Coalition government helps Zimbabwe

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Steve Chiotakis: Zimbabwe’s devastated economy is getting more than a half a billion dollars from the IMF to help with a severe liquidity crunch there. Annual inflation rates topped an unbelievable 500 million percent last year, and there’s widespread hunger and unemployment. But the economy is starting to stabilize as a new coalition government takes root. U.S. lawmakers say they want that government to succeed. Marketplace’s Gretchen Wilson has more from Johannesburg.

Gretchen Wilson: Five U.S. lawmakers are wrapping up an official visit to Zimbabwe, making it the largest such delegation there since the economy and the rule of law began to erode a decade ago.

The bipartisan group included congressional representatives from New York, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. They met with officials on both sides of the new unity government, including long-time President Robert Mugabe. The U.S. has openly criticized Mugabe’s 29-year-rule and accuses his administration of dismantling a vibrant economy that was once considered the bread basket of Africa.

Mugabe says ongoing sanctions are what’s keeping Zimbabwe’s economy sluggish. But since the coalition government took office February, some basic foods and services have returned to the country. Members of the U.S. delegation say a democratic unity government will be the best chance of improving conditions on the ground.

In Johannesburg, I’m Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.

All reporting by Gretchen L. Wilson, © 2009

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