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Dec 7, 10:19 AM EST

Zimbabwe proposes budget aimed at reviving bleak economy

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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Zimbabwe's new government plans to reduce diplomatic missions and ban first-class travel for everyone but the president as it tries to revive a devastated economy after longtime leader Robert Mugabe resigned last month.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Thursday presented the first national budget proposal since President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in after the military's intervention, saying it is aimed at "getting the economy speedily back on track."

Zimbabweans and others are watching closely to see whether Mnangagwa, a longtime Mugabe ally whose firing as vice president last month led the military and ruling party to turn against the president, will be able to step out of his mentor's shadow.

In one of the most dramatic budget proposals, the once-prosperous southern African nation now plans to amend an indigenization law limiting foreign ownership of businesses to no more than 49 percent of shares.

The finance minister said the policy will apply only to diamond and platinum mining, emphasizing Zimbabwe's desperation to re-engage foreign investors.

Mugabe had said the law was meant to transfer economic control to local blacks, but instead it dried up investment in the resource-rich country.

The $5.1 billion proposed budget, to be funded mainly from taxes, needs Parliament's approval.

Lawmakers cheered at a proposal to fire more than 3,400 youth officers deployed across the country who had been accused of fronting a terror campaign against Mugabe's opponents.

But the lawmakers roared in disapproval when the finance minister allocated $420 million to the defense ministry and just $408 million to an ailing health sector.

The finance minister also set aside $132 million for elections expected for the second half of 2018. Mnangagwa has said they will be "democratic."

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