Botswana on Thursday agreed to extend a credit facility of up to $1 million to Zimbabwe, as part of renewed efforts to elevate their bilateral ties in key strategic areas of mutual interest.
Leaders of the two nations signed eight agreements at the inaugural ceremony of the Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission in Harare.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa stressed that the two countries must strengthen their cooperation on “institutions that support democracy”.
We continue to advocate for the reform and democratisation of the United Nations Security Council so that it serves as the pedestal of international justice, peace and security for all member states,’‘ said Mnangagwa.
On the other hand, President Mokgweetsi Masisi assured President Mnangagwa of Botswana’s support in economic development.
“Credit facility, we increased it from 500 million to 1 billion and the details which will be sorted out later on.”
Botswana had described as ‘unfounded’ recent media reports in Zimbabwe suggesting a $600 million-dollar loan to Harare.
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Zimbabwe’s state owned newspaper, The Herald reported that the loan will consist of $500 million dollars for Zimbabwe’s diamond industry and a further $100 million to help private companies, whose operations have been hamstrung by the dollar shortage.
Last month South Africa said it had turned down Zimbabwe’s request for a $1.2 billion loan.
Relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana have improved recently following a strained period when Botswana’s ex-President Ian Khama, who stepped down in 2018, routinely criticised Zimbabwe’s former strongman Robert Mugabe for holding on to power for too long.
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Argentina imposes currency controls to support economy
Argentina has imposed currency controls in an attempt to stabilise markets as the country faces a deepening financial crisis.
The government will restrict foreign currency purchases following a sharp drop in the value of the peso.
Firms will have to seek central bank permission to sell pesos to buy foreign currency and to make transfers abroad.
Argentina is also seeking to defer debt payments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to deal with the crisis.
What has the government said?
In an official bulletin issued on Sunday, the government said that it was necessary to adopt “a series of extraordinary measures to ensure the normal functioning of the economy, to sustain the level of activity and employment and protect the consumers”.
The central bank said the measures were intended to “maintain currency stability”.
It also said that while individuals can continue to buy US dollars, they will need to seek permission to purchase more than $10,000 (£8,223.50) a month.
The measures will apply until the end of this year.
What triggered the current crisis?
Argentina has been struggling with a financial crisis, which was exacerbated by the president’s defeat in a recent primary poll.
The peso fell to a record low last month after the vote showed that the business-friendly government of President Mauricio Macri is likely to be ousted in elections in October.
Mr Macri was elected in 2015 on promises to boost Argentina’s economy with a raft of liberal economic reforms.
But the country is in a deep recession. It has one of the world’s highest inflation rates, running at 22% during the first half of the year.
Argentina’s economy contracted by 5.8% in the first quarter of 2019, after shrinking 2.5% last year. Three million people have fallen into poverty over the past year.
How is the move likely to be received?
Ordinary Argentines have traditionally had little faith in their own currency, preferring to convert their spare pesos into dollars as soon as possible
They don’t trust financial institutions much either, so they resort to what is locally known as the “colchón bank” – that is, stuffing their dollars under the mattress.
Anecdotal stories abound of people keeping money buried in the garden, hidden in the walls or even stuffed in heating systems – occasionally with disastrous consequences if there is an unexpected cold snap.
When you consider Argentina’s history of rampant inflation and currency volatility, they arguably have a point.
But it does mean that any restrictions on people’s ability to buy dollars have an enormous psychological impact.