Bring back funds in offshore accounts, local banks told

TREASURY has ordered all banks to repatriate 75 percent of funds held in offshore accounts with effect from March 1 as part of measures to curb liquidity challenges.Foreign banks operating in Zimbabwe are believed to be sitting on over US$500 million of local depositors’ money kept in the United Kingdom and South Africa among other countries.

Minister Biti
Minister Biti

Finance Minister Tendai Biti yesterday said the move follows consultations with the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe. This came as the central bank also moved in yesterday to suspend cash withdrawal limits from next month following the improvement in the liquidity situation and the need to encourage savings.

In his monetary policy statement on January 31, Reserve Bank Governor Dr Gideon Gono put a US$10 000 ceiling on cash withdrawals while transactions above the limit required notice periods of up to five days depending on the amount needed.

Minister Biti said after consultations with the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe, Government and RBZ concluded that there was need for the repatriation of all other Nostro Account balances in excess of banks’ needs, pending international payment obligations and for the purposes of taking positions in the international market.

Said Minister Biti “With effect from March 1, 2012, banks will, therefore, be required to maintain in their Nostro Accounts a maximum of 25 percent of their balances offshore.

“The maximum rises to 30 percent from June 1, 2012,” he said. Banks would still use their Nostro Account balances to meet some obligations such as lines of credit, trade and project finance support.

Minister Biti and Dr Gono reiterated the need for businesses and the general public to broaden the use of plastic money and other electronic means of payment.

“Government is in consultation with the Reserve Bank and the Bankers Association, considering introduction of measures and fiscal incentives deemed necessary to promote broader use of plastic money,” he said.

Efforts to restore the central bank’s lender of last resort status will receive a major boost next week with the injection of US$23 million from Treasury.

Minister Biti said his Ministry was working with local and international financial institutions to finalise the mobilisation of an additional US$73 million.

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