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Zimbabwe's Inflation Highest in World


Zimbabwe's annual inflation hit a new record of nearly 1,300 percent in December, making it the highest in the world. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA, on the consequences for Zimbabweans.

The spiraling inflation in Zimbabwe is being felt in very tangible ways. Within the last six weeks, bread, which is sold at a price controlled by the government, has nearly tripled in price.

Economist John Robertson says, the official rate of inflation, at 1,281.1 percent, means that month-on-month, prices have shot up by 36 percent, the highest rate recorded by Zimbabwe in six years of near hyperinflation.

He said the government's Central Statistical Office was obliged to calculate prices at the official rate of exchange, which is 10 times lower than the black market rate.

He said few people, apart from senior government officials, were able to buy fuel at the regulated price, and most paid 10 times more. He said this distorted the government's statistics.

He said statisticians also calculated the cost of every day items, such as the staple food, maize meal, as well as sugar, milk and bread, at the regulated prices, even if they were only available at black market rates.

There is little maize meal for sale anywhere in Zimbabwe at present. At a major supermarket in the second largest city, Bulawayo, last Saturday, there were piles of unsold bread at close of business, because, shopkeepers said, few can afford to pay the price.

Government doctors have gone on strike in all state hospitals, crippling the already damaged health system, because they say, they cannot live on their wages.

Electricity workers shut down large parts of power to Harare during the new year for the same reason.

The International Monetary Fund, which was in Zimbabwe in early December for its routine inspection, again advised the government to bring the official rate of the Zimbabwe dollar in line with the market rate, which is about 10 times higher.

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