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By Shapi Shacinda

LUSAKA, May 3 (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a $256.4 million financing package for Zambia and released $160.1 million to help the country overcome effects of the global financial crisis, a Treasury spokesman said. 

Chileshe Kandeta said the IMF’s executive board had approved the new facility on Friday after a review of the mineral-rich southern African country’s economy. 

“The IMF executive board (has) approved an increase in financial support under the poverty reduction growth facility (PRGF) by $256.4 million to $329.7 million to help Zambia cope with the global economic slowdown and financial crisis,” Kandeta said in a statement released late on Saturday. 

Kandeta said the completion of the combined reviews allowed for the immediate release of $160.1 million, bringing the total disbursements to Zambia to $170.6 million. 

IMF Deputy Managing Director Takatoshi Kato said in the same statement that Zambia’s PRGF programme implementation and recent economic performance had been hurt by higher international food and fuel prices, pushing inflation above the programme’s target. 

Zambia annual inflation was recorded at 14.3 percent in April, up from 13.1 percent the previous month. 

Kato said a steep fall in global copper prices had also hit exports and government revenue in the copper-rich nation.

“The volatility of the kwacha (currency) underscores the need to reduce Zambia’s vulnerability to fluctuations in copper prices through continued vigorous implementation of structural reforms to diversify the economy,” Kato said. 

The Zambian kwacha depreciated to 5,775/dollar at close of business on Friday from an average of 3,000 kwacha to a dollar in May 2008. 

The initial IMF $79.2 million PRGF lending facility was approved in June to support Zambia’s economic policies aimed at alleviating poverty and sustaining growth. 

In 2006, the IMF, the World Bank and other African and Western lenders cut Zambia’s debt to $502 million from $7.1 billion under global plans to cut debts of some of the world’s poorest countries. 

(Reporting by Shapi Shacinda; Editing by Serena Chaudhry) 

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