THE Central Bank is not forthcoming in addressing complaints raised by pharmaceutical wholesalers where local banks have been refusing to allocate them foreign currency, HealthTimes has learnt.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Since the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s directive putting pharmaceutical companies on high priority allowing them to get foreign currency without hassles at banks, they have been hitting brick walls. This has been a massive blow to the pharmaceutical industry who rely on foreign currency allocations to procure medicines.
The industry has been failing to procure medicines as foreign suppliers have been requesting to be paid forex Pharmaceutical and Chemical Distributors Pvt Director Mr Prashant Shah, told this publication that local banks ignore their bids for foreign currency allocations.
“The banks are not accepting bids from us as the policy states direct allocations,” he said. “Banks are not making currency available. I understand there is very little on the interbank market.”
Efforts to get comment from the RBZ were fruitless.
Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe president Mr Portifa Mwendera in a separate interview confirmed wholesalers have been facing challenges in getting this much needed foreign currency.
“Yes wholesalers have reported difficulties in getting foreign currency allocation from the banks. The Central bank has not moved in to ensure that the industry can still get forex despite assurances that medicines still remain high priority in terms of availing forex,” he said.
“The foreign currency situation has not improved at all. The interbank market has yielded very low volumes of foreign currency compared to our current needs as activity is very depressed.”
PSZ represents pharmaceutical retailers, suppliers and wholesalers in Zimbabwe.
This direct allocation of forex would result in decreased pricing of medicines in retail pharmacies who claim that they themselves are told at banks that there is no foreign currency even at the legal floated rates of US$1 being equal to RTGS$2, 50.
“We are willing to buy the foreign currency at the floated interbank rate prescribed by the RBZ governor Dr John Mangundya but it’s frustrating that when we go to the banks it is not available. We still buy the money on the streets at black market rates which has resulted in the medicines’ prices not going down,” said a pharmacist in Harare.
As at October 2018, the debt to foreign suppliers is close to US$40million with manufactures owing US$8million with distributors having to pay US$32.5million.