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Zimbabwe is embarking on a long, complex, and difficult journey to rebuild its economy, which has been shattered by years of neglect and destructive government policies. If the final political hurdles are overcome—hopefully sooner rather than later—the new coalition government will be faced with making politically difficult decisions and addressing conclusively the economic ghosts of the past. One of those ghosts is more than $5 billion owed to external creditors, of which nearly 80 percent is arrears. Clearing Zimbabwe’s external debt arrears and securing comprehensive debt relief will be a critical step in eventual recovery. By doing so, the government will remove a crippling burden on its budget, investment climate, and overall macroeconomic environment. More important to the success of the coalition government, it will unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in new external assistance for critical reconstruction programs that will improve the Zimbabwean people’s quality of life.
This paper provides a detailed overview of the arrears clearance and debt relief processes. The purpose is to spark a debate in creditor capitals and hopefully to buttress the government’s analytical foundation. With a strong dedicated team of experts—and support from relevant donor agencies—the Zimbabwean government will one day conclusively address its crushing debt burden and proceed with the rebuilding of a once vibrant and proud nation.