MOST money transfer agencies have been hit by severe problems in accessing foreign currency from the Reserve Bank despite official figures indicating an increase in foreign currency receipts.
This development, analysts warned, could be an indication of the Reserve Bank interfering with foreign currency inflows to finance quasi-fiscal undertakings.
According to insiders who spoke to this paper on condition of anonymity, the central bank is currently not effecting full payments to MTAs that deposited funds in the central bankâ€™s offshore account.
This they said was a deliberate move by the central bank to meet its “urgent commitments”.
Recently the Reserve Bank undertook the National Basic Commodities Supply Enhancement Programme in an effort to provide cheap basic products against the backdrop of runaway inflation now estimated to be over 10 million%. Many analysts however doubt its capacity to sustain this programme.
“Most MTAs have an agreement with the RBZ that enables them to deposit funds in the central bankâ€™s offshore account,” said one source.
“The bank through its discretion allocates foreign currency to local agencies. It often manipulates this arrangement. It is very much possible that the central bank could temporarily withhold the full payment in order to meet its urgent commitments.”
The recent crash of the local currency over the weekend and the increase in new wads of $100, the analyst suggested, was also an indication that “authorities” were buying foreign currency on the parallel market.
This week businessdigest witnessed scores of disappointed customers at Western Union branches that failed to withdraw their United States dollars after employees at the agencies reportedly informed them that the agency had exhausted its daily allocations from the central bank.
“I was here by 4am hoping to be paid my cash,” said an irate customer queuing at Western Union branch along Samora Machel. “I wonder where our money is going. Only a few connected individuals can access their cash.”
Efforts to get comment from either the central bank or any of the registered MTAs were in vain.
Foreign currency earnings through MTAs have become the source of income for most Zimbabweans with relatives beyond our borders.
Independent estimates indicate that over three million Zimbabweans are scattered all over the world significantly contributing to the central bankâ€™s foreign currency current account.
Reserve Bank chief, Gideon Gono recently announced that Homelink Money Transfer agencies foreign currency receipts recorded a 226% surge following governmentâ€™s move allowing agencies to pay in foreign currency.
Early this month local authorities closed a Western Union branch in the central business district reportedly for not meeting “minimum requirements” of an office amid congestion at the premises.