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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 15:15 GMT
Zimbabwe under fresh IMF scrutiny
James Murape stands among parched maize crops on a farm near Harare
Zimbabwe is facing severe economic problems
Zimbabwe is under fresh scrutiny by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which will consider expelling it from the body unless it repays its debts.

IMF officials are in Zimbabwe assessing the country's economic situation ahead of a key meeting in March to decide on Zimbabwe's continued membership.

Zimbabwe repaid a large chunk of its outstanding debt last year, but still owes the IMF more than $136m (76m).

Its economy has been beset by rampant inflation and chronic unemployment.

Co-operation

In September, the IMF postponed a decision on Zimbabwe's potential expulsion until March after Harare repaid $131m and pledged to eliminate its debts by November 2006.

The mission is there to review the macroeconomic situation of the country
IMF spokeswoman

At the time, the IMF warned that conditions in Zimbabwe could get worse unless the government took urgent action to stabilise the economy and to provide food to vulnerable groups.

A spokeswoman confirmed the presence of IMF officials in Zimbabwe but said she could not pre-empt the outcome of the visit.

"The mission is there to review the macroeconomic situation of the country and to assess how to improve its co-operation with the Fund ahead of the next board meeting expected in March," she said.

Harare is issuing new bank notes worth about 50,000 dollars (52 US cents) to help cut the number of notes needed for standard transactions.

The Zimbabwe 20,000 dollar bill - currently the largest denomination in circulation - can now buy only half a loaf of bread.




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