SPOTLIGHT FALLS ON RESERVE BANK

TOP ANC officials are pushing for the state to take over ownership of the country's central bank, one of the few in the world still owned by private shareholders, newspaper reports said yesterday.

TOP ANC officials are pushing for the state to take over ownership of the country's central bank, one of the few in the world still owned by private shareholders, newspaper reports said yesterday.

The Sunday Times and Sunday Independent said ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe had presented a document to the party's top decision-making committee wanting to know why the bank was still owned by the private sector.

He had argued that the party should not shy away from looking at the state's role in the banking industry as a whole.

"Why have we been reluctant to even open the discussion on the role of the state in the banking industry?" the newspapers quoted him as saying.

"Including discussing the fact that the SA Reserve Bank is one of less than five central banks in private hands in the world."

The Reserve Bank is owned by shareholders, who appoint half of the board of directors. Shareholdings are limited and liquidity is tight.

But shareholders have no say in the day-to-day operations, or policies, of the bank. The governor and deputies are appointed by the president and are responsible for running the bank.

Accountable to Parliament, its independence is protected by the Constitution.

Changing the ownership structure of the bank would not have a major impact on its operations, but a move to more state control might raise fears of political interference in policy decisions.

Investors have been watching for signs of a shift in policy since Jacob Zuma became president last year, thanks partly to the backing of the ANC's trade union and communist party allies that helped his rise to power.

Rating agencies have warned that a shift from a previously conservative policy might impact on ratings.

The tripartite alliance agreed last year to debate the bank's mandate, seen by the left as too focused on controlling inflation. They want policymakers to also consider jobs and growth when making interest rate decisions. - Reuters

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