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ZiG will stand or fall on public trust, nothing else

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By Trevor Ncube

The manner in which the government introduced the new currency, Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG), is proof little or nothing has been learnt from previous similar experiences. Zimbabweans are still traumatised from the wealth destruction that was caused by five other attempts to reign in galloping inflation including introduction of bearer cheques and bond notes.

At the time of writing the black market was setting the pace, which is partly a reflection of the public’s mistrust of government. A course correction, in communication and confidence building measures, is required to avoid further currency weakening.

To assuage the traumatised public all tools of moral suasion should have been deployed to get buy-in from all stakeholders before and after the launch. Pointing out that ZiG was backed by gold did not explain why bond notes that were supposedly backed by a US$200 million Afreximbank bond facility failed dismally.

The ongoing threats from government officials, betray lack of faith in gold’s ability to back the new currency. Force, a trusted weapon, is being summoned to back ZiG. The arrest of black-market currency dealers is proof there is a chink in this strategy. It does not help that there is suspicion that currency traders represent the politically connected.

The one element that has sustained money since ancient times is trust. From the days when human beings used cowry shells, then grain and livestock to exchange goods and services, trust has been the bedrock upon which money stands.

Money, as Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens) and Jacob Goldstein (Money) argue in their books, is a fiction whose value is sustained by our common imagination. “In other words, money isn’t a material reality – it is a psychological construct,” argues Harari in his seminal book.

Harari continues, “Money is not coins and banknotes. Money is anything that people are willing to use in order to represent systematically the value of other things for the purpose of exchanging goods and services.”

Only 8% of the world’s money exists in notes and coins. The bulk of it exists only in computer servers. It is trust that binds this fiction together.

For this social construct and fiction to hold all stakeholders must willingly go along. The fiction is sustained by general consent and never by decree.

In our environment where confidence in government is non-existent trust is actually a currency. Since the launch of ZiG both the RBZ and government have done little to promote this currency. For instance, ZiG notes and coins are expected to come into circulation today, Tuesday April 30, and yet no visible promotion has been rolled out.

Persuading people accustomed to using the greenback to adopt a local currency after dollarisation is a herculean task . International Monetary Fund data seems to indicate there have only been two countries that have successfully de-dollarised, namely Israel and Poland.

Zimbabwe is following the script of all countries that failed to de-dollarise, namely, “administrative enforcements without fully restoring confidence in the local currency or eliminating the underlying instability that led to dollarisation in the first place.”

The trust chasm between the government and the public is humongous largely because of government’s dismal track record. There are other questions that have layered this mistrust, namely the elephant in the room pointed out by ex-RBZ governor Dr Gideon Gono.

The RBZ has no autonomy and it is hard to dismiss the suspicion that the President has unfettered access to national coffers. Chris Mutsvangwa’s allegation that gold was stolen from RBZ vaults during the Robert Mugabe era was inopportune.

Having the President’s son as Deputy Finance Minister erodes public trust. The RBZ Act says the “governor is appointed by the President after consultation with the minister.” The optics are just not right.

Also, the statutory instruments recently enacted to shield parastatals from public scrutiny undermine public trust in our financial governance.

To show full confidence in ZiG all government departments, including local government should conduct transactions in the local currency. Taxes should also be paid 100% through ZiG.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of a stable local currency to undergird a vibrant economy, sovereignty and national pride. It is crucial that ZiG earns public trust and is widely used. For this to happen, government and the central bank must solicit public trust through their words and actions.

Trevor Ncube is Chairman of Alpha Media Holdings and host of In Conversation With Trevor. This is an excerpt from the weekly Newsletter . Please subscribe for thought provoking fresh insights.

In Conversation With Trevor

In Conversation with Feli Nandi

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Feli Nandi , Afrofusion Musician and Fashion Designer, loved singing from a very tender age. Her love for singing was temporarily shattered by her mother’s death. Feli shares her story of how she found her voice again and the link between her music and fashion designing. Watch his episode
here..

Audience Responses

From Feli Nandi episode, our community had this to say:

@The_Third_Place:
Trevor was so engaged in this conversation, who wouldn’t be, feli is down to earth and authentic. such a powerhouse. loved the chemistry
@bagoftricks49:
Please do one nice Anglican song for us Feli. I’m sure Anglican people would be happy. Better still, consider doing a song with Dr Tawanda. I’m sure it would be a hit.
@francofrancomachimbirike911:
She’s a Treasure ,humble and respectfully

Coming Next: In Conversation with Brian Munyawarara

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Don’t miss the next episode with the Founder & CEO of Raysun Capital Brian Munyawarara In Conversation
with Trevor.

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Podcasts

in conversation with trevorZimbabwean entrepreneur and newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube
sits down with various high-profile guests in a series of
candid, conversations that seeks to go beyond the headlines and
beyond the sensational.

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