Basically, RBM is the central bank along the lines of the Bank of England or the US Federal Reserve, among others.
However, there are some areas where I feel RBM could have done better, especially in terms of Exchange Controls. Here is one case in point: Since the dawn of cellphones and pay television in the country, there has been an outcry from the public over how some service providers are charging or quoting prices for their services in foreign currency, notably, the United States dollar.
Cellphone operators bowed down to the pressure and cunningly priced their prepaid airtime vouchers in the local currency, the kwacha.
Then there is MultiChoice Malawi whose digital satellite television (DStv) service is quoted in dollars. The result here has been that subscribers are not sure how much they will pay in a particular month! In fact, there are times when people are asked to pay different premiums for the same product within a day due to what bank tellers say “fluctuations” in the kwacha exchange rate!
There are also some landlords, including managers of a reputable shopping centre in Blantyre, who quote their rent in foreign currency.
I am sure authorities at RBM are aware of this. This is why it always pains me to see RBM issuing statements such as the one dated March 9 2012 where we were “reminded” that according to the Exchange Control (Use of Foreign Currency in Local Transactions) Regulation of 2006, it is illegal to quote prices or demand payment in foreign currency for goods and services rendered in Malawi.
RBM says such transactions are only legal if approved by the Minister of Finance. Come on! RBM and Treasury are supposed to be â€˜cousinsâ€™; hence, they should know who is “licenced” to deal in foreign currency. Why not simply pounce on those violating the law? My guess is also that the tobacco and tea auctions have permission to quote in dollars! Yes? No?
Please, RBM you can do better. I am sure you are not a toothless bulldog!