Zimbabwe's Central Statistics Office says said it is having trouble calculating inflation because so many goods are absent from store shelves for price checks, but some observers said this was a poor excuse for withholding embarrassing figures.
The government-controlled Herald newspaper quoted the statistical service's chief statistician, Moffat Nyoni, as saying the disappearance of many goods from stores has left gaps in the CSO's data series, resulting in delays in releasing inflation figures.
The last official release, for September, showed 12-month cumulative inflation surging to 7,982% following 6,592% in August. But data for October said to have been leaked from the statistical service recently showed it nearly doubling to 14,841%. But the statistical office has refused to confirm or deny the accuracy of such reports.
Though many essential goods have been in short supply for years, store shelves were emptied in late June and July when the government imposed deep price cuts on most commodities in an ill-considered attempt to master hyperinflation. Consumers loaded up on cheap goods, but now must queue or forage on the parallel market.
Economists also question the validity of the CSO's methodology of calculating official inflation based on the prices in stores where controls are imposed, at least in theory, rather than on prices in the parallel or black market where most people must turn because essential commodities simply cannot be found in retail outlets.
Director Dennis Nikisi of the University of Zimbabwe’s Graduate School of Management told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the lack of accurate inflation data seriously handicaps business planning.