Commentary: RBZ & Zimstat Data Gaps Zim Economy Needs Filled

Is availability of of real-time economic data a realistic goal in Zimbabwe?

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In mid-August 2021, Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank reportedly announced its intentions to “craft measures to give banks comfort to lend to key productive sectors” US$1.7 billion the Central Bank says local banks have stored in foreign currency accounts (FCAs). At the time of the announcement, the latest RBZ Monthly Economic Review was from April 2021, four months after the Central Bank’s announcement.

The implication of this variance is that the latest Central Bank data is known but not publicly shared by the Bank for several months, maintaining a market data gap also seen in weekly Reserve Money updates, RBZ Quarterly and Annual Reports which currently have data for the periods ended 27 August 2021, March 2021 and 2019 respectively. Although the data source is different, national trade data distributed by ZIMSTAT is also lagging behind present-day economic activity, with the latest trade data dated June 2021.

Reasons behind late data publications may or may not be intentional, but it’s of no benefit to economic observers, businesses and the global investment community already wrestling with hyperinflation-based business performance data. Timely publication of Zimbabwe’s data is therefore encouraged.

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