Cash crisis hits payment system


HARARE – The total value of transactions processed through the national payment system (NPS) declined by nine percent to $951,8 million from $1 billion in the third week of April, latest Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) statistics indicate.

Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) transactions, the central bank said, “recorded a five percent decline from $790,61 million to $750,27 million during the week under analysis”, adding that “this, in large part, contributed to the decline in the total value of transactions processed through the NPS”.

This is on the back of a cash crisis that has hit Zimbabwe’s financial sector, with banks limiting depositors’ withdrawals.

The central bank said the cash problems had also affected spending and the value of the NPS transactions as most depositors were failing to access cash.

During the period under review, the NPS was dominated by RTGS transactions which contributed 78,82 percent of the total value of transactions, followed by mobile-money platform-based transactions which contributed 9,31 percent.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) accounted for 5,88 percent of the transactions a figure four percent down prior week with Point of Sale (POS) business accounting for 5,75 percent of the total NPS volumes and cheque transactions contributing 0,24 percent.

Zimbabwe has been experiencing cash shortages in the past few weeks — reminiscent of the 2008 economic and political crisis — with depositors queuing for days at banks to get their hard-earned money.

This comes as Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa recently said depositors were fuelling the country’s biting cash-crisis by keeping money outside the formal banking system.

“The liquidity crisis is a problem that we have to look squarely in the face and address,” he said adding that government was putting in place various measures, including a national financial strategy to ease the challenge.

“We have to understand that we don’t print the United States (US) dollar. We are a unique country — one of three countries in the world — that pays wages and buys small goods like mazhanje in United States dollars and that comes with its own challenges,” he said.

Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 and now uses mainly the US dollar and the South African rand, although other currencies are also legal tender.

However, the recent depreciation of regional currencies against the greenback has seen the country losing more money to increased imports, as it is now cheaper to import than buying local products.

Chinamasa added that the “temporary cash shortages” were also being accelerated by Zimbabweans’ refusal to embrace plastic money.

In an effort to encourage people to use the banking system and promote financial inclusion, Zimbabwe recently ordered tobacco farmers, most of them communal farmers who had taken up growing the cash crop and ditching others such as maize and wheat, to open bank accounts to facilitate payments for deliveries.

The new system has, however, been blighted by glitches as farmers are failing to access their money on time from banks forcing them to spend days at tobacco auction floors.

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