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Sort out currency issues, Byo industry tells govt

Industry players in Bulawayo have implored the government to put its act together and clear the confusion surrounding currency policies in the country.

Although the government outlawed the multi-currency regime in favour of a local currency, businesses have continued to trade in foreign currency.

Industry players criticised the government’s inconsistency over currency pointing out companies are failing to plan for long term periods, a development they said was affecting their business prospects.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting hosted by Minister of Industry and Commerce, Dr Sekai Nzenza, in Bulawayo, Wednesday, local industry players complained such meetings turned out to be talk shows as challenges bedevilling business were well documented but not addressed.

The Zimbabwe Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), urged the government to revisit the issue of currency straightaway as both businesses and consumers were confused on which currency to transact in.

“Let’s revisit the issue of currency as a matter urgency. Do we want to use the US dollar or bond notes? We must have a clear-cut policy that is well defined, which allows businesses to plan. As we speaking right now, some companies are transacting in US dollars while others are refusing the bond notes,” said ZNCC Matabeleland regional vice-chairperson, Golden Muhoni.

He highlighted that lack of a clear policy on currency was causing distortions, exploitation and shortages of products while consumers had no confidence in the local currency.

“Right now, as we are speaking in all garages in town there is no fuel yet fuel is found in garages that sell in US dollars. Which currency are we then using, is it US dollars or bond notes?” Muhoni said.

The businessperson urged authorities to address the currency issue immediately and questioned whether it was appropriate for the government to bring to reintroduce a local currency.

 “Brainstorm and interrogate this issue. Was the timing right of introducing our bond note? If it was not right, then what do we do?” he urged.

Muhoni claimed some manipulated the exchange rate for their own selfish interests yet nothing was done to them.

“Who are the manipulators of the currency? Are they not known and what are we doing? Where is our problem and who is the problem? Our problems are artificial, self-created by ourselves. We must look internally and identify such. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund and many other foreign funders are not going to come and solve our problems but ourselves,” he said.

Muhoni also noted the interbank market exchange rate had ceased to work.

“Last year we had a meeting with Minister of Finance (Professor Mthuli Ncube) and our request was for a stable currency and said if you maintain rates around 1:12.5, the interbank rate then, industry can plan and focus. Now, we don’t know which rate is working, as the interbank rate is not benefiting anyone,” said the ZNNC vice chairperson.

CZI Matabeleland Chapter president, Shepherd Chawira concurred that currency was a challenge and cited places in the southern part of the country which relied more on the South African Rand or Botswana Pula.

“Go to Gwanda, Beitbridge people there understand the Rand and Pula better than they understand their own currency. Eco-cash while helping out is expensive for rural folk and after all how many can use the modern gadgets,” he said

Chawira also called for transparency in the allocation of foreign currency.

“We all agree our problems cannot be currency shortage, with over US$6 billion in forex earnings every year. It is how we allocate and use our forex, which is of concern. Generally, it’s agreed at some level, that we must sort out our exchange rate to kill the arbitrariness,” he said.

Chawira who is the SHEPCO Group chief executive officer, challenged the government to stop blaming sanctions but provide fuel, foreign currency for raw materials, sort out the exchange rate and come up with practical policies.

“I challenge you probably for a moment to stop crying about sanctions. In our industry here in Bulawayo we have some glaring evidence of sanctions-busting companies. Companies created specifically to subvert sanctions during the Ian Smith regime.

“We toured Delta with predecessor (former industry minister) Mangaliso Ndlovu in November last year and we were shown old beer brewing chambers both from the European Union when the brewery was built. But over the years alongside those beer brewing chambers, were a number of others built by a company established locally here to bust sanctions except the company closed down in 2000 due to the economic meltdown,” he said.

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