CONFUSION marred the upward review of daily cash withdrawals by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) last week as it emerged that the central bank failed to formally inform banks on the new policy change resulting in customers failing to withdraw the new cash limits.
The RBZ last Friday wrote to banks instructing them to hike withdrawal limits to $1 billion instead of the $5 billion hinted at by central bank chief Gideon Gono in an interview with the state media three weeks ago.
This caused problems as some banks had already started giving $5 billion per depositor.
Gono told the state media that the RBZ had put in place â€œcontingency plansâ€ that would review the maximum daily withdrawal to $5 billion from $500 million.
â€œTo help ease the plight of many consumers, with effect from 4 April 2008, cheque limits will be lifted from $10 billion to $50 billion, while cash limits will be raised from the current $500 million to $5 billion,â€ Gono was quoted as saying in an interview.
While some banks immediately started giving out $5 billion other were more cautious as they waited for the official communication from the central bank.
Those that immediately implemented that limits were reprimanded by RBZ officials. The RBZ officials told the banks that the governor did not make policy announcements in the newspapers.
Banking sources who spoke to businessdigest this week said the delay in communication meant they had to see out business for the entire day using the old cash withdrawal limits of $500 million.
They said Gono had not formally communicated to them on the new limit until mid morning on Friday.
â€œWe were waiting for formal communication from the (Reserve) bank to review (daily cash limits), which we received around 10 am in the morning (on Friday),â€ said a senior bank manager.
â€œItâ€™s unfortunate that our customers had to bear the brunt of this communication oversight,â€ he added.
When this paper visited banks in Harareâ€™s central business district last Friday, most financial institutions were still dispensing $500 million, much to the disappointment of customers.
The new limits also coincided with the introduction of the new $50 million and $25 million bearersâ€™ cheques.Â
â€œWe were only notified on the review on Friday morning which was said to be $1 billion instead of the expected $5 billion. We only respond to written documents,â€ said a manager with a commercial bank.
The Reserve Bank said the introduction of higher denominations of the bearer notes was meant to add convenience, especially with the new cash withdrawal limits.
Efforts to get comment from Bankersâ€™ Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) were fruitless at the time of going to press with BAZ president John Mangudya said to be locked in meetings.
Meanwhile economic analysts said the recent hike of daily cash withdrawal limits to $1 billion was likely to drain the money market as deposits are set to decline due to negative real interest rates.
Statutory reserves were hiked to 50% for commercial banksâ€™ call, demand and savings accounts.
The tenure of the Negotiable Certificate of Deposit (NCD) by the Reserve Bank was also increased to three months from the seven days.
By Bernard Mpofu/Paul Nyakazeya