national currency will remain suspended for at least a year following the legalisation of foreign currencies, officials say.

"There was nothing to support the value of the Zimbabwean dollar," Economic Planning Minister Elton Mangoma said.

Since January use of foreign currency has been allowed, to combat hyper-inflation that had left even top-value Zimbabwe dollar notes worthless.

Since the move, consumer prices have fallen for three months in a row.

Consumer prices are currently falling by 3% month-on-month, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) said using figures collated in March. In February, prices fell by 3.1% according to the CSO.

The power-sharing government led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has prioritised rebuilding the devastated Zimbabwe economy since taking office in February.

State-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper said the government had decided the Zimbabwe dollar should be brought back only when industrial output returns to about 60% capacity from the current average of 20%.

Critics of veteran leader Robert Mugabe blame him for mismanaging the economic affairs of the country and for the collapse of its water, sanitation and health systems.

An outbreak of cholera last August has killed about 4,000 people, though the World Health Organisation says the peak of the outbreak may have been passed now.

The international community has been helping Zimbabwe cope with its cholera epidemic, but most development aid is being withheld until signs of effective power sharing are deemed apparent.

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