Zimbabwe devalues currency to tackle economic crisis

Commercial banks reopened on Friday in Zimbabwe after a bank holiday, with queues outside no longer than usual. (Reuters)
Updated 22 February 2019
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Zimbabwe devalues currency to tackle economic crisis

  • Zimbabwe adopted the dollar in 2009 but introduced a parallel system of bond notes that it pegged at 1:1 to the US currency

HARARE: Zimbabwe’s central bank began trading a sharply discounted replacement currency on Friday, attempting to ease a cash crunch that has hobbled the economy and plunged millions deep into poverty.
Zimbabwe adopted the dollar in 2009 but, as a chronic hard currency shortage worsened, introduced a parallel system of bond notes that it pegged at 1:1 to the US currency.
Effectively reintroducing a national currency, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) said on Wednesday it would carry out a “managed float” of the surrogate, which fetches far less than a dollar on the black market.
The bond notes and electronic dollars, locked in individuals’ accounts for months due to a lack of cash, will be merged into a separate currency called RTGS — or real-time gross settlement — dollars, the central bank said.
It sold US dollars to banks at 2.5 RTGS dollars on Friday morning, Bank Governor John Mangudya told business leaders.
Commercial banks reopened on Friday after a bank holiday, but with exchange facilities from bond notes to US dollars at the same 2.5 rate limited to individual and corporate holders of foreign currency accounts, queues outside appeared to be no longer than usual.
Other members of the public should, in theory, be able to go to banks on Monday and buy US dollars with bond notes or electronic dollars.
But it is not clear how many US dollars the central bank, which only has enough foreign exchange for two weeks of imports, has sold to banks.
The bond notes and notional electronic funds have plummeted on Zimbabwe’s black market in recent months to around 4 per dollar.
Many foreign traders have stopped accepting bond notes as legal tender, leaving businesses such as millers, brewers and miners hamstrung.
Economists cautiously welcomed the central bank’s decision to allow its currency to devalue.
The RBZ hopes its new measures will temper demand for dollars on the black market and ease inflation as the new currency settles at fair value.


Apple’s Cook to China: keep opening for sake of global economy

Updated 23 March 2019
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Apple’s Cook to China: keep opening for sake of global economy

  • Cook’s comments come as Apple weathers sinking sales in China
  • Despite official pledges and repeated assurances that China would continue to open its markets

BEIJING: Apple chief executive Tim Cook nudged China on Saturday to open up and said the future would depend on global collaboration, as the United States and China remained locked in a bitter trade dispute.
“We encourage China to continue to open up, we see that as essential, not only for China to reach its full potential, but for the global economy to thrive,” Cook said at a China Development Forum in Beijing.
Despite official pledges and repeated assurances that China would continue to open its markets, some analysts worry that its reform project has slowed or even stalled under President Xi Jinping, who has sought greater control over the economy and a bigger role for state-owned firms at the expense of the private sector.
Cook’s comments come as Apple weathers sinking sales in China because of a contracting smartphone market, increasing pressure from Chinese rivals, and slowing upgrade cycles. The company reported a revenue drop of 26 percent in the greater China region during the quarter ending in December.
Before those results came out, in a January letter to investors, Cook blamed the company’s poor China performance on trade tension between the United States and China, suggesting that pressure on the economy was hurting sales in China.