Sunday, February 01, 2009

Economic surrealism in Zimbabwe

I suppose this item falls in the category of "grimly amusing" ... but it also vividly captures the scale of Zimbabwe's accelerating economic collapse. Jonathan T. Reynolds, who teaches African history, offers the following observation on the group blog Cliopatria (History News Network):
A while back, I asked if Zimbabwe had "won" the unfortunate honor of having the world's largest banknote. One of our sharp readers, Timothy Abbot, pointed out that this distinction went to Yugoslavia with a 500 Billion note.

Well, according to this International Herald Tribune story, Zimbabwe has blown the top off the record with a 100 TRILLION Zim dollar note.

But, to show that even the Mugabe government has a learning curve, they have given up adding zeros, and opened Zimbabwean markets to trading in dollars and neighboring currency.

Now, I'm very much a "let's not dwell only on the bad news from Africa" kind of guy. But let's face it, this is a total disgrace. The Mugabe regime now qualify as the most incompetent economic managers in modern history. Congrats, guys -- it's a hard won title, but well deserved.
Remember that for several decades after gaining independence in 1980 (with the defeat of the white-minority regime of Rhodesia) Zimbabwe was one of the most prosperous and promising countries in southern Africa.

Now, the evaporation of the Zimbabwean currency is just one sign of the catastrophe that the Mugabe regime has brought on the country. For example, with widespread malnutrition and the disintegration of the health system, there is also an exploding cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe, with over 60,000 people infected (according to the World Health Organization) . Among other problems....

--Jeff Weintraub