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Unformatted text preview: May 2, 2006 New York times How Bad Is Inflation in Zimbabwe? By MICHAEL WINES Vanessa Vick for The New York Times Ayina Musoni, 58, has taken in lodgers to help with expenses, but she can barely afford food for her family. HARARE, Zimbabwe , April 25 How bad is inflation in Zimbabwe? Well, consider this: at a supermarket near the center of this tatterdemalion capital, toilet paper costs $417. No, not per roll. Four hundred seventeen Zimbabwean dollars is the value of a single two-ply sheet. A roll costs $145,750 in American currency, about 69 cents. The price of toilet paper, like everything else here, soars almost daily, spawning jokes about an impending better use for Zimbabwe's $500 bill, now the smallest in circulation. 1 But what is happening is no laughing matter. For untold numbers of Zimbabweans, toilet paper and bread, margarine, meat, even the once ubiquitous morning cup of tea have become unimaginable luxuries. All are casualties of the hyperinflation that is roaring toward 1,000 percent a year, a rate usually seen only in war zones. Zimbabwe has been tormented this entire decade by both deep recession and high inflation, but in recent months the economy seems to have abandoned whatever moorings it had left. The national budget for 2006 has already been largely spent. Government services have started to crumble. The purity of Harare's drinking water, siphoned from a lake downstream of its sewer outfall, has been unreliable for months, and dysentery and cholera swept the city in December and January. The city suffers rolling electrical blackouts. Mounds of uncollected garbage pile up on the streets of the slums. Zimbabwe's inflation is hardly history's worst in Weimar Germany in 1923, prices quadrupled each month, compared with doubling about once every three or four months in Zimbabwe. That said, experts agree that Zimbabwe's inflation is currently the world's highest, and has been for some time. Public-school fees and other ever-rising government surcharges have begun to exceed the monthly incomes of many urban families lucky enough to find work. The jobless officially 70 percent of Zimbabwe's 4.2 million workers, but widely placed at 80 percent when idle farmers are included furtively hawk tomatoes and baggies of ground corn from roadside tables, an occupation banned by the police since last May. Those with spare cash put it not in banks, which pay a paltry 4 to 10 percent...
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- Summer '06