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Amid Cash Crunch, Zimbabwe Pricing Panel Bears Down On Business

Food shortages in Zimbabwe are expected to intensify amid indications the National Incomes and Pricing Commission set in place by President Robert Mugabe several months ago is fixing to launch another crackdown on businesses in the country.

Commission Chairman Godwills Masimirembwa told VOA he has given firms which sell imported products until next Thursday, Nov. 22, to clear imported stock from their shelves, after which date his commission will impose tightened price controls.

Masimirembwa said his commission will prohibit businesses from turning to the parallel market for hard currency to import goods and then to to price them accordingly.

A showdown is looming between Masimirembwa and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, said to be printing trillions of dollars in an effort to resuscitate manufacturing through its so-called Basic Commodities Supply Side Intervention Facility.

Gono has said he is trying to reverse the effects of price cuts imposed by the state in late June which quickly led to widespread shortages of essential goods.

Masimirembwa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he has been meeting with manufacturers and retailers to explain the new pricing policy.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce President Marah Hativagone said the new policies are likely to further restrict the movement of goods into the marketplace.

Meanwhile, bank notes are in short supply along with just about everything else, with long queues outside banks which are cutting back on what they will allow customers to withdraw and at times waiting for cash deposits before they can pay out notes.

Automated teller machines in many locations are empty, forcing customers to stand in line to obtain cash. Individuals previously had been allowed to withdraw Z$20 million (US$20) a day , companies Z$40 million, but banks have reduced these limits.

Consumer Tongai Mupfudza of Warren Park, Harare, said he tried to withdraw Z$10 million from Stanbic Bank but could only get Z$5 million. Corporate withdrawals are limited to Z$10 million at many banks, Harare financial sources said.

Economist Nhlanhla Nyathi told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that cash shortages probably reflect the surging prices of basic goods on the parallel market where most Zimbabweans find them these days.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...