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Banks to prioritise importers over depositors

BANKERS Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) vice-president Benefit Washaya says banks were still to decide whether they should continue importing cash to distribute to the depositors considering that the money was not coming back to the banks.

BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA

Washaya made the remarks at the Alpha Media Holdings Banks and Banking breakfast meeting in Harare yesterday, where he said an urgent solution was needed to deal with the cash shortages.

“Let me say of the ‘so-called cash shortages’ that banks and the authorities (the central bank) have pumped in enough money into this economy, enough cash. The cash is circulating somewhere. It is unfortunate that is not being banked, but the cash is there and this is fact. And, in terms of banks importing the United States dollar, something that we have always been doing since we went into a multi-currency, we now have to look at a situation where we say: what do we do?” he said.

“We have got cash and you give it to someone, then that cash never comes back into the formal system or do we leave the resources that are sitting in our nostro for those who want to import raw materials? These are some of the decisions which have to be made and it is obvious what makes sense.”

“We have said as a sector if as a customer you feel you do not want to keep your cash under the pillow, there is nothing that stops you from going to the bank saying ‘here is my $10 000, here is my money. When I want it, please give it to me back in United States dollars’,” he said.

Since last year, banks have adopted a strategy of deliberately not disbursing large sums of cash to clients while holding on to the foreign currency they have.

For example, in the central bank economic report for the week ending June 15, automated teller machines disbursed a total

$1 797 674 compared to $7,52 million released around the same time in 2017.

Banks are blaming customers for the drop in disbursements, as long bank queues have continued to grow.

Speaking at the same event, RBZ governor John Mangudya said: “What Ben said is very clear that what most of us are banking in the banks is not foreign currency, I mean let us call a spade a spade. The problem in Zimbabwe is that sometimes we do not say the truth. When we look at most of us in this room what you are calling that my money has gone to the bank you did not take there as foreign currency.”

He added: “If we get $330 million (exports) plus $100 million (diaspora remittances), that is $430 million (a month). We also get foreign currency from loans, say from Afreximbank and the PTA Bank (now the Trade and Development Bank) to bridge the gap because the balance of payments should always balance so it means you need to borrow offshore to make sure the books balance.

“Now, the books are balancing but the question is about distribution, the issue of viability to say what is the best way to distribute at a parity of one to one?”

Analysts say depositors have lost confidence in the formal banking system.

source: newsday

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