Zimbabwe: inflation reaches record levels

 Zimbabwe has the world's highest rate of inflation, Fides News Service reports. More than half the population is now surviving because of foreign aid. Zimbabwe's social economic situation is increasingly critical with an inflation rate of more than 1000 per cent, the highest in the world. The month-on-month cost of living for an urban family of six in Zimbabwe has surged by 43.1 percent, while basic commodities, such as cooking oil, maize meal and flour have been "consistently unavailable" on the formal market since the onset of the festive season, said the latest report by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ). Zimbabwe's hyperinflation, which saw levels persist stubbornly above 1,000 percent in 2006, has resulted in a family of six now having to spend US$1,406 to subsist in January, as opposed to the US$982 monthly income required in December 2006. The CCZ noted that the steepest increases were recorded in education (261.9 percent), bread (179.7 percent), white sugar (166.7 percent) and cooking oil (78.3 percent). In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, the unavailability of staple foods has been forcing people to purchase more expensive foodstuffs and has drawn people from outlying rural areas to the city in search of maize, a staple food. A 10kg pocket of potatoes retails for about Z$40,000 (US$160) - a monthly salary for those who have a job. Unemployment in Zimbabwe is estimated to be about 80 percent. According to the consumer council, when commodities are available, 1kg of margarine costs Z$5,724 (US$23), 2kg of flour costs Z$2,364 (US$9.50) and 750mm of cooking oil retails for Z$4,666(US$18.50). Some 13 million people, about half the population, depend on international food aid to subsist. State assistance institutions have collapsed. Medical staff, doctors and nurses, are striking for a salary increase of 8,000 per cent considered indispensable for subsistence. The strike could spread to other categories generating widespread social protest. Once known as the breadbasket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe's farming system was disrupted in 2000, when President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF government embarked on a fast-track land redistribution exercise that sought to give land to thousands of blacks from impoverished communal areas by removing more than 4,000 white commercial farmers from their estates. However it failed to accompany this decision, criticised by the European Union and the United States, with suitable measures such as distribution of seed, fertilisers and tools to the new farmers. Source: Fides

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