via Zim widens multi-currency basket | The Source January 29, 2014
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) on Wednesday widened the multi-currency basket to include four more foreign currencies in what analysts see as a way of addressing the cash shortage in the economy.
Currencies of China, India, Japan and Australia are now legal tender, alongside the greenback, South African Rand, Botswana Pula, British Pound and the Euro.
Zimbabwe adopted the multi-currency system in 2009 to curb runway inflation which peaked at 500 billion percent in 2008 and destroyed its local currency.
“Trade and investment ties between Zimbabwe, China, India, Japan and Australia have grown appreciably. It is against this background of growth in trade and investment ties that in the 2014 national budget, the minister of finance and economic development underscored the importance of including other currencies in the basket of already circulating currencies,” said the acting governor, Charity Dhliwayo in the first monetary policy statement since January last year.
She said exporters and the general public could open accounts in the various currencies in the basket.
RBZ would also assume its role of banker to government on March 31 and resume its lender of last resort function after government agreed to inherit its $1.35 billion debt and recapitalise it to the tune of $200 million.
“The bank will also be responsible for raising funding for government as and when the need arises,” Dhliwayo said.
In the absence of the lender of last resort, the interbank market was inactive with average money market surpluses exceeding $250 million in 2012 and 2013.
“With a well funded lender of last resort facility, RBZ will accommodate solvent banking institutions experiencing temporary liquidity challenges against acceptable collateral,” she said.
Due to a decline in exports, banks reported a decline in foreign currency receipts by 2.1 percent to $7.5 billion last year compared to 2012.
Foreign payments amounted to $8.9 billion last year compared to $8.2 billion in 2012.
International money transfers received declined by 15 percent to $1.8 billion last year down from $2.1 billion in 2012.
Dhliwayo said the banking sector remained generally stable despite the various underlying macroeconomic challenges and institution specific weaknesses.
Total banking deposits in 2013 amounted to $4.73 billion while loans and advances were at $3.70 billion.
Despite the decline in deposits, the loans to deposit ratio increased to 78.29 percent during the period under review from 37.33 percent in 2009.
Banks are now required to set aside adequate provisions that reflect the level of credit risk in their loan portfolio.
The banking sector’s average non-performing loans to total loans ratio stood at 15.92 percent as at 31 December last year.
Banks will now be required to maintain capital thresholds that were obtaining in December 2012 of $25 million for commercial and merchant banks, while building societies should bring their capital to $20 million; $15 million for discount and finance houses and $5 million for microfinance banks. Banks and building societies are expected to increase their capital levels to $100 million and $80 million respectively by December 31, 2020.
Dhliwayo urged banks facing challenges to immediately consolidate or merge, dilute shareholding by potential investors or convert licences to microfinance banks.
She expressed concern over the growth of insider loans which stood at $175.3 million of which $117.4 million or 66.97 percent were non-performing.
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