Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti said this week that the government has made arrangements to import US dollar notes and coins to relieve consumers and vendors suffering from chronic cash shortages.
He said the imports of American specie were arranged with the help of the Zimbabwe Bankers Association through US financial institutions he declined to name. The currency is being shipped through Namibia, Biti said.
The national unity government launched in 2009 following a period of hyperinflation that debased the Zimbabwean dollar adopted a monetary regime of mixed hard currencies including primarily the US dollar, the South African rand and the Botswana pula.
The prospective injection of bills and coins should come as a big relief to consumers used to receiving change in the form of candies and other sundries, and to handling tattered and often soiled bills which some banks have been refusing to accept.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe Bulawayo Regional Manager Comfort Muchekeza said it is a shame consumers are forced to accept sweets and pens in place of change and an infusion of new bills and coins would be welcome. But Muchekeza said he was skeptical about the announcement, saying Biti has made similar promises in the past.
Economist Eric Bloch said fresh bills and coins will improve commerce and even give the economy a minor boost, but the challenge for the government is how to put the new bills into circulation, whether through an exchange program or normal bank intake.