The Sunday Mail
Hon Patrick Chinamasa
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa recently travelled to Europe on a tour that took him to France, Belgium and the United Kingdom to engage with the West and seek support for Zimbabwe’s arrears clearance strategy that is geared towards unlocking fresh funding from international financial institutions. Last week Minister Chinamasa spoke to our Chief Reporter Kuda Bwititi about his mission. Below is the Finance Minister in his own words.
My mission to Europe started with my visit to France. I went to Paris at the invitation of the France Minister of Finance, Mr Michel Sapin.
Before my engagement with Minister Sapin, I had a meeting organised by a grouping called MEDEF.
MEDEF is an umbrella business body which managed to organise a number of companies from France to come and learn more about Zimbabwe, particularly our investment climate, with a view to investing in the country.
We had a fruitful meeting at this forum as we had companies from France and from Zimbabwe in attendance.
For example, we had Lafarge and Total, which are both companies with headquarters in France but with operations in Zimbabwe.
Other companies included Seed Co and Anchor Yeast, Veritas Bureau and others.
I can say the meeting went well because potential investors were able to learn of the investment climate in Zimbabwe.
The potential investors were able to learn that Zimbabwe is open for investment in all sectors of the economy.
They were also able to hear first-hand from companies in Zimbabwe that indeed, the environment is convenient for them to invest in Zimbabwe, as their colleagues have already set up base and are operating very well.
Later after that conference, I had a meeting with the Minister Sapin. The meeting was to solicit France’s continued support for our debt and arrears clearance strategy.
I also had interaction with members of the Paris Club, which is headquartered in Paris.
We told them that after we reached an agreement with the IMF, the World and the Africa Development Bank the next stage is now to engage them and see what support they can give us.
We discussed that another trip to France would be necessary in the future for further engagements.
After my engagements in France I then went to Brussels and while there, I visited the European Investment Bank which has its headquarters in Brussels.
We also owe the European Investment Bank money, about US$280 million.
So we discussed a payment plan for the debt owed to them. I emphasised in my meeting that the bank should resume support to Zimbabwe’s private sector because the public sector rides on the back of the private sector.
It is the private sector that pays taxes which anchor the public.
I also took the opportunity to thank them for the lines of credit they have provided for some of our commercial banks.
I asked them to increase the lines of credit through the commercial banks.
Later on, I had a meeting with the EU department of development.
We signed a US$230 million deal for the support of sectors such as education, health and agriculture.
The discussions also centred on disbursement of the US$230 million grant.
We then proceeded to London on the 3rd of July.
In London, I met executives from Standard Chartered Bank and also several potential investors for Zimbabwe.
On Monday July 4, I participated in a roundtable discussion on Zimbabwe at Chatham House.
That was then followed by my participation in the BBC interview on Hard Talk.
On Tuesday July 5, I addressed the Africa Confidential investment summit on Zimbabwe.
Later on that afternoon, I had a meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with Minister James Duddridge (Minster for African affairs).
We had a very constructive meeting and we both agreed that we have to work hard for Zimbabwe and the UK towards normalisation of Zim-UK bilateral relations in order to leverage on the economic potential between our two countries for our mutual benefit.
On the 6th of July I had a meeting with Ms Lynda Chalker (veteran Conservative politician and former Minister responsible for Africa Affairs) who has huge interest in African issues.
This was basically a routine courtesy call.
On the same day we had marathon meetings with the Afreximbank and Lazard, an international bank.
The discussions centred on the strategy which they have committed to putting together for us on the arrears due to the World Bank.
They have put together a syndication of banks to address the World Bank arrears.
With this understanding and commitment from Afreximbank and Lazard, we are now definitely on course to fulfilling what we set out in our arrears clearance strategy. I can safely say that everything is now on course.
Later on the 6th of July, I had a meeting with the Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Development Mr Mark Lowcock and the discussion was on our appeal towards drought mitigation measures in Zimbabwe.
This was against the background of the appeal made by His Excellency, President Mugabe for the support we need for our drought relief programme.
On the 7th of July I had several meetings with several Ministers who were asking for an update on the investment climate in Zimbabwe.
In those meetings with the Ministers we never made an appeal for direct financial assistance as has been rumoured.
When I arrived at Heathrow Airport, I was informed by the officers there that I was under sanctions. I was then detained for some time, for several minutes.
To me it did not make sense because I had been granted a visa in Pretoria which allowed me to travel.
I do not want to reflect much on the incident because I don’t want to focus on the negatives regarding our relationships.
What I would rather emphasise on is the pledge that we made with Minister Duddridge to put emphasis on the re-engagement.
I have committed myself to working hard to ensure that our re-engagement efforts yield results that will benefit our economy.
This is why I also solicited for British support for our debt clearance strategy.