Little for Zimbabwe in ‘Look East’ deals: analysts

HARARE, Oct 15, 2006 (AFP) – Zimbabwe, shunned by the West, is trawling ever wider for alternative business partners, but analysts say much-trumpeted deals with its new friends are unlikely to yield meaningful benefits to the country. The state-run Zimbabwe Central Bank summoned reporters to a press conference last week to attend the signing of a series of memorandums of understanding with Russian conglomerate Rusaviatrade said to be worth 300 million dollars.

In theory, the signings should lead to the construction of a new suburban rail link to Harare as well an upgrade to the country’s main airport.

But economists said the signing was likely to be as unproductive as similar agreements signed with the likes of China and India.

“It’s more propaganda than anything else,” said independent economist Wilson Johwa. “Nothing concrete has ever come out of these MOUs whether they are from China or Russia.”

Once a regional economic model, Zimbabwe is in the throes of an economic crisis with a four-figure inflation, mounting poverty and perennial shortages of fuel and basic foodstuffs.

The economic decline was made worse after the country’s former economic allies in the European Union and the United States slammed doors on P