Source: Editorial Comment: Bank cash, embrace plastic money | The Herald May 30, 2018
OVER the past few months we have carried stories of maids nabbed and arraigned before the courts after helping themselves to stashes of money kept by their employers within households.
These cases are obviously just tips of the iceberg leaving us to wonder what the situation is really like in many homes particularly in the country’s plush neighbourhoods.
The continued hoarding of cash at a time Government is encouraging increased use of plastic money speaks to the peculiarities of the country’s financial institutions, where it has become lucrative to trade in money rather than to trade with money.
They also speak to how difficult it is for the banks, which have literally squandered public funds and goodwill for years, to push back on the trust deficit that currently exists.
The introduction of bond notes in November 2016 as an export incentive has helped stimulate exports, but this has also spawned different exchange rates on the market.
Trading in cash has now become lucrative business and arbitrage opportunities — created by different exchange rates for hard currencies and the bond note — are also having a direct impact on the price of local commodities.
The law that was passed on September 26 last year through the promulgation of Statutory Instrument 122A of 2017 (Exchange Control (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (No 5) has not helped stop cash vending.
So Government, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) in particular, still has a lot to do to restore public trust.
There are currently no incentives for potential depositors to put their money in banks.
The high service charges for maintaining a bank account and the pitiably low interest gained from savings accounts have become a huge disincentive.
Most banks know they can profitably survive through punitive service charges.
The danger with this model is that such profits are made at the expense of banks’ core business, which is to promote development through financial intermediation.
This means offering incentives for potential depositors to keep their money in banks which channel the same to the productive sectors of the economy.
The onus is now on the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, including the RBZ, to protect depositors from being ripped off by financial institutions.