Zimbabwe forges ahead with infrastructure development despite COVID-19 pandemic

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HARARE, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwean government has continued to prioritize infrastructure development despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic because the projects are critical to improving the business environment, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said on Monday.

He said out of the 25 billion Zimbabwe dollars (about 69 million U.S. dollars) budgeted for infrastructure projects in 2020, 6.6 billion Zimbabwe dollars had been invested at the end of July 2020, with the remaining 18 billion dollars set to be raised and injected during the last half of the year.

"Notwithstanding pressures from COVID-19 pandemic, government remain prioritizing ongoing critical infrastructure projects in roads, energy, water and sanitation," the minister said during an online media conference.

"Treasury has ring-fenced resources towards these projects, critical for enabling the doing business environment," he said.

The minister said some of the priority projects included those being funded by China in the energy and transport sectors.

They are the ongoing expansion of the country's largest power plant, Hwange Thermal Power Station by Chinese firm Sino Hydro to add an extra 600 megawatts, the expansion of main airport Robert Gabriel Mugabe and construction of the new parliament building in the outskirts of Harare.

Ncube said other projects being prioritized by the government include dam and hospital construction and the rehabilitation and expansion of the 582 km Harare-Beitbridge highway, which links Zimbabwe and South Africa and other neighboring countries including Zambia, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Harare-Beitbridge is one of the priority roads projects underway. There are five contractors on the ground each widening and resurfacing 20 km. The target is to complete 200 km this year," Ncube said.

He said to date, over 600 million Zimbabwe dollars has been disbursed towards the project.

Government has now opened most sectors of the economy after a six-month lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ncube said in 2020, anticipated economic growth will be below expectation due to the impact of COVID-19 and climatic shocks.

"The pandemic has affected almost all sectors of the economy, especially the tourism industry," he said. Enditem

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