According to a prominent RBZ Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member and “chief leaker” Eddie Cross the government is in the process of printing $10 and $20 denominated bond notes. Currently, the highest denomination of bond notes in circulation is the $5 bond note.
“The plans are far advanced and higher denomination notes will be made available to the public sometime later this month. The Reserve Bank will make the announcement.
They (the notes) are being printed and the appropriate date will be announced soon. We had a meeting yesterday of the MPC and the Governor confirmed to us that the rollout will be in stages so it won’t be a full range of notes initially, but it will only be higher denomination notes.” Mr Cross speaking to Sunday News.
The tortoise emerges from its shell
The chaos and pain of 2008 is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Back then Zimbabwe broke all sorts of economic records including having incalculable inflation that is estimated to have been well beyond the one trillion per cent mark. The government has sought to blame everything and everyone for this but even they have tacitly admitted that reckless surges in money supply were the chief reason.
Under the reign of former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, the bank blessed the government with money to fund every one of the government’s dreams under the label Quasi-Fiscal policy. The result was the said runaway inflation that eventually forced Zimbabwe to dump its own currency.
Understandably, therefore, both the Monetary and Fiscal authorities have been rather wary of excess money in circulation. They have been on record multiple times, expressing their reluctance to print higher bond note denominations for this reason.
Their reticence, however, has led to another unique Zimbabwe problem: cash shortages. Since 2016 Zimbabweans have had to queue at banks in order to receive paltry cash allocations from banks. Unscrupulous individuals have made living selling cash at a premium as they masquerade as Ecocash agents.
The discount rate for cash is as high as a 50% which means if one has $100 RTGS in their mobile money wallet they will get about $45 in cash after charges and the cash seller’s cut. This has led to so much angst and consternation among the general populace.
Will this move solve the cash crisis?
As noted, due to an abundance of caution, the Bank has refrained from printing money even as the cash crisis continues to cause suffering. Will the Bank’s sudden newfound boldness finally solve the cash issue? Probably not.
Six months or so ago a $10 or $20 bond note would have eased the pressure somewhat. Now whatever the bank prints will just be a drop in the ocean. This is all thanks to inflation and continuous depreciation of the Zimbabwean dollar.
When the $2 and $5 bond note denominations were introduced they were on par (or at least close enough to that) with their USD companions. In comparison, the $10 is officially worth US$0.40 and the $20 note $0.80 when using the government’s generous rate of $25 ZWL: 1 USD. Using the black market rates we get US$0.28 and US$0.56 respectively if we are kind enough to stick to the low rate of $35 bond per 1 USD.
When it comes to shopping using this money $20 bond will not buy you a loaf of bread. Bread currently retails at $25 bond on the black market or $28.00 on the formal market. You will need a bag full of money just to buy grocery basics.
The sum of it all
The Central Bank needs to be courageous if it wants to solve the current cash crisis. This latest move is a little on the timid side. However, it will probably ease the cash crisis. The criminals who sell cash will probably have to reduce their asking fee and microtransactions will be easier.
About the Author
Garikai Dzoma is the founder and editor of zimpricecheck.com