Gift Phiri 28 April 2017
HARARE – There are fresh fears that the country’s dying economy is
hurtling towards the debilitating depths of the 2008 hyperinflationary
era, as bond notes are now also disappearing from the market.
This comes as United States dollars have almost completely disappeared
from the formal market – with the coveted greenbacks now only easily
available in the thriving black market.
It also comes as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has ruled out
injecting more bond notes into the market, arguing that Zimbabwe’s
worsening cash crisis will only improve when the country’s production and
export performances improve.
In the meantime, the disappearance of the country’s surrogate currency
from the market is forcing banks to give desperate Zimbabweans their cash
The RBZ introduced bond notes at the end of last year to ease the
country’s severe cash shortages, but so far this has failed to satisfy the
market’s cash needs.
This has seen banks limiting the amount of money both individuals and
companies can withdraw to as low as $20.
So bad has the situation become that desperate customers are also now
having to make do with sacks of coins when they withdraw their money.
A bank official who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said the situation
had now reached a “critical” position, amid worries that things would
“We have reached a critical state and we are all praying that something
gives soon. Things are bad,” the official said.
Economists have also warned that the country is headed for a major crisis
and that the disappearing bond notes are indicative of an economy “in deep
“The fact that it is so difficult to get money out of banks also makes
people reluctant to put their money into their banks.
“With 10 million Zimbabweans each carrying a few bond notes in their
pockets, wallets or handbags, 10 million times that number can easily add
up the total amount of bond notes in issue,” veteran economist John
Robertson told the Daily News.
Another economist, Vince Musewe, also said the limits that had been placed
on cash withdrawals were discouraging people from banking their money.
“Because of limits on cash withdrawals, there is no incentive to bank
money. So, for example, retailers would rather hold onto their cash.
“The informal sector is not banking either, so very little is going back
to the banks, hence the worsening shortages.
“In the case of US dollars, nobody banks them anymore. Huge sums are
sitting outside the banking system.
“You then add illicit leakages of export revenues which do not come back
to country and you can then easily see the magnitude of the crisis,”
Musewe told the Daily News.
Piers Pigou, senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said
bond notes were now also circulating in the informal sector.
“There is no market for bond notes outside Zimbabwe, so I can only imagine
the notes are moving into and circulating within the informal economy of
“This would not be unusual given the scale if the informal economy,” Pigou
said referring to a sector that has been burgeoning, with about six
million micro, small and medium enterprises absorbing the bulk of
retrenched workers and unemployed graduates.
“It never seemed likely that bond notes could ever provide anything other
than temporary relief. But like US dollars, they will seep out of the
formal economy . . . just not as rapidly as the Benjamins,” he added.
It is estimated in some circles that more than $7bn is circulating in the
country’s informal sector.
Francoise Conradie, an analyst at Cape Town-based NKC African Economics,
also said bond notes were not vanishing from the Zimbabwean economy per
“The bond notes’ value should be at par with the US dollars’ value, but
individuals and businesses do not have confidence in this medium of
exchange, and as such the bond notes are losing value.
“This loss of confidence has created the black market where bond notes
trade at a discount to dollars,” Conradie said.
Last week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that bond notes had
failed to solve the country’s deepening fiscal crisis, further calling for
“Zimbabwe is in a very, very difficult situation, as you know. There is a
limited amount of foreign exchange inflows coming in and no monetary
“So, it’s very important to have a more comprehensive policy package which
also addresses a lot of the fiscal challenges that the country faces,” IMF
director for the African Department, Abebe Aemro Selassie, said.
Zimbabwe is deep in the throes of a debilitating economic crisis which has
led to horrendous company closures and the consequent loss of hundreds of
thousands of jobs.
At the same time, economists have said that poverty levels in the country
are skyrocketing, with average incomes now at their lowest levels in more
than 60 years – with more than 76 percent of the country’s families now
having to make do with pitiful incomes that are well below the poverty
This comes as Zimbabwe has now been officially ranked as the poorest
country in Africa
According to the Africa 2016 Wealth Report, Zimbabwe has been ranked as
the country with the poorest people on the continent, with average wealth
of $200 per person.
In the report, AfrAsia – a Mauritius-domiciled financial institution which
once operated in Zimbabwe after acquiring the now-defunct Kingdom
Financial Holdings Limited – noted that back in 2000, Zimbabwe was one of
the wealthiest countries in sub-Saharan Africa on a wealth per capita
It listed Mauritius as the country with the wealthiest people, with an
average wealth of $25 700 per person.