Zimbabweans mend shabby dollar notes amid economic crisis

Zimbabweans mend shabby dollar notes amid economic crisis
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Worn out or shredded by rats, US currency is king in hard-hit Zimbabwe, where enterprising traders are repairing old notes for desperate customers. (AP)
Zimbabweans mend shabby dollar notes amid economic crisis
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Albert Marombe, a currency trader, shows off a damaged $20 bill at a busy market in Harare. The government has outlawed the repair of damaged currency and traders face hefty fines. (AP)
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Updated 14 November 2020

Zimbabweans mend shabby dollar notes amid economic crisis

Zimbabweans mend shabby dollar notes amid economic crisis
  • US currency dominates ailing economy after years of record hyperinflation

HARARE: Albert Marombe takes a grimy, tattered $1 note and expertly glues it back into one piece, holding it up for inspection.

“I don’t care how torn it is. All I want to see is the serial number being visible on both sides,” said Marombe. He will sell that shabby $1 note for 80 cents and it will get back into circulation. Many shops will reject it but market traders will take it, although at a reduced value.
Worn out or shredded by rats, $1 notes are king in Zimbabwe, beset by a continuing economic crisis. Dollar bills are used by many people to buy their daily bread and other small purchases. Crisp new notes are not coming into Zimbabwe, so enterprising traders are repairing old ones for desperate customers.
Formal businesses reject such notes, forcing people to sell them to traders like Marombe for a fraction of their original value. Informal street markets will usually — with some negotiation — accept the glue-patched notes that Marombe sells for transactions. Zimbabwe’s booming informal economy employs about two-thirds of the population, according to the International Monetary Fund, so there are lots of dirty dollars in circulation.
The US dollar has dominated transactions in Zimbabwe since the country’s hyperinflation soared to more than 5 billion percent and forced the government to abandon the local currency in 2009.




Albert Marombe, a currency trader, shows off a damaged $20 bill at a busy market in Harare. The government has outlawed the  repair of damaged currency and traders face hefty fines. (AP)

Last year the government re-introduced a Zimbabwe currency and banned foreign currencies for local transactions. Few took heed though and the black market thrived, while the local currency quickly devalued. In March this year, the government relented and unbanned the dollar. Now shortages of small denominations of the dollar are a nightmare.
The once-prosperous southern African country’s economy is so weak from de-industrialization, low investment, low exports and high debt that it does not generate an adequate inflow of fresh greenbacks needed for its largely dollarized local economy, Harare-based economist John Robertson said.
“If people do have a small denomination in US dollars they don’t want to put those in the bank. They want to keep it to themselves,” said Robertson, explaining that banks generally do not pay account holders in cash.
Larger denominations are too big for many purchases. Traders such as Marombe fill the gap by patching up torn dollar bills of many denominations, but the $1 note is their main business.
“I am here by 6 a.m. daily and leave late; business is good. I am surviving,” said Marombe, popularly called “the money sanitizer” by other market traders.
He said he buys the $1 notes for between 40 cents and 60 cents each, depending on their condition, and sells them at a profit.
Marombe, 38, sold second-hand clothes until six months ago when he saw the opportunity to make money by patching up old dollar bills and selling them at a profit. He is making enough to support his pregnant wife and two children, including one who is a teenager and writing final year secondary examinations this year.
In cities across the country, currency traders line the streets holding wads of both local currency and US dollars. The $1 notes that are in good condition go for a 10 percent premium. Traders said they buy the better-looking notes from retail shop owners and workers and from street vendors who hoard $1 notes paid by purchasers of small items.

FASTFACT

Hyperinflation forced the government to abandon the local currency in 2009.

The street traders also take larger bills and provide the equivalent amount in smaller denominations for a 10 percent fee.
The government says the practice is illegal and the police sometimes raid the currency traders, seizing their precious dollar notes and issuing fines.
But there is a lack of choice for shoppers. If they buy goods at a supermarket that cannot provide change for their purchase, they are given paper coupons to be used at the same supermarket at a later date.
“At times they run out of these coupons so I am forced to take candy,” said Innocent Chirume, outside a supermarket in Harare. “It is very inconvent. I can’t take a bus into town using a coupon,” he said.
Banks are encouraging electronic payments for transactions to resolve the problem of small change “given that US dollars are not produced in Zimbabwe and are imported at high cost,” Bankers Association of Zimbabwe President Ralph Watungwa said.
Bank customers can exchange soiled notes for “usable” ones, although “the process of exporting the soiled notes and importing fresh ones is a long and costly process” for banks, he said.
The shortage of dollar notes and people's lack of trust in banks means that many stash their cash at home. This is a boon to currency traders like Marombe.
“One customer came with $100 dollar notes worth $1,000. He was saving for a car but the rats got to the money first,” chuckled Marombe, who said he charged to repair the gnawed notes. “It was a big payday for me!”


Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm

Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm
Updated 11 May 2021

Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm

Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm
  • Turkey’s Karadeniz supplies electricity to Lebanon from power barges

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Karadeniz, which supplies electricity to Lebanon from power barges, told Beirut to halt action by the Lebanese prosecutor to seize its vessels and said it must draw up a plan to settle arrears to avoid a cut in supplies, a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson for Karpowership, a unit of Karadeniz that operates floating power plants, was speaking on Tuesday after Lebanon’s Finance Ministry cited a lawmaker saying the country had been threatened with a cut to its supplies.
A Lebanese prosecutor issued a decision last week to seize the barges and fine the firm after TV channel Al-Jadeed reported corruption allegations tied to the power contract. The firm denies the charges and says it has not been paid for 18 months.


Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound

Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound
Updated 11 May 2021

Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound

Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound
  • Revenues rose almost 16 percent in April to $551million

RIYADH: Suez Canal revenues rose almost 16 percent in April to $551 million compared to a year earlier, Asharq Business reported, citing Suez Canal Authority Chairman Osama Rabie.
Rabie also discussed plans to expand and deepen the southern sector of the canal in which the container ship Ever Given was stuck in March, creating chaos across the global supply chain.
That incident which brought a large proportion of seaborne trade to a near halt for a week, highlighted the need to ensure the  smooth operation of the key trade artery.
Rabie also revealed plans for dredging works for the maintenance of the navigational channel of the canal.
A plan is being implemented to restructure the authority’s companies, he said.
This year witnessed a slight increase in the number of ships passing through the waterway to 1,840 in April 2021 from 1,731 in April 2020, Al Arabiya reported.


Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave
Updated 11 May 2021

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave
  • The size of the workforce was estimated at 29,284 million, compared to 29,965 million during the previous quarter

RIYADH: Egypt’s unemployment rate reached 7.4 percent of the total labor force in the first quarter of 2021 — up from 7.2 percent in the previous quarter.
The new data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), reflects the impact of the second wave of the pandemic.
The size of the workforce was estimated at 29,284 million, compared to 29,965 million during the previous quarter, representing a decrease of 2.3 percent, Al Arabiya reported.
The labor force in urban areas reached 13,034 million, with 16,250 million living in rural areas.
Gehan Saleh, economic affairs adviser to Egypt’s prime minister said in April that the second stage of the country’s economic reform program would be launched soon.
She said the plan aims to improve the quality of life of citizens and tackle unemployment through job-creating investments.


Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang
Updated 11 May 2021

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang
  • It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods

DUBAI: Indian customs have foiled an attempt to post gold from Dubai disguised in containers of the popular Tang drink.

After sieving the contents of the drink mix, Chennai customs officials discovered it had been mixed with gold granules, according to a statement from the Commissioner of Customs at Chennai International Airport.
Officials probing the racket found that the address of the receiver had been misused.
It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods.
Earlier this year officials at Chennai airport also nabbed two men trying to smuggle gold through the airport underneath their wigs.
The hapless pair were nabbed after their unusual hairstyles caught the attention of officials.

They were found to be carrying two gold paste packets weighing almost 700 g


UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
Updated 11 May 2021

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
  • The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider

DUBAI: British telecommunications company Helios Towers has signed a deal with Omantel to acquire 2,890 sites for $575 million from the sultanate’s largest mobile network operator.
The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider.
The deal is expected to bring in a $59 million bump in revenues in the first full year of operations.
It also involves a $35 million plan to add 300 new build-to-suit sites over the next seven years.
“We view Oman as a very attractive and supportive market for foreign investments, with strong growth and exciting future prospects,” the UK-based company’s chief Kash Pandya said in a statement.
He said the acquisition strengthens its business through “further hard-currency revenues and diversification” in what the CEO described as the fastest growing markets in the region.
“We look forward to working with Omantel and the other MNOs over the coming years to further develop next generation mobile infrastructure solutions and services in Oman,” he added.
The partnership reflects Oman’s FDI aspirations, Omantel CEO Tala Said Al-Mamari said, adding it will create jobs and opportunities in the country.
“This move also allows the monetization of our towers at attractive valuation levels, de-lever our balance sheet, and will accelerate network development in next generation advanced technologies,” he noted.
He said it would allow Omantel’s management to focus on innovation and product development while outsourcing infrastructure management to an independent firm.
The transaction will close by the end of 2021, and the long-term partnership will last for an initial period of 15 years.