From the Sokwanele photostream, Mugabe’s attempt to quell inflation by dropping three zeroes
Zimbabwe is not a death factory like Iraq or a giant gulag like North Korea, but it is perhaps the worst governed country in the world. They have hyperinflation of over 1000%, life expectancy of 37/34 for men and women, the highest AIDS rate in the world and a shrinking economy (-4.7 GDP). Worst of all, this misery is caused and perpetuated by the incompetent, corrupt and tyrannical government of Robert Mugabe. It is one thing to slow the growth of a country, but to actually take a country backwards is a terrible thing to watch. 80% of Zimbabweans live in poverty and the economy has contracted 40% since 2000. In the midst of all this, Robert Mugabe may be rewarded for his good works by being made President for Life. What he will be after that is a footnote on how to run the worst government ever.
The last official figures issued in October put inflation at 1,070%. But the cost of living shot up by almost 50% last month, according to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe. An urban family of six now requires Z$209,000 (Â£442) to meet its basic food, housing, transport and clothing needs for a month, way above the average wage of Z$50,000. So bad is the economic crisis that while people around the world are stocking up on treats for the festive season, Zimbabweans are staring at empty shelves (Sunday Times)
The failure of Zimbabwe is by most accounts willful. Mugabe’s Land Reform was the main culprit, pride bought at a terrible price. The government made a chaotic seizure of land from white land-owners which resulted in disaster. White did own a majority of arable land in Zimbabwe and slow measure were in order to redistribute it more fairly. The Mugabe government, however, rashly seized the land at once, gave it to cronies with no expertise in working the land and turned Zimbabwe from Africa’s breadbasket to a country where 2/3 of the people are facing their worst famine in history.
The government has behaved like a spoiled child, seizing toys and printing money while investors lose confidence, but this self-perpetuating cycle has spiraled the country deep into despondency. As Jesse Jackson said in June 2006, “Land reform has long been a noble goal to achieve but it has to be done in a way that minimizes trauma. The process has to attract investors rather than scare them away. What is required in Zimbabwe is democratic rule, democracy is lacking in the country and [that] is the major cause of this economic melt down.”
Mugabe simultaneously burned the nation’s own breadbasket and withdrew from the world, meaning that the country could no longer feed itself. Regardless, he refused to import maize and now cannot afford anything. The Zimbabwean government also weakened investor confidence by stopping payment on loans (IMF, etc), spending billions on war in Congo, imposing unrealistic price controls (driving goods underground) and generally being despotic bastards. Internally they have rigged elections, and razing the homes of the urban poor who may oppose them. Zimbabwe has gone from a great nation to one of the poorest places on earth through the mismanagement of one government. It is so sad to see.
More to the point, they have responded to failures in policy not with change or reform, but by printing money. This results in a and that is what high inflation fundamentally is. It’s a sign that policy may not be working, a sign ignored at a nation’s peril.