Satellite TV Is Fueling Zimbabwe's Cash Shortage: Central Bank

  • Country spends more on TV subscriptions than some basic foods
  • Banks told to settle domestic card transactions locally

Zimbabwe’s central bank said it is “illogical” and undermining efforts to stem a cash shortage that the country is spending more on satellite television subscriptions than on imports of the raw materials needed to produce cooking oil.

Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic crisis since 2008 as a liquidity squeeze has left companies unable to pay foreign suppliers and workers in cash. The economy probably shrank 0.3 percent last year and is set to contract 2.5 percent his year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Financial institutions used $207 million for the payment of satellite television subscriptions during the last six months of 2016 through accounts held in offshore currencies, the largest allotment of foreign exchange after fuel in the period, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said in its monetary policy statement on Wednesday.

“Use of hard-earned foreign currency in this manner is not sustainable,” the central bank said. Banks should “exercise discipline and rationality in the distribution of foreign exchange among the competing needs of the economy.”

Domestic Transaction

To counter this, banks will have to start settling domestic transactions made through credit card payments locally before the end of March, the central bank said. It didn’t say how credit card companies would settle foreign payments locally, while calls to the bank weren’t immediately answered.

Total foreign currency receipts fell 14 percent to $5.4 billion in 2016, while export proceeds shrank 13 percent to $2.96 billion, the bank said. Remittances from Zimbabweans living abroad slumped 18 percent to $1.57 billion.

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