The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) says people should expect to withdraw more cash from their banks in the coming weeks, just like what happened at the weekend when Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) dispensed United States dollars to the amazement and elation of many.
This comes as the RBZ has increased its cash imports of the coveted greenbacks, apparently on the back of the huge volumes of tobacco and gold exports in recent months.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, RBZ governor John Mangudya said there was “absolutely nothing amiss” about some banks giving out United States dollars, including through ATMs, over the weekend.
“Simba rehove riri mumvura (the strength of fish is found in water), and so our strength lies in exporting. If we improve our exports, we will increase our imports of cash so that we are able to meet the banks’ requirements.
“What you saw at the weekend is part of our efforts to meet the requirements of banks, which we have instructed banks to pass that cash on to their clients,” he said.
In an unexpected early Christmas gift at the weekend, desperate cash seekers queuing at some banks were pleasantly surprised by and greeted with the rare sight of US dollars at their bank ATMs.
Zimbabwe has been battling severe cash shortages for more than a year due to worsening economic conditions, which in recent years have led to massive job cuts and deepening poverty levels.
Analysts have also blamed the country’s poor economic performance partly on the government’s excessive borrowing through its unrestrained issuing of Treasury Bills.
Mangudya said yesterday that there had been a welcome increase in tobacco and gold production, which had led the central bank to import $780 million in cash between January and July this year.
During the same period last year, he said, the RBZ had only imported $180 million.
“On the back of this increased production and the expanding economy, we expect the RBZ to continue importing more cash to meet the requirements of banks and their clients.
“We need to be an export-oriented economy. As we export more, we will import more cash,” he told the Daily News.
The government introduced bond notes at the end of 2016, at the height of a biting liquidity crisis, which also led to severe cash shortages.
But the bond notes have steadily vanished from the local market on the back of currency dealers who are hoarding them for speculative purposes or taking the surrogate currency into the black market.
Apart from bond notes vanishing, US dollars — which are the widely used currency in the economy — have also disappeared, leading to a rise in their value on the thriving parallel market.
Most Zimbabweans had pinned their hopes for a better future on the just-ended national elections whose credibility was seen as attracting much-needed investment required to reconstruct the country’s battered economy.
However, the current dispute over the presidential election has cast serious doubts that the Zanu PF government can still be able to attract foreign direct investment that the country needs to create jobs and to grow the economy.