Zimbabwe Unveils ZiG: Currency Revolution or Economic Gamble?

ZiG currency's viability questioned amidst Zimbabwe's economic woes

by Adenike Adeodun

In an analysis of Zimbabwe’s latest economic maneuver, the introduction of the Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG) currency, concerns are raised regarding its long-term viability and capacity to stabilize the nation’s economy. The critique comes amidst Zimbabwe’s tumultuous economic landscape, characterized by rampant inflation and a continual search for monetary stability.

Launched as part of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s (RBZ) Monetary Policy Statement, ZiG represents an ambitious attempt to infuse stability into Zimbabwe’s economy through a ‘structured currency’ backed by foreign currency reserves and precious metals, predominantly gold. This move, enacted on April 5, 2024, signifies a departure from the Zimbabwean dollar, transitioning balances within the banking sector to the newly minted currency.

Prosper Chitambara, a leading economist, delineates the primary obstacle confronting ZiG: a pervasive lack of confidence. This deficit in trust stems not just from skepticism towards the currency itself but extends to the RBZ, the governing body tasked with its management. Chitambara emphasizes the intrinsic link between inflation and confidence, where the former’s escalation diminishes the currency’s value, thereby eroding trust and fostering an environment ripe for dollarization.

Zimbabwe’s historical battle with hyperinflation exacerbates this issue, undermining faith in its monetary policies and sparking significant devaluation of local currency. This scenario underscores the crucial role of reserves in buttressing a nation’s currency, where they not only offer liquidity but also stabilize exchange rates and engender economic confidence.

Despite the RBZ boasting reserves to the tune of $285 million, comprising cash and gold, this sum falls markedly short of the requisite backing for the ZiG. Chitambara points to the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) criteria, which advocates for an import cover extending up to six months. Given Zimbabwe’s import expenditure in 2023 amounted to $8.5 billion, the current reserves are deemed insufficient, spotlighting the currency’s fragile foundation.

For ZiG to forge a path of sustainability, stringent adherence to fiscal and monetary discipline is imperative. Such discipline is pivotal in curbing inflation and restoring currency confidence. Additionally, augmenting foreign reserves is essential to meet the SADC’s macroeconomic benchmarks, further stabilizing the currency.

Chitambara also calls for legislative reforms targeting the RBZ’s operational scope to fortify its independence and shield it from political encroachments. This recommendation aligns with findings from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) study, which correlates central bank autonomy with lower inflation rates, underscoring the significance of governance in monetary policy efficacy.

Despite the government’s optimistic projections, Chitambara remains skeptical. He argues that ongoing economic adversities, compounded by climatic challenges, pose significant obstacles to the Monetary Policy Statement’s objectives, particularly in the realm of fiscal expenditure.

Echoing Chitambara’s sentiments, civic society organization ActionAid Zimbabwe critiques the ZiG initiative as a superficial remedy that overlooks the systemic issues plaguing the nation’s economy. The organization advocates for a holistic approach to economic recovery, emphasizing the eradication of corruption, enhancement of transparency, and fostering an environment conducive to investment and good governance.

In essence, the introduction of the ZiG currency by Zimbabwe represents a bold attempt to navigate the tumultuous waters of its economic crisis. However, skepticism abounds regarding its capacity to instill the needed confidence and stability. Experts argue for a multifaceted approach, combining policy reform, fiscal discipline, and structural changes to address the underlying issues that have long hampered Zimbabwe’s economic progress.


Source: New Zimbabwe

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