Zimbabwe's inflation rate a punishing 2.2 million per cent
Zimbabwe's official inflation rate climbed to a record 2.2 million per cent, the country's central bank announced Wednesday, meaning prices are doubling every 25 days.
The situation could in fact be worse than the official tally suggests. Government figures include goods subject to price control, which are almost impossible to find.
Economists estimate that the real annual inflation rate for last month was about nine million per cent, and could rise to about 20 million per cent next month, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper.
The dire news comes at a time when unemployment levels are hovering around 80 per cent.
A report released last month by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program estimates that 2.04 million Zimbabweans risk hunger in the next few months. It said things could get worse, "peaking at about 5.1 million at the height of the hungry season between January and March 2009."
The combination of punishing economics and political instability has prompted millions to flee the country for South Africa.
Foreign leaders are calling on President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to meet face to face to resolve the political crisis stemming from the country's disputed presidential election.
Mugabe has been widely criticized over a June 27 presidential run-off that he claims to have won.
Tsvangirai had beaten Mugabe and two others in the first round of voting in March, but didn't win the 50 per cent plus one vote necessary to avoid a run-off. Tsvangirai pulled out days before the run-off against Mugabe because of violence against his supporters.
Both sides say they're willing to share power. However, the ruling ZANU-PF party wants Mugabe — in power since 1980 and seen as increasingly autocratic — at the head of any coalition, something the opposition and Mugabe's critics in the West have rejected.
Critics inside and outside the country say Mugabe is to blame for the collapse of what was once a thriving economy, pointing to his government's seizure of white-owned farms, many of which are no longer functioning.
With files from the Association Press