Zimbabwean bond note currency - Credit Bloomberg
The last time when things were this bad was in 2008, when the country was contending with hyperinflation that saw prices doubling every day, leaving shop shelves empty.
Tuesday 15, January 2019
(Bloomberg) --Chronic shortages of fuel and foreign exchange, surging inflation and mass strikes have driven Zimbabwe to the brink of economic collapse and made a mockery of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s claim that the country is open for business.
Many shops and factories have shut their doors because of a lack of customers and those that continue to trade are open to haggling over prices to secure hard currency. At an appliance shop in the capital, Harare, a salesman whispers that a Whirlpool washing machine priced at about $5,000 if paid for electronically will sell for $1,500 in cash, while at a nearby electrical warehouse, a $600 invoice is whittled down to $145 for payment in dollar bills.
Motorists have formed snaking lines outside filling stations in the hope of buying gasoline when and if supplies arrive, waiting for hours or even days at a time.
On Sunday, the government raised the official price of gasoline to $3.33 a litre, the world’s most expensive when compared to prices quoted by GlobalPetrolPrices.com. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, which represents most labour unions in the southern African nation, responded to the price increase by calling a national strike that began Monday.
The official inflation rate stands at 31 per cent, well short of 2008 levels but still high enough to drive consumers to the black market or import their own food and other basics. Goods paid for electronically cost as much as four-and-a-half times more than if cash were used. Retailers have resorted to a dual-pricing policy and offering cash discounts, defying the government’s threats to act against them.
The head of Zimbabwe’s main industry body has warned that many companies that continue operating will shut this month due to the currency shortage. The city authority in Harare has scaled back refuse removal and other services because it cannot access diesel for its trucks.
Doctors staged a six-week strike to demand improved working conditions and that their salaries be paid in cash. While the labour action was called off on Jan. 10, it could take months to clear operation backlogs. Teachers and other state workers have warned that they’ll down tools unless the government pays them in cash.