The Tanzania shilling has been the most stable currency in the Eastern African region, but since the beginning of this year, it fails to hold against the US dollar and currencies of the country’s other major trading partners.
The shilling currently trades at 1,620/- for the greenback, up from last year’s average of 1,580/-. Staff Writer ABDUEL ELINAZA had an interview with the Central Bank Governor, BENNO NDULU, on the issue. Excerpts…
QUESTION: Why is the shilling sliding down against the US dollar to reach 1,620/- by mid-last month?
ANSWER: The movement of the shilling to the US dollar to exchange at 1,620/- is the outcome of normal market forces as opposed to failure of country’s monetary policy. For the past 14 months, since December 2011, the exchange rate of the shilling against the US dollar has remained stable in comparison to the depreciation for the previous year and in comparison with many currencies including those of our major trading partners.
The annual depreciation of the shilling against the US dollar at the end of January 2013, was only one per cent. In the 12 months to December 2011, the shilling had depreciated by nearly 15 per cent, but the measures we took have considerably slowed down the rate of depreciation.
Q: Has the tight monetary policies failed?
A: No. Not at all. Actually, the data shows that while Tanzania Shilling depreciated by 1 per cent in the 12 months ending January 2013, the Kenyan shilling depreciated by 4.6 per cent and the Ugandan shilling by 11.7 per cent. At the same time the exchange rate of the South African Rand against the US dollar depreciated by 11.8 per cent, while that of Indian Rupee depreciated by 6.8 per cent and that of Japanese yen by 18.6 per cent during the same period. There has been significant increase in the demand for the dollar among non-typical users.
Typically we pay for power generation in shillings. Currently the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) — other than TANESCO are mostly paid in foreign exchange — since they have to meet their obligations in foreign currency. The weekly demand for US dollars by TANESCO to purchase power from the IPPs and to pay for their fuel import bill is substantial and at present in excess of four million US dollars, putting additional pressure on the amount spent on importing expensive fuel for transportation and industrial use.
The annual bill for importing expensive oil still stands at more than 3,300 million US dollars a year. Furthermore, foreign contractors building roads and other infrastructure projects funded by domestic revenue have to be paid and they typically externalise their revenues adding to the demand pressure for foreign exchange.
Q: Tanzania is now taking the IMF Standby Credit Facility loan of about 117 million US dollars. Is this because we have failed to boost exports and thus the foreign exchange inflow?
A: The decision by Tanzania to take the IMF’s Standby Credit Facility of about 117 million US dollars is not unusual. This decision is based on our assessment of the balance of payment needs, external debt sustainability position and concessionality of the loan. Tanzania has been borrowing from external concessional sources such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank to finance various development projects and programmes in order to boost economic growth and expedite poverty reduction.
It has also borrowed from the IMF from time to time for balance of payments purposes. In its endeavour to expedite implementation of development projects, including transport infrastructure, power generation and the gas pipeline, the government has decided to borrow from nonconcessional sources.
This decision has been taken with careful consideration of the country’s debt sustainability status. In 2011, the government borrowed 221.8 million US dollars for power generation. In 2012, some 213.5 million US dollars was borrowed for construction of the gas pipeline.
Source: The Daily News, http://www.dailynews.co.tz