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Price Control Reintroduction Draws Criticism from Business Leaders and Economists

3 weeks agoFri, 17 May 2024 14:18:41 GMT
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Price Control Reintroduction Draws Criticism from Business Leaders and Economists

Business leaders and economists have criticised the government’s move to manipulate exchange rates thereby reintroducing price controls for all goods to slow down inflation.

The annual inflation rate increased to 57.5% in April, up from the previous month’s 55.3%.

In a move aimed at regulating the pricing of goods, the government recently imposed the Statutory Instrument 81A of 2024 which removed the 10% premium on forex sales.

As a result, all sellers of goods are now compelled to use the interbank selling rate or risk being fined at least ZiG200 000 penalty.

The president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR), Denford Mutashu has since written to the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mangaliso Ndlovu, expressing concern over the contents of Statutory Instrument 81A of 2024. The letter, seen by Business Times, reads in part:

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We are writing to express our strong concerns regarding Statutory Instrument 81A of 2024. While we understand the intention behind this instrument we believe that the current framework is not workable and requires significant adjustments to ensure its feasibility.

Our concerns are centred around the maximum exchange rate, which does not reflect a cost recovery exchange rate given the current circumstances.

Specifically, banks are currently charging clients a rate around 5% above the selling rate. This week, the banks have been selling at a rate of around ZiG14.70:US$1.

The new intermediate money transfer tax (IMTT) statutory instrument announced by the minister has increased the IMTT for forex (FX) purchases on the Willing Buyer, Willing Seller (WBWS) from 1% to 2%.

This is in addition to the 1% charged by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), taking the total cost for WBWS purchases to 3%. These costs add up to an average of 8% above the RBZ selling rate.

Furthermore, FX is not available on demand, and any time lag between receiving ZIG and purchasing FX on WBWS can result in losses for traders due to ZIG rate devaluation.

To make this SI workable and possible for players to comply, we recommend that the bank selling rates must not exceed the RBZ selling rate and that FX purchases from the WBWS must be exempted from IMTT.

Mutashu also urged authorities to remove the RBZ’s 1% admin fee for WBWS purchases and to allow an additional 2% above the WBWS selling rate to account for ZIG rate volatility if these measures are not implemented. He added:

SI 81A of 2024 will not be workable, and it will lead to a cat-and-mouse game between the regulator and businesses. We urge you to consider our concerns and recommendations to ensure a feasible and effective framework.

Kurai Matsheza, the president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), said:

In economics, there’s a law of demand and supply hence the government should follow that for the exchange rate to stabilise. Anything outside that will affect the economy.

Economist Vince Musewe pointed out that the government is repeating mistakes by reintroducing price controls, which could lead to shortages and smuggling. He said:

You cannot police market sentiment. The market is a beast that can only be tamed by building trust and confidence.

Price controls always create alternative market shortages and increased smuggling. We are not learning from history.

Another economist, Tony Hawkins, said the threats of arrests and fines “confirm that nothing has changed”. He said:

Next comes the shifting of goalposts with new SIs and additional ways of calculating inflation.

In this case, we have a new twist — the conversion of an already out-of-date national budget into zigs which will give Treasury lots of opportunities to switch spending and raise stealth tax revenues.

The next stage, as is happening now is threats, arrests and fines all of which confirm that nothing has changed.

How can it be a free market if anyone who trades on a willing buyer-willing seller basis is breaking the law unless he trades at the manipulated RBZ rate?

More: Pindula News

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