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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Mvunga: Bank of Zambia won’t print money not backed by economic activity

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Central Bank governor Christopher Mvunga says the institution has no intention of printing money to mitigate the poor performance of the local currency. Mvunga says people are free to criticise his appointment because he is a public officer.

The Central Bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) has resolved to maintain the policy at the current eight per cent rate. Addressing journalists in Lusaka yesterday on the MPC’s decision, Mvunga said the Bank could only print money if economic requirements necessitated so.

“… on the future inflation outlook, we projected as Bank of Zambia that it will be on a decline. What we’ve said is that in 2021 it’s expected to decline to 13. 5 per cent, and further in 2022 to 10 per cent. Now, 2022 is past the election cycle. Now if you print money which is not backed by economic activity, there is no way that the Bank of Zambia could be projecting an inflation decline of 10 percent in 2022,” he said. “So, our numbers would have shown you to support the argument of printing money without being backed, we would have said our inflation target in 2022 would be 30 per cent because bringing in money which is not backed by commerce pushes inflation up to a point of hyperinflation. So, I think our projections in themselves as a Central Bank or where we see inflation going is talking to you about the measures which were not seen: excess liquidity or unconventional liquidity hitting the market to an extent where we get into the hyper-inflationary environment.”

He said if there was any intention of printing money, the BoZ would not have projected a decline in inflation by 2022.

“So, I think our numbers talk to themselves that 2021, 13.5 per cent inflation projection; 2022, way outside the election cycle, 10 per cent, which is signaling to you that the Bank is looking at managing inflation downwards. Printing of money, by contrast, will be managing inflation upwards. So if you do a detailed analysis in terms of presentation, you will see that there is no scope for unconventional means of printing money.”

And Mvunga said people should not expect him as an individual to influence decisions at BoZ because the institution has got rules that it follows.

This was after a journalist asked him for a guarantee that there will be no laxity on the monetary policy because of the negative public perception about him.

“Understand that Bank of Zambia is an institution. Bank of Zambia is not Mvunga. Bank of Zambia has got systems, structures, guidelines, procedures, adherence to best international practice. So, don’t confuse myself with the institution. I’m just heading the institution.

The institution is bigger than me,” Mvunga said. “So, there are rules in which the Bank operates, there are guidelines in which the Bank operates. The Bank is a member of international institutions, Zambia is a member of international institutions such as the IMF and World bank.

So, there are all these institutions that are seeing what’s happening. We subscribed to be a member of international settlements, we’re a board member of Africa Exim Bank, we’re a member of all these other institutions. I don’t think they’ll sit back and just watch the Bank of Zambia perform recklessly because of an individual.”

He pleaded with stakeholders to detach politics from the Central Bank.

“So, I don’t see any issue myself, it’s a perception. And I’ll urge all stakeholders that for the benefit of the country, keep politics away from the Central Bank. Our job is a professional job, it’s not a political job. Secondly, appointments to public offices, like any other office, attract criticism both constructive, non-constructive and detractors. So, it is not unusual for me to be criticised.

It is expected when you go into a public office,” Mvunga said. “So, I’m neither moved nor fenced, nor disappointed. It’s expected.

It’s a public office appointment and it’s subject to scrutiny, and different people view differently. As much as you may say there are so many people that have criticised me, I can equally say there are so many people that have overwhelmingly supported me. So, my job is not to worry about who is criticising me.

It’s the nature of the position. We’ll be criticised. Even decisions we are making today, there will be an economist who will think we should have done otherwise…I think my key focus is to ensure that we drive this country to economic stability; that is my key focus.”

Meanwhile, in his presentation, Mvunga said after considering several factors, the MPC decided not to adjust the monetary policy in either direction.

The policy rate is the rate that is used by the central bank to implement or signal its monetary policy stance.

The policy varies per country and is explained in the metadata.

For example, in some countries the central bank policy rate is the discount rate while in others it is a repurchase agreement rate.

“With inflation on the rise, conventionally, raising the policy rate in an effort to control inflation would have been expected. However, doing so, in an already depressed economic situation, would result in a further contraction in economic activity and threaten the stability of the financial sector,” said Mvunga. “On the other hand, reducing the policy rate in an attempt to give further support to the economy may put additional pressure on the exchange rate in a supply-constrained environment. This may worsen the inflation outlook. Considering all these factors, including the significant reduction in the policy rate by 350 basis points in 2020 and to allow monetary policy measures to take full effect, the MPC decided to maintain the policy rate at 8.0 per cent.”

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