Zimbabwe expects comprehensive Chinese financial aid -finance minister

HARARE Tue Feb 11, 2014 12:15pm EST

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HARARE Feb 11 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe expects to conclude negotiations for comprehensive financial aid with long-time ally China in the next three months as President Robert Mugabe's government seeks to revive a slowing economy, the finance minister said on Tuesday.

The government requires $27 billion - more than twice the size of its economy - to fund a five-year plan to improve basic services and rebuild the impoverished southern African country, according to state officials.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told journalists that he had travelled to Beijing for a week last month to negotiate for money that the government wants to boost the shaky economy.

"During the visit we agreed that the government of the People's Republic of China and the government of Zimbabwe are working towards a comprehensive financial package and (we) committed ourselves to finalising the matter within three months," Chinamasa said, declining to give details.

Shunned by Western governments and funding institutions such as the World Bank because of its failure to repay billions of dollars of debt, Harare is increasingly looking to China for financial help.

China, meanwhile, covets Zimbabwean mineral resources. The landlocked country has the world's second largest reserves of platinum along with huge deposits of gold, alluvial diamonds, coal and chrome.

In March 2011, China signed nearly $700 million in loan deals with Zimbabwe, its biggest such package to date. China's Export Import Bank last November agreed to lend Zimbabwe $320 million to expand its Kariba hydro-power plant by 300 MW. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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