Zimbabwe trade deficit widens

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Zimbabwe experienced intermittent fuel shortages last month. — Picture: Shepherd Tozvireva.

ZIMBABWE’S trade deficit for the first four months of 2018 stood at US$998,8 million which is far higher than the same period last year when it was US$603,1 million, according to statistics released this week by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) .

By Kudzai Kuwaza

The data showed that the country’s trade deficit in 2017 stood at US$1, 74 billion. The figures from the central bank show that US$474 million was spent on fuel imports during the first four months of this year.

The amount spent in the first four months of 2018 is more than the US$383 million spent during the same period last year.
A total of US$1, 2 billion was spent in the commodity last year.

Fuel accounted for about 22% of total imports in the first four months of 2018, similar to the trend in 2017.

“The statistics show a significant increase in fuel imports since January 2018. The increase was driven by an upsurge in both volume and import prices for petroleum on the world markets. The improved economic activity is largely on account of renewed confidence in the economy following the birth of the new political and economic dispensation in November last year,” the central bank noted.

“The price of petrol rose from US$1,40 per litre to US$1,41 per litre, while the price of diesel increased from US$1,26 per litre to US$1,28 per litre during the week ending 18 May 2018, against the background of rising international oil prices. There was a 20% increase in demand for petrol and an 8% increase in the demand for diesel during the first quarter of 2018, compared to the same period last year. During the week of 7 May to 14 May 2018, the pump price of fuel declined in most of the selected regional countries, except Mozambique, where diesel increased by 0,99%.”

The central bank noted that the external sector position has remained considerably under pressure on account of deep-seated structural challenges of fiscal deficit, current account deficit, limited access to foreign finance, debt overhang, limited supply of ethanol for blending and, more recently, the increases in international fuel prices.
“These structural challenges together with improved business confidence within the economy have significantly contributed to the huge demand for imports of goods and services, resulting in high trade deficits in excess of US$1,5 billion annually. This trade gap which exacerbates foreign exchange shortages within the economy requires to be closed for balance of payments to balance,” the RBZ said.

The central bank pointed out that the negative social media message has had a negative impact on its operations which it described as “counter-productive”.

“Negative social media messages have also had an adverse effect of increasing demand for basic commodities such as fuel. The impact of such negative social media messages to the unsuspecting members of the public is quite damaging. Zimbabweans are very sensitive to negative news, yet others seem to thrive on that for reasons best known to themselves,” said RBZ.

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