'Chinese president's visit to boost Zim economy'

HARARE - Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Zimbabwe this week is expected to breathe life into the southern African country’s ailing economy, an envoy has said.

China’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping on Friday said the emerging Asian economic powerhouse attaches great importance to Zimbabwe, hence the need to improve economic relations between the two countries.

“In this upcoming visit I think the two presidents — President Xi Jinping and President Mugabe — will have in-depth discussions on our bilateral relations. They will also witness the signing of lot of agreements which are all mega deals to enrich the practical cooperation, which will bring more tangible benefits to our two people,” he said.

Fresh from visiting the United States and the United Kingdom, President Xi will be on a two-day state visit to Zimbabwe from December 1, 2015 on his way to South Africa for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit, making it the fourth African country he has visited since assuming office.

The latest visit comes at a time when Zimbabwe is on the verge of sliding into another catastrophic recession, in part because the government failed to increase transparency in diamond production and revenue collection, which has affected its ability to invest in essential public services like water, education, sanitation and health.

Government recently slashed this year’s economic growth forecast from 3,2 percent to 1,5 percent due to drought, low aggregate demand and rising unemployment rate.

Economic experts say the volatile economic climate has dissuaded further investment and loan commitments across East and West.

According to the World Food Programme, more than 1,5 million people are facing starvation this year due to the drought but Ping believes China will rescue Zimbabwe from impending food shortages.

“China also thinks it is necessary to lend a helping hand to our Zimbabwean brothers in time of need. So during this visit, China will continue to provide support and aid to Zimbabwe. Let’s patiently wait for the good news,” he said.

Over the past few years, China — touted as Zimbabwe’s all weather friend — has been accounting for about 30 percent of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows into the country, official government figures show.

Statistics from the Zimbabwe Investment Authority revealed that in 2014 China contributed over $200 million out of the total $543 million FDI in Zimbabwe.

This appeared to indicate the world’s second largest economy had toppled the country’s traditional sources of FDI since President Mugabe embarked on a “Look East” policy about a decade ago meant to spite the West for imposing sanctions on the country.

“Through this visit, the Chinese side hopes to deepen our traditional friendship and political mutual trust, and put forward the blueprint for the future development of our relations,” Ping said.

The visit would promote exchange and cooperation in agriculture, manufacturing, financing, education, culture, tourism and justice.

Last year in August, the two countries signed various Memoranda of Agreements (MoUs) on energy, roads, rail network, telecommunications, agriculture and tourism during Mugabe’s state visit to China, however, most of the deals are yet to materialise.

Ping said a lot of work needs to be done before the MoUs turned into agreements, such as feasibility studies and negotiations on the terms of cooperation.

“I am glad to see that many projects are progressing well and we can expect that new mega deals will come out from the MoUs in the near future, during or after the state visit of President Xi Jinping,” he said.

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