Zimbabwe’s foreign currency situation has significantly improved due to increased inflows from agriculture and mining, with the central bank allocating at least $100 million to banks weekly since the second week of April to meet critical foreign payments and settling outstanding obligations.
The increased inflows of foreign exchange were also supported by draw-downs from the nostro stabilisation facility availed by the Afreximbank.
The allocations, since the second week of April this year, entailed funded bank accounts only. This has significantly reduced the real demand for foreign exchange and reduced the foreign payments backlog by more than 50 percent to $185 million.
RBZ governor Dr John Mangudya said the allocations went towards meeting various foreign currency demands that include essential imports and foreign payments, inputs for industrial production and discharging outstanding foreign payments obligations.
The allocations by the central bank are over and above the $1,2 billion of foreign exchange made available by banks to the various sectors of the economy between January and April this year.Since last year, the economy has been facing acute foreign currency shortages that have resulted in significant accumulations of outstanding foreign exchange payments for critical imports.
Dr Mangudya said the foreign exchange spin-offs from a successful agricultural season and mining have started driving revival of the industry, particularly sub-sectors that are benefiting from imports restrictions through Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016.
The central bank chief said that foreign exchange allocations to funded accounts have also addressed the fictitious overdraft-driven demand for foreign exchange. He said that this policy position is critical to contain the latent demand for foreign exchange.
He said that the apex bank will continue to provide forex under this arrangement from an average of 25 percent of foreign exchange resources it receives from tobacco and mining exporters.
In order to enhance financial support to the enterprises supported by the provisions of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, the bank is requesting for information from the said entities including name, contact person and details, business activity, type of products, and current and potential external markets for the products.
“The information should be submitted to the bank through the respective entities’ primary bankers by May 7, 2017,” he said.The central bank governor said that the bank was encouraged by huge improvement in cash deposits at banks, especially US dollar currency and bond notes, since the end of the Easter Holidays.
Cash deposits at banks and nostro holdings have increased by 50 percent to $450 million. The US dollar cash deposits and the foreign exchange held in nostro accounts are over and above the $140 million bond notes, $23 million bond coins and an estimated $400 to $600 million already in circulation in the economy.
In order to maintain this positive development and for more convenience to the transacting public, the central bank said it was putting in place measures to make the use of plastic (including international credit cards) and electronic money cheaper and more attractive than using cash and to ensure that bank account holders are bona fide law abiding and taxpaying citizens.
The measures will also promote the enhanced use of plastic and electronic money which currently accounts for 70 percent of retail transactions.The measures include downward review of charges or levies on plastic money and electronic transactions, requirement for banks to strictly adhere to the know your customer and customer due diligence principles for all customers at all material times.
Dr Mangudya said RBZ wants the banks to de-risk or exit inappropriate banking relationships to manage or re-mediate risk; and enhance operational efficiency on the use of international cards by ensuring that bank customers are not inconvenienced when using international cards in circumstances where the users would have made prior arrangements on the use of such cards.
This should also apply in the case of emergency situations or in the case of Zimbabwe diplomatic staff working abroad who require to access their salaries from their respective countries of service.
To promote and enforce compliance with best practice and anti-money laundering rules and regulations, the RBZ has set up dedicated hotline numbers for the public to report individuals, firms or traders involved in cash hoarding, selling, abuse or externalisation.
A reward equivalent to 5 percent of the reported and recovered cash amount will be offered by the bank.Information provided to the bank shall be confidential.