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Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe

The downward spiral continues:

WSJ.com - Inflation Rate Tops 1,000% For First Time in Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate topped 1,000% for the first time, underlining the economic collapse of a country crippled by shortages. Moffat Nyoni, director of the Government's Central Statistical Office, said that inflation for the 12 months to April 2006 was 1,042.9%, according to a state radio report Saturday. A package of the cheapest candy costs 57,000 Zimbabwe dollars and a loaf of bread 100,000 Zimbabwe dollars. But the maximum denomination note is 50,000 Zimbabwe dollars, forcing shoppers to carry bags full of money for basic daily purchases.

Since mobile phones went into service in 1996 as fixed-phone services crashed, the price of the most inexpensive phone has increased 5,000 times. The price of a single car battery this year could have bought 14 brand new cars 10 years ago. There is a joke that toilet paper costs so much -- 125,000 Zimbabwe dollars a roll ($125) -- that it would be cheaper to use 500 dollar notes. And the money needed 12 years ago to buy a house -- three million Zimbabwe dollars, or an entire life's savings -- doesn't even cover a family's monthly expenses today.

The economy has been in free fall since President Robert Mugabe's seizure of 5,000 formerly white-owned commercial farms in February 2000. "We are living with the consequences of [the government's] destructive policies of the past," said economist John Robertson. "They cannot raise the necessary taxes from our shrinking economy."

Inflation in March was 913%. Figures released by Mr. Nyoni's office showed 21% inflation for the month of April alone, fueled by a 27% increase in the cost of basic foodstuffs, 25% in rents, 35% in fuels such as gasoline and kerosene, and 48% in motor vehicle and health insurance.... The lowest-paid workers in formal employment -- domestic gardeners -- earn 2.5 million Zimbabwean dollars a month, but 70% of the work force lack regular jobs due to waves of bankruptcies and earn hourly wages for informal work like bookkeeping, maintenance or cleaning....

An estimated four million Zimbabweans, many of them skilled professionals, are living outside the country. Most remaining Zimbabweans make ends meet by growing sweet potatoes and corn alongside roads and railways or on vacant land. Mr. Robertson said the point of "meltdown" had already been reached for pensioners and others living on small fixed incomes. Money from charities or from relatives living abroad is the only means of survival for many elderly. The United Nations estimates at least three million of the 12 million population are in need of emergency food aid ahead of next month's harvests...

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