Thursday, December 3, 1998 Published at 16:40 GMT
Political conspiracy or economic mismanagement?
Economists warn planned appropriation of private farms will hit production badly
By Economics Analyst Andrew Walker
Zimbabwe has a history of erratic economic performance - poor in some respects and real progress in others. Its most recent problems have included mass strikes - met with a temporary ban - in part a response to a recent rise in fuel prices.
There have been persistent and large deficits in the country's trade with the rest of the world and in the government's finances.
And Zimbabwe's deficit in its international trade was bigger than Thailand's in the run-up to the Asian crisis last year.
That deficit was a factor behind the huge decline in Zimbabwe's currency last year, which pushed up import prices. That in turn sent inflation climbing in the first few months of this year.
The World Bank has also expressed its disappointment at the slow progress of reform in state-owned enterprises, an area where many observers say there is extensive corruption. In the 1980s, slow economic growth meant that average living standards declined.
There have also been important social achievements, in spite of the disappointing economic growth.
By 1990, life expectancy had risen to 64 years, and infant mortality, school enrolment and adult literacy were all better than the average for the developing countries.
More recently, Zimbabwe has improved its relations with the International Monetary Fund to such an extent that the IMF approved a new credit of 175 million US dollars for Zimbabwe in June.
If it all works out as the IMF forecasts suggest, Zimabwe should enjoy a much needed acceleration of economic growth next year.
Nonetheless, the IMF is clearly uneasy about some aspects of Zimbabwe's policy, including some where there has been more widespread international criticism.
And it will not be easy for the Zimbabwe government to achieve the targets for strengthening the public finances. They will need to make a success of that if the IMF's financial support is to continue.