HARARE (Bloomberg ) —Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said Tuesday in his first State of the Nation address in eight years that he welcomed Western assistance in his country’s economy – the first such statement in a decade and a half of strained relations with the US and Europe.
The 91-year-old veteran president was booed and heckled by opposition politicians over the deteriorating economy as he delivered a policy speech that lasted less than half an hour in Parliament.
Mugabe also called for strengthening of ties with multilateral institutions, which include the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
“My government values re-engagement of the Western world in the Zimbabwe economy,” he said.
The southern African nation owes lenders about $8.4-billion, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in November. The IMF began a staff monitoring programme in Zimbabwe in 2013, its first formal contact with the country in more than a decade. The economy will probably expand 1.5% this year from an initial projection of 3.2%, Mugabe said, blaming drought.
Zimbabwe will seek to “repeal all laws that hamper business,” he said, and the government has a plan to revive agriculture, including cotton, and expand the mining industry.