Zim tries to rescue sinking currency
The latest proposals will be in a monetary policy statement the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and Treasury are jointly working on, according to governor John Mangudya.
Options being studied by working groups from the central bank and Treasury include scrapping a weekly foreign-currency auction started in 2020, shifting the mandatory 25% surrender requirement for exporters to the interbank system rather than the central bank and allowing lenders to set a market-reflective exchange rate, according to two people familiar with the plans.
Everything is on the table at the moment, with the incoming governor John Mushayavanhu also involved in deliberations, they said, declining to be identified as the talks aren’t public.
The unit has slumped more than 40% against the US dollar this year after plunging 90% in 2023, making it the world’s worst-performing currency over the period.
The depreciation underpins the economic hardships in the Southern African nation of around 16 million people and evokes memories of the currency collapse and hyperinflation of the late 2000s sparked by a political and economic crisis.
A raft of policy measures by the economic clusters will "arrest price increases, stabilise the currency and encourage savings," Mnangagwa said last week, without providing further details.
Mnangagwa’s comments were meant to provide "forward guidance" on the thrust of the policy statement, according to Mangudya.
"It’s a great reassurance that the president would like to see durable stability of prices and the exchange rate in the economy," the central bank chief said in response to questions sent by text message. He declined to comment on the proposals being discussed.
The authorities have repeatedly tried to rescue the Zimbabwe dollar since its reintroduction in 2019, after it was scrapped a decade ago when hyperinflation erased its value.
Previous measures included introducing gold coins, as well as bullion-backed digital tokens known as ZiG, but both failed to end the slide. The central bank’s key interest rate is at 130%, the world’s highest.
The US dollar is in high demand and dominates 80% of transactions. Inflation is accelerating, despite the government adopting a new price gauge to account for use of the US currency. Inflation was 34.8% in January.
The underlying problem is the local dollar remains overvalued and continues to be controlled by the central bank, according to Shelton Sibanda, the chief investment officer at Imara Asset Management.
"We must move away from a managed exchange rate," he said. "As long as there is this reluctance and distrust from government of floating the exchange rate, no new currency nor measures will work." – Fin24/Bloomberg