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Cash Runs Out In Land Where The Bus Fare Is 1.6 M Dollars

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Jan Raath in Harare

Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown is gathering pace, with inflation spiralling to almost 15,000 per cent, according to figures leaked yesterday.

The 14,840 per cent annual inflation in October was nearly double what it was in September. Prices between September and October rose 135 per cent.

President Mugabe told state media that “Zimbabwe will not collapse, now or in the future,” even as his strategy for beating inflation with draconian price controls lay in ruins.

In June Mr Mugabe ordered businesses to slash prices to below what it cost them to stock shelves. Annual inflation has since shot up nearly 10,000 percentage points. “I am speechless,” said one economist. “I cannot get my head around these figures. They are so enormous.”

But the consequences were entirely predictable. Price controls and printing money are primary causes of inflation. “It is ludicrous. The economy hasn’t collapsed for him and his ministers in their Hummers and their Mercedes-Benzs. But they have made it collapse for everyone else.”

The latest figures were published in Harare’s privately owned Zimbabwe Independent, which said that they had been leaked by the state statistical office. The department had been promising to issue them since Monday. On two previous occasions this year the body has been forced by Samuel Mumbengegwi, the Finance Minister, to stifle its embarrassing inflation numbers.

Other countries stricken by hyperinflation have coped by printing vast quantities of banknotes with rapidly increasing numbers of zeroes.

In Zimbabwe, however, the phenomenon of “Mugabenomics” has delivered a three-headed monster — exponentially rising prices, a critical cash shortage, because the Government regards adding new rows of zeroes on the banknotes as an admission of defeat, and virtually nothing to buy in the shops because price controls have destroyed the retail trade.

The Z$200,000 (7p) note, the highest, has almost disappeared. This week banks were issuing batches of Z$20 million in wads of $500 bills stuffed in plastic bags.

Hole-in-the-wall cash dispensers are now largely redundant because it takes only four customers to empty machines. Yesterday banks were limiting customers to Z$10,000 a day.

Cash itself has become a tradable commodity. Swapped for products such as fuel and beef, it is attracting a 20 per cent premium to its face value.

The search for cash is an unrelenting daily ordeal for Zimbabweans, who were paying Z$1.6 million for a bus fare to and from work yesterday, Z$800,000 for a loaf of bread, and Z$700,000 for a pint of beer.

This week the Government said that its price controls would be stepped up. Economists fear the move will exacerbate shortages and increase inflation further.

Poor buggers. Z$1.6 million for a bus fare and a cash shortage.

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Poor bastards. At one stage on the '70s, I am reliably informed, the RhoDollar (formerly 10 shillings) was close to parity with the Pound.

PS Remember 1,000 was knocked off the $ZW last year: therefore the bus fare is 1.6 BILLION dollars. In old money.

In the early eighties I used to cycle accross the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It was the bridge where they signed independance. I was only allowed to take the equivalent of 10 rand back and forth, though they weren't into strip searching in those days so I took more. It is such a beautiful country full of natural resources except oil :(

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