The Herald (Harare)

11 December 2012

Zimbabwe: RBZ Targets SMEs, Agric Growth

RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono says the central bank is working on measures to ensure increased lending to high-growth potential areas, including small and medium enterprises and agriculture.

Dr Gono was briefing journalists in Harare on Saturday on the bank's areas of focus next year and the cocktail of measures the RBZ would adopt to ensure financial stability.

He said measures were being devised to ensure the financial sector disbursed more funding to key economic sectors, especially SMEs and agriculture.

Dr Gono said the central bank would include measures targeting priority areas under a battery of measures to ensure the financial stability announced by Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

"We may make additions to those measures by way of complementing them or in a way refine them by coming up with an approach that seeks to ensure that banks support the priority areas of the economy to given (prescribed) levels," he said.

"For instance, we have in mind a desire to see banks supporting priority areas or sectors, such as agriculture, beneficiary areas such as SMEs. We would be trying to tighten the definition of SMEs to ensure those resources (next year) go to beneficiaries whom we think have the greatest potential of creating more jobs, greater value and be able to spearhead development."

Dr Gono said banks would be directed to disburse prescribed amounts of loans to SMEs of specified sizes in terms of revenue and head count. This follows the realisation that while big companies were able to secure requisite financial resources; SMEs were unable to do so and yet had the greatest potential for job and value creation.

"I believe that it is more beneficial to support 5 000 small-scale miners who require US$10 000 to US$20 000 each than to support one (large) company that is going to take the same amount of money. We want to go into practical economics, which makes sense and integrate that with the limited resources we have," he said.

The current situation where banks are generally told to support priority areas left room for creative lending, where the banks decided to lend to only a few large and low-risk companies but with less economic impact.

In terms of support to agriculture, Dr Gono said, banks would also be required to extend most of the loans to targeted farmers -- for instance, the rural or resettled A1 farmers.

Banking institutions that fail to comply with the prescribed loan disbursement measures would have their funds locked up in a central bank instrument.

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