You all realize…GESARA has begun!
Zimbabwe using Gold Coins starting today!
John Mangudya, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, holds a gold coin at the new coin’s launch in Harare, Zimbabwe, on July 25. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)
With inflation soaring in Zimbabwe and the country’s currency in free fall as people abandon it for the U.S. dollar, the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa is fighting back with a novel strategy: gold coins.
Starting Monday, Zimbabwe is selling one-ounce, 22-carat gold coins bearing an image of Victoria Falls, its world-famous natural wonder. Each has a serial number, comes with a certificate and will be sold at a price “based on the prevailing international price of gold and the cost of production,” the central bank said in its announcement on July 4.
The coins will be tradable both in Zimbabwe and overseas, the bank said, and can be exchanged for cash. The goal is to reduce the quantity of Zimbabwe dollars in circulation to eventually restore that currency’s value.
What’s unknown is whether the approach has any real chance of success.
While gold is traditionally the ideal hedge against inflation and general economic uncertainty, no country has previously tried to tackle a weakening currency by selling gold coins. “In that sense, it is unusual,” said Carlos Caceres, the International Monetary Fund’s representative to Zimbabwe.
And with gold trading at $1,710 per troy ounce late last week, institutional investors may be the coins’ principal buyers.
“No ordinary person will be able to afford it,” said Prosper Chitambara, a senior researcher at the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe. “Right now, Zimbabweans are living hand-to-mouth.”
Economic crises are nothing new to people in the southern African nation, who for more than two decades have faced hyperinflation, food and fuel shortages, staggering unemployment and other hardships.
For many, the current crisis recalls the late 2000s under then-President Robert Mugabe. Annual inflation hit a record 489 billion percent in September 2008, and shoppers carried garbage bags full of bank notes to buy groceries.
Mugabe’s government had to print a 100 trillion-dollar note, the largest in world history, before the country abandoned its currency in 2015 for the U.S. dollar. Mugabe was forced to resign in 2017, and the Zim dollar, as it is known, was reintroduced two years later. But as confidence in it again falls, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has warned that businesses refusing to accept the currency from customers could lose their trading licenses.
This year the Zim dollar has already lost roughly 72 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar. Annual inflation reached triple digits in May, climbing again in June to 192 percent even as interest rates more than doubled — to 200 percent from 80 percent.
Chitambara said the government wants sales of the gold coins to moderate high demand for U.S. dollars, a key factor in the local currency’s depreciation. If that happens, in turn reducing some of the excess money supply and easing inflationary pressures, “then it would’ve been a positive experiment,” according to Caceres.
Still, Caceres said, the IMF prefers tried-and-tested tools as it advises member countries on best economic policies. When confronting both inflation and a weakening currency, such tools include raising or cutting interest rates to control inflation and tweaking the amount of money that banks must set aside as reserves.