Monday, July 7, 2008

Watching Zimbawe Hyper-Inflation

WSJ carries an Op-Ed this morning from Roger Bates, who speculates that runaway inflation may put an end to Robert Mugabe rule in Zimbabwe. Here are some of the latest reports out of Zimbabwe via Bates:

Consumer prices have more than doubled every month this year, in some cases doubling every week. A conservative estimate provided by Robertson Economic Information Services, a Southern African consultancy, says that prices are now three billion fold greater than seven years ago. That's right, billion. The exchange rate is currently an astronomical 90 billion Zimbabwe dollars to one U.S. dollar.

When I first went to Zimbabwe in 1996, $1 would buy you eight Zimbabwe dollars – a depreciation in exchange rate of perhaps 10 billion fold in 12 years. A decade ago, 500,000 Zimbabwe dollars would have bought you a house; today it can't buy you anything...

Mr. Kipuru bought groceries with his debit card, which remarkably still works. The card, he explained, maxes out at just under 10 billion Zimbabwe dollars. So he had to run it 74 times, given that his food bill was nearly 730 billion Zimbabwe dollars.

Buying anything is a "bizarre experience," said Lucy Chimtengwende from Bulawayo, who spent $12 U.S. on lunch recently, with the bill in local currency being an astonishing 1.1 trillion Zimbabwe dollars. The menu had no prices on it, she told me by phone, prices are quoted to you and are constantly changing.

And here's how the economy is really able to function under these conditions, "greens":

Ms. Chimtengwende was breaking the law by paying for her meal in U.S. currency (or "greens" as they're known locally), as was the owner of the restaurant accepting it. But the economy is dollarizing as the local currency literally becomes worthless.

This underground dollar economy is actually helping Mugabe, as it is keeeping the economy from entire collapse.

No comments:

Post a Comment