US wants strict conditions on coronavirus aid for 'countries like Zimbabwe'

  • Zimbabwe is in need of billions of dollars in aid, but is not eligible for bailouts or a loan package.
  • The World Bank offered it a US$7 million grant in May. 
  • The US has expressed its misgivings, saying the funds could be abused. 

The United States has expressed its misgivings about a US$7 million grant the World Bank extended to Zimbabwe to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Zimbabwe is not eligible for a bailout or loan package from global lenders because it is in arrears with most international financial institutions such as the World Bank, Paris Club and the African Development Bank.

However, the southern African country faces a major budget shortfall and is in need of aid estimated to run into billions of dollars. It was granted US$7 million by the World Bank on 6 May 2020.

The United States has since expressed concern that the funds could be abused for political gain.

In a letter dated 3 June addressed to World Bank president David Malpass, Chairperson of the United States Committee on Foreign Relations James Risch expressed strong reservations about the grant, saying there is a risk the funds could be abused by the "ruling elite".

He urged the World Bank to impose very strict benchmarks and transparency and accountability measures on the grant and any future programme for Zimbabwe.

Risch said the World Bank "must not lose sight of the historical behaviour of countries like Zimbabwe where the government has used and continues to use state resources and international aid to suppress its population and enrich the country's ruling elite".

The letter added that the money could fall into the "wrong hands".

"Concerns remain that the funding this grant provides for desperately needed response initiatives will fall into the wrong hands, directly or indirectly," reads part of Risch's letter.

He urged the World Bank to impose very strict benchmarks and transparency and accountability measures on the grant and any future programme for Zimbabwe.

He also said contracts for goods and services must not be awarded to Zimbabwean companies under US sanctions or known to engage in corrupt practices.

Meanwhile Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube Parliament that Covid-19-related cash donations amounted to US$184 million.

The United Kingdom provided the bulk of US$45.7 million, while the European Union and the Global Fund contributed US$60 million and US$25 million respectively.

According to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe requires US$2.2 billion in global support. 

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Do you think it was a good idea for the government to approach the IMF for a $4.3 billion loan to fight Covid-19?
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Yes. We need the money.
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It depends on how the funds are used.
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