Retailers pledge to address change shortages Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mushayavanhu addresses retailers while flanked by Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Dr Denford Mutashu (right) in Harare, yesterday. — Picture: Kudakwashe Hunda.

Oliver Kazunga-Senior Business Reporter

RETAILERS yesterday promised to approach banks to get ZiG coins and the small-denomination notes to help resolve the shortage of small change, which has been building up since last year and has become acute following the local currency switch in April this year.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe this week said banks had taken up a cumulative ZiG55 million of the ZiG1, ZiG2 and ZiG5 coins and the ZiG10 and ZiG20 notes but customers were slow to access this small change at their banks.

Speaking during a meeting with the RBZ Governor, Dr John Mushayavanhu, attended by wholesalers and retailers in Harare yesterday, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) highlighted that the shortage of change was one of the issues facing the economy.

CZR president Mr Denford Mutashu said the retail sector had embraced the ZiG more than any other sector in the economy, with most of the formal retailers’ sales averaging 80 percent ZiG and 20 percent in foreign currency.

“Unfortunately, at procurement level, 80 percent is US dollars and 20 percent is ZiG, so that is a glitch in the market because it is affecting day-to-day procurement patterns of formal channel retailers and wholesalers . . . and it is the informal market, which is currently enjoying the benefits of having not formalised their business.

“We are quite happy with this dialogue because the Governor agreed to meet retailers and wholesalers and that is actually in line with the President’s engagement and re-engagement dialogue.

“On the issue of change that we are currently experiencing, as the Governor has highlighted, we are going to approach the banks to address this,” he said.

Earlier in his presentation, Dr Mutashu said the lack of change had resulted in price increases, placing an additional financial burden on customers and disrupting the efficient movement of goods and services.

Dr Mushayavanhu acknowledged that the Reserve Bank had received reports of consumers not being able to get change from retailers when they tendered US dollar bank notes.

“We are getting complaints that people are coming and they buy something for US$1,50 and instead of you giving them 50 cents change, you are asking them to add a bottle of water, which they don’t need.

“I did say yesterday, when I met the transport operators, that as we speak right now, we have got ZiG55 million in circulation. This is more than the amount that was in circulation when we had bond notes. We have issued ZiG1, ZiG2, ZiG5 coins and ZiG10 and ZiG20 notes.

“The question I want to ask you is: ‘Have you gone to your bank and said I want a float in change,’ because my knowledge of supermarkets is that you should have a float. Have you gone to your bank and said I want ZiG100 000 in ZiG1, ZiG2, ZiG5 and they said they don’t have it because I have evidence that they are sitting on ZiG coins for which there are no takers?

“So, who is not telling the correct story there? Have we gone to the banks and they said they haven’t got? Let us know, we can intervene and say, which is your bank and will give your bank exactly the ZiG coins that you want,” said Dr Mushayavanhu.

The issue of change has also affected the transport sector, with passengers on 50c routes forced to pay US$1 or being paired up with strangers to exhaust their change from a US$1 payment for short trips that cost the equivalent of US50 cents. 

In other instances, travellers pay with the smallest note, the ZiG 10, for the short trips on which they must pay the equivalent of 50US cents, which in local currency should be about ZiG7. Conductors who have these ZiG10 payments often will give one such note in change for US$1, but few have enough local currency.

Operators in the transport sector cited limited access to the small notes and coins required for change as the biggest problem, suggesting authorities should work on improving the situation, possibly through small change booths in terminuses.

However, Dr Mushayavanhu said it was puzzling how the market experienced the problem of change when his records showed that every branch of every bank in the country had stocks of both notes and coins, including small denominations.

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