Rejuvenating the economy: Part Two…punitive bank charges must go

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THE modern day banking system has its roots in the profits made in the US and Europe in the 17th Century.
These profits were made owing to the transatlantic slave trade and chattered slavery.
Blacks were kidnapped and shipped to the West to be sold as slaves.
They were called chattel slaves because, like cattle, they would be considered the slave master’s property.
Whatever came out of the labor, wombs and talents of these black slaves belonged to the slave master.
After generations of this inhuman trade and subjugation of human beings, the slave-owning and dealing whites in Europe and the US became exceedingly wealthy.
Agencies that kidnapped blacks, such as the Jewish Slave Agency, received the first earnings of the infamous trade.
The people who shipped the slaves would earn the next cheque. On arrival, the slaves were bought by dealers who would auction the captives as slaves on the market.
Up until this point, it is estimated that 92 percent of the people who participated in the trade were American Jews.
Inheritance of slave earnings is the main reason American Jews make up less than two percent of the US population, but yet own a significant chunk of the economy’s money and assets.
The last consumer would buy the slave at an auction and begin to use him/her to the best of his/her ability to make money.
Slaves were made farm labourers, sex slaves, sellable assets, construction workers, wrestlers, musicians, cleaners, cooks, horse drivers and smelters, among others, all without a salary, for around 300 years.
Sugar and cotton plantations wholly functioning under slave labor had the most lucrative earnings.
So one can imagine the large amounts of money the slave masters earned at the expense of the black slaves.
This is what led to the need for financial institutions that would do the service of keeping money safely to minimise the risk of pilferage and damage.
They would also play the role of making the money available for withdrawal by the clients.
These were the reasons that led to the development of the modern day banking systems.
Barclays bank for instance, was founded by two European brothers who became affluent from the trade of blacks as slaves.
Banking, therefore, began as a niche, as well as insurance which had like beginnings in the same era.
With time, the role of banks grew as there now existed large amounts of money from the community pooled together in one institution.
Banks began making investments and depositing interest into the accounts of their clients.
They also played the role of offering loans to clients with collateral and charging interest on the loans.
Banks have since advanced to offering mortgages, international cash transfers and foreign exchange services.
But is this the type of banking we have in Zimbabwe?
In 2015, I opened a bank account in a well-known Zimbabwean bank.
After paying the US$20 charge for opening an account, I deposited US$200.
I specifically asked for a savings account, not a current account, because I wanted my income to accumulate in the bank.
A few months later I found out I had US$185 left in the account. I first thought someone had stolen my money.
Upon inquiring, I heard of their US$5 monthly bank charge for the first time.
I withdrew all the money and decided it was better to risk theft and damage at home than to let it decrease in the bank.
I thought my problems were over, only to receive a bank statement a few months later saying I had -US$35 in my account.
I asked them to close the account and they said I would have to pay the US$35 first.
An attempt to save US$200 in a reputable bank led me to lose a total of US$70 over bank account opening and monthly charges. That is not normal, especially for a savings account.
As I was complaining, to my surprise, this was common knowledge to my friends and family who had acclimatised to the Zimbabwean economy.
My first experience of banking was having a savings account opened by my parents in which they would deposit about US$20 a year.
We were not allowed to withdraw it until a certain age.
Our parents would show us the interest that was accumulating annually and this gave us a sense of pride and responsibility at a young age.
Unfortunately the savings were run down by the hyperinflation that struck Zimbabwe beginning 2003 and became worthless.
Since that time, I banked money in South Africa as well as China and I had never heard of a bank taking monthly charges until I opened a savings account in this particular Zimbabwean bank. How can one save money when the bank is taking a fraction of it every month instead of paying me interest for giving them capital?
Even when the account is empty, they deduct a monthly fee till the amount gets deep into the negatives.
This is daylight robbery.
The result of these unfriendly banking policies is the growth of informal financial markets.
This has bled the Zimbabwean economy which carries a lot of cash, but not in the formal banks.
If a common bank in China were to make the slightest deduction of the amount in a client’s account in the form of a monthly charge, that bank would not be able to compete and thrive .
While there are many reasons that have led to the inefficiency of the banking system in Zimbabwe, the banks must remember their fundamental role in society is to keep people’s money safely.
The flaws described above have caused a lot of people to avoid depositing money into banks or even opening bank accounts. It is unnecessarily costly.
If a bank has a reasonable account opening charge, no monthly charges and pays interest on cash deposited, many people would be attracted back into the formal sector and the cash shortage would be a thing of the past.
The normalising of the banking system is fundamental to the normalising of the Zimbabwean economy.

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