News Column

Save Us From Multi-Currency Colonialism

June 25, 2014

Well, it is very hard to discuss economic issues especially at this juncture when we are in the midst of what is variably called a liquidity crisis, cash squeeze or crunch. It is even harder when it is in the middle of the month - say somewhere so near, yet so far from month end when we ritually get our pay packets.

Your partiality, especially if you are no economic scientist or some such endowed professional, is bound to be compromised.

The subject of the Zim dollar, or more specifically, its return after being banished in 2009, is an emotive issue.

Many people who saw the currency turn to worthless paper at the height of hyperinflation in 2007/8, do not want to hear about its return because it elicits all kinds of pictures, memories and emotions.

It is the currency that wiped out some people's savings and pensions.

It is the currency that made people queue for hours on end to get wads of notes that would lose value as soon as you laid hands on them.

It is the currency that saw people toiling for a whole month only to get earnings, especially in the civil service, that were worth no more than one US dollar or a bar of soap.

It became the currency of horror.

And shame, too.

Our currency became a laughing stock of the world and, in other words, another stick with which to beat any Zimbabwean that could be found anywhere in the world where they happened to seek economic refuge.

David Coltart, being quoted last year in one news site, summarised it thus:

"The memory of the Zimbabwe dollar and the attendant destruction of people's savings and lives is (sic) still too fresh in the minds of people, especially rural people who suffered the most... "

He was right.

Even today, talk of the Zim dollar elicits angry emotions with people appearing to cringe at the very mention of the word as though it were an invocation of a curse or evil.

In light of the foregoing, Minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa, who introduced the foreign currency regime as a way to stop the attack on the Zim dollar by Western sanctions, has been cautious on the subject of the Zimbabwe dollar.

Only last week, he assured us: "The multi-currency regime is here to stay. We cannot talk about introducing a local currency until certain macro-economic fundamentals are right.

"If you just analyse those statements (that the local dollar was coming back) you then realise that it's either out of mischief or complete undermining the economy," he was quoted as saying.

One news headline told us that he had said, the "Zim dollar stays where it is".

Last year, he made similar assurances.

Just ahead of presenting his Budget, Chinamasa said: "In order to dispel any doubts, I came back home to maintain the multi-currency regime. It will be with us, it will remain with us for an indefinite period."

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Deputy Governor Charity Dhliwayo weighed in "to assure the business community and members of the public that there are no plans to re-introduce the Zimbabwean dollar in the near future".

(Let it also be pointed out that these authorities find peers in the likes of ex- Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who has been quoted as saying bringing back the Zimbabwe dollar would be the "stupidest" thing that the Government could do.)

I opened up this piece trying to suppress any anger against Minister Chinamasa.

It is to be hoped I do not sound too angry but, like many Zimbabweans out there, am disappointed by his continued references to the non-return of the Zim dollar as if it were policy.

God knows this default mode is no policy!

In fact, he should tell us what should be done for us to have our own currency and national pride.

(I am not a Tafataona Mahoso - although I admire him very much - and have deliberately avoided reading his submissions on the subject while preparing for this piece.)

Without any disrespect, Mozambique has its own currency.

So do Zambia and Malawi and Lesotho and Swaziland.

So do Somalia, Libya, Haiti and even Iraq.

Every other country you can think of has its own currency!

Now, if we grant that there is something that needs to be fixed before the return of the local currency, is it not Chinamasa's job as Finance Minister to do so, ably supported by the RBZ?

In some countries they talk of hundred days in office; we don't here, but is it being seriously suggested that Chinamasa needs five years and beyond to fix the question of the national currency?

Some countries above are what are called failed states or are at war, yet they administer their own currencies, so whatever is stopping our own Chinamasa?

We hope that he does not take this call for our own currency and pride, as a sign of "mischief or undermining the economy".

The so-called cash squeeze is directly linked to this over-valued foreign currency regime.

With the South African rand falling in value, it is becoming easier and cheaper to buy South African products and producing in South Africa than in Zimbabwe where the use of the US dollar is current.

Zimbabwe is reduced to an aggregate buyer and South Africa's warehouse.

Money leaves our borders every day, never to return but further boost South Africa's productivity and economy at our expense.

You can tinker with exchange rates of your own currency to make it more attractive for exchange and investment.

You cannot do that with foreign currency that you do not print, let alone conduct a monetary policy on.

Which makes our Charity Dhliwayo quite an accomplice to some murder of sorts.

By the way, without the local currency what does the RBZ do? Being a spectator in the economy?

Now you must admit that Minister Chinamasa is in an invidious position, something like being unfortunately caught in the horns of Mushore, according to a local saying.

He must bring back our dollar.

He must make it strong and resistant to inflationary pressures.

The pressures could be many, from politics to pure economics.

We expect him to deliver - that is his job!

He should also understand the politics behind the Zim dollar.

The Zim dollar is taken as a symbol of suffering and failure by the Government - Zanu-PF Government.

Its destruction was a political act by forces that would be served by a people's anger at the decimation of their wealth. Ask Mahoso.

Its substitution with the multi-currency regime brought relief and the US dollar is regarded as a symbol of stability and even prosperity.

That is why the very introduction of multi-currencies has been a matter of contestation with the MDC seeking to pilfer what Chinamasa rightly introduced.

We have defended him staunchly in these pages.

The return of a strong Zim dollar will inspire confidence in the currency itself and the Zanu-PF Government that appointed him.

He should pay back and not make excuses or non-policies such as telling us Zimbabwe dollar will not return soon.

The use of the USD is on its own is being held to ridicule us, a country without its own currency!

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Source: AllAfrica

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