Zimbabwe lifts foreign currency restrictions

HARARE, January 29, 2009 (AFP) – Zimbabwe scrapped restictions on foreign currency on Thursday to prop up its ailing economy, as the United Nations warned that more than half the population needs emergency food aid. Hours after grim estimates by UN agencies also showed that just six percent of its population is formally employed, acting finance minister Patrick Chinamasa announced that Zimbabweans can now legally use foreign money alongside the local dollar.

“These currencies include the South African rand, the United States dollar, Botswana pula, euro (and) pound sterling among others,” Chinamasa said, acknowledging the country’s long-established black-market forex economy.

Chinamasa was presenting a 66,500,000,000,000,000,000-Zimbabwean dollar (1.5-billion-euro) government budget amid world-record hyperinflation last officially set at 231 million percent.

Fees at state institutions such as hospitals and further education facilities are listed in US dollars, while the country’s power, water and state-run fuel utilities will also take foreign currencies.

A hospital visit for an adult will cost eight US dollars (6.17 euros), a term at medicine school will cost 1,800 US dollars and a kilowatt of pow