13 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Banking Sector Reforms Commendable


When Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono pronounced higher minimum capital thresholds for banking institutions, some sceptics dismissed the move as mission impossible.

From a mere US$12,5 million to US$100 million by June 2014, the figures appeared too huge for a subdued economy like ours that has consistently been choked by liquidity challenges.

In the measures announced by Dr Gono in his mid-term Monetary Policy Review Statement, the banks were supposed to come up with phased recapitalisation plans that would see them compliant by June 2014.

It is encouraging to note that the banking institutions took the challenge head on and in no time at all most of them had crafted strategies towards compliance in phased six-monthly periods.

Working closely with the RBZ, the banks have proposed to merge some of their operations and in some cases shed off non-core operations to strengthen their capital base.

Others sought alliances with external partners and this injected much needed fresh capital into their operations.

Contrary to widely held beliefs that indigenous banks would bear the brunt of the new capital thresholds, this was not the case as they managed to rearrange themselves and came up with acceptable proposals.

What is encouraging as well, is the accommodating stance by the central bank that has reaffirmed that the programme is on course and those that fail to fulfil the compliance requirements will be given more time.

This is how it should be and each case should be dealt with on its own merits.

But what does that mean for the ordinary man in the street?

Does this mean that banks will now be able to offer affordable loans?

For starters the new measures will definitely strengthen the financial services sector in general and broaden their resource base.

The banks will also be able to raise more money for lending at affordable rates.

The much needed inter-bank market will be revived and there will be more activity in the financial services sector and this will ultimately open doors for the productive sector.

In hindsight the RBZ move came at the right time in respect of the dynamic nature of the global financial landscape, the regulatory requirements, increased competition and the prevailing economic uncertainties.

There was no alternative but to ride the tide and this inadvertently meant raising the recapitalisation levels for the banking sector.

It is our hope and expectation that the latest development will serve as a stimulus to raise the performance of the financial services sector to the next level and naturally inspire the much desired economic growth.

For long, our local banks have been persistently under fire for refusing to extend long term credit citing dwindling deposit ratios against industry's demands for long term debt.

Now with a wider capital base they can freely source for more finds and ultimately achieve economies of scale as it will be evenly spread.

This could also bring relief to the mortgage market that seems to have died a natural death on the back of the depressed money market.

Hundreds of desperate home seekers can see a ray of hope filtering with the new economic dispensation.

We have to rise to the occasion and ensure that the benefits at large are for all to enjoy and not restricted to only a few privileged individuals.

The economy is now responsive to innovations and these should be exploited to the full whenever opportunities arise.

We owe it to the younger generations that as the pathfinders, we clear the way for them to walk through.

From the mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors of this country, there is huge potential to regain our glory days and stand out as one of the leading lights on the African continent.

By the grace of God whatever targets we set for ourselves are achievable and all that is required is perseverance and a strong determination to succeed.

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