Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

Latest IMF report paints gloomy picture

Latest IMF report paints gloomy picture

Thursday, 23 June 2011 20:04

By Jimmy Girdlestone

‘O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see ourselves as others see us!’— Robert Burns.

FED on a constant official diet of the country’s vast natural resources 
presenting an irresistible magnet to capital rich foreigners desperate to 
profit from the current world commodity boom —  a potent combination of 
circumstances which could not fail to lift Zimbabweans from their near 
subsistence existence and into fortune — the IMF report on the latest 
consultations with local authorities may well come as an unexpected major 
disappointment.  The executive board, while welcoming the continuation of 
economic recovery, albeit from an uneven and low base, as well as the 
improvement in humanitarian conditions, concludes that “the recovery remains 
fragile and enormous challenges persist”.

Such a verdict may be dismissed as no more than a thinly disguised 
reiteration of unfounded, biased Western criticism of the country and its 
prospects. Those of a more cerebral bent, however, will be more likely to 
want an explanation as to quite why this influential and important 
multilateral organisation has come to such an uncomforting judgement.  Since 
the IMF’s prime function is to lend out cash to countries suffering a major 
currency or capital account crisis, an insight into this aspect of Zimbabwe’s 
economic activity would seem to provide the best starting point for those 
genuinely seeking a convincing explanation for such a highly qualified 

Since 2008 Zimbabwe has experienced heavy, annual deficits on its balance of 
payments’ current account.  Notwithstanding favourable external conditions 
and high commodity prices, merchandise exports, at US$3,382 million by last 
year, had little more than doubled due largely to an uncompetitive and 
uncongenial local business climate. Imports have risen at an only slightly 
lower pace to a value of just more than one-and-a-half times that of 
exports, financed by substantial humanitarian aid and short- term capital 
inflows without which the overall balance would have been considerably worse 
than the US$649 million of 2010. Even more tellingly, the current level of 
monetary reserves has shrunk to under 13 days of imports, about equal to one 
month of government expenditure, which is why the IMF continues to stress 
the need for fiscal discipline to enable the build-up of precautionary 
buffers to two months of budget expenditures. Zimbabwe, however, remains 
deeply mired in debt distress with an unsustainable debt-stock of 118% of 
GDP – mostly arrears at 80% GDP – at the end of 2010.

Without a doubt, however, the most severe jolt to any lingering national 
complacency that might still remain after this survey of the country’s 
external financial relations is provided by the IMF’s stark warning that 
Zimbabwe’s position as a primary commodity producer and oil importer, with a 
history of political and economic instability, weak institutions and the 
absence of the lender of last resort, renders it extremely vulnerable to 
terms-of-trade shocks.  In current international conditions of highly 
volatile commodity and oil price fluctuations, rapid and substantial changes 
in domestic liquidity conditions cannot be discounted, particularly in a 
situation in which credit and deposit expansion is already forecast to slow 
down significantly. Such developments would have very serious consequences 
for the local banking system, the vulnerabilities of which are judged to 
have increased.

In stark contrast to the anodyne statement from the Bankers’ Association 
concerning the recent debacle at Renaissance Merchant Bank, IMF staff 
investigations revealed that although overall, or on average, measurements 
of risk in the sector are not altogether cause for concern. They frequently 
conceal serious divergences in homogeneity of circumstance, not just among 
banks in different fields of activity, but often among institutions 
providing similar services. Many banks are weakly capitalised, particularly 
some of the smaller institutions.  The quality of bank capital is weak 
because of exposure, to the extent of 40% of their capital, to the 
financially distressed Reserve Bank. Some bank’s capital is prone to 
potential asset valuation losses because the value of their premises is 
included in it and because of persistent operating losses.

The average solvency rate, at 15,3% in December 2010, was well above the 10% 
minimum requirement. But seven smaller banks are undercapitalised and some 
are even operating with negative capital. The value of nonperforming loans 
tripled in 2010 and although the average reported non-performance of loans 
remains below 5%, the ratio of smaller banks, particularly the 
undercapitalised ones, ranges from 6% – 36%.

This suggests a lack of ability to assess loan quality, unsound lending 
practices and poor risk management.  The IMF also noted that “routine 
rollover of short term loans appears to be a common practice”.

The average liquidity ratio, excluding illiquid claims on the RBZ, exceeded 
30% as of February 2011.  But it was below 20% for eight banks and below 25% 
for 11 banks. Excluding illiquid claims on the RBZ and interbank claims, 15 
banks had a liquidity ratio below 20%.

The report recommends that the plan to restructure the RBZ’s balance sheet 
should be expedited; that the high liquidity risk urgently needs to be 
addressed through “requiring a minimum liquidity ratio of 25%, or higher”; 
and that the RBZ must intervene swiftly to enforce minimum capital and 
capital adequacy requirements while banking supervision should ensure early 
compliance with such minimum standards. Banking supervision should also 
continue to improve stress testing of all banks and ensure sound loan 
underwriting standards and practices.

Speedily implemented, these recommendations have the capability to raise 
confidence in banking sector solvency and in the soundness of its individual 
institutions – but not before time. The IMF already notes how smaller banks 
have become more risk-taking, “reaching for lower-end and sometimes 
unbankable customers, potentially heightening the volatility to bank income 
and profitability”.

Robert Burns, the much acclaimed 18th century Scottish poet to whom this 
article owes opening quote, hoped the gift he craved would free us from many 
blunders and foolish notions. These would undoubtedly include discarding the 
age-old fiduciary responsibility to savers, especially the elderly, so as to 
be able to play, at the latter’s cost, the roulette wheel of speculative 

Jimmy Girdlestone is a consultant economist with the Tetrad Group and

writes in his personal capacity.


Tobacco sales fetch US$258m

Tobacco sales fetch US$258m    Herald 3/7/2020 Herald Reporter Tobacco sales have reached 110 million kilogrammes worth US$258 million, with deliveries to contract companies and

Read More »

Agric tops micro-finance loan book

Agric tops micro-finance loan book  Herald 12/9/2019   Mr Chitambo Fradreck Gorwe Business Reporter Good rains anticipated countrywide during the 2019/20 farming season, have seen agriculture

Read More »

New Posts: