How does a country’s financial system go through so many bouts of instability and experience so much strain? how do the citizens cope with all this?
As Zimbabweans, we haven’t figured that out yet. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be experiencing another cash shortage and constantly debating the merits of interventional measures like bond notes.
The ordinary Zimbabwean doesn’t have a direct say on policy implementation or economic reforms. They are stuck with whatever solution is decided by the officials that lead the charge on these matters.
The government – represented by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe which is the industry regulator, and the entire collective of bankers – unified under the banner of the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe are the two entities – the collection of officials, that should have responded to the crisis with emergency measures.
Unfortunately, they haven’t been treating the alarming situation as the crisis that it is. If they had, we would have noticed some changes taking place.
The clear as day cash crisis solutions aren’t being implemented
Instead, we are reassured again and again that measures are in the pipeline and that all will be well soon. The plans are shared every time the Reserve Bank or the government responds to questions on what is going to be done.
These proposed solutions actually make sense and by now everyone who’s shared a thought on the crisis has heard them being thrown up in every sort of discussion, analysis and breakdown of the cash crisis.
Plastic money should be encouraged; transactional fees should be drastically revised downwards; mobile money, as popular as it is, should be promoted as a leading solution for electronic transactions through a review of tariffs; infrastructure that supports these measures should be invested in without a moment’s delay; and awareness should be raised on how all these are the new ways of trading in a cashless Zimbabwe.
Instead of being enacted, these measures are just held onto by the Reserve Bank and the government without any supporting actions.
A case of greed and avoiding the horrible medicine
Perhaps we are expecting too much from the central bank or the government and even the bankers themselves especially since it’s looking like these parties aren’t affected by the current situation and that some of them, like the banks, are actually benefiting from it.
With business models that rely heavily on transactional revenue, local banks aren’t so quick to embrace any measures that would have an impact on their bottom lines and as people increasingly turn to electronic channels that have high costs these banks are actually boosting their revenues.
At the same time, the fact that the bankers themselves agree that they have saddled the ordinary Zimbabwean with outrageous charges but they aren’t being brought to task for it also shows how some of the issues around the cash crisis aren’t being addressed.
It was reported that two bank CEOs recently admitted that costs like the $2.50 charge for card swiping or the $10 charge for an RTGS transaction are outrageous and are preventing financial inclusion.
This means that there is a general awareness of an obstacle but it isn’t being removed. The regulator or the government should have swiftly addressed this, acting to lower those same charges.
Instead, the only reaction has been from Steward Bank which has reduced its RTGS charges and offered its customers a free Friday swiping promotion that will last until mid- July.
Just like the case of EcoCash zero-rating its payment transactions it has taken the profit or growth motive of one service provider to enact some changes that all Zimbabweans have anticipated all along.
Zimbabweans are always optimistic in the face of any sort of challenge. However, this positive approach to tough situations shouldn’t be viewed as an opportunity to skirt responsibility and not respond to challenges that plague the country.
The hope is that sanity will prevail and action will be taken before things get any worse than they already are.
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