The death of Zimbabwe’s economy isn’t being reported over here in the states at all. Inflation could hit 100,000% by the end of the year. The official exchange rate right now is around 255 Zimbabwe dollars for one US dollar, but check out the current prices for common household goods according to the Scotsman:
A HYPER-INFLATED SHOPPING LIST
• Small bag of onions: Z$200,000
• Bar of Dove soap: Z$140,000
• One kg of rice: Z$230,000
• One litre of fuel, where available: Z$300,000
• 200g local cheese: Z$230,000
• 500g washing powder: Z$750,000
• Box of Bran Flakes: Z$260,000
• White loaf with sesame seeds: Z$90,000 (standard loaves are officially Z$22,000 but are not available)
• Small pot of jam: Z$150,000
• Packet of biscuits: Z$140,000
• One litre enamel paint: Z$1.9 million
• Pack of four disposable nappies: Z$1.2 million
• Tin of tuna: Z$290,000
• Tin of baked beans: Z$65,000
• 500ml sterilised milk – where available – Z$32,500
• One egg – where available – Z$15,000
• No chicken, beef, pork, sausages, cooking oil, sugar, flour, margarine, fruit cordial, matches.
• Government Herald newspaper (Page 1 yesterday proclaimed “Zanu-PF mayors endorse President”): Z$25,000. Normally sold out by 9am
Pretty impressive, eh? There’s no meat to be had anywhere in the nation, and the masses are slowly starving in what used to be the ‘breadbasket of Africa.’ At current pricing, a gallon of gasoline will run you around $3000 USD, so obviously very few people can afford to drive personal vehicles anymore.
In addition to the bare shelves, Zimbabweans are also getting to deal with a failing electrical grid, and a slew of other issues:
We have no forex to talk about, erratic supplies of fuel, water, electricity, basic commodities and food, transport, and businesses are closing down, unemployment is fast rising, inflation (government has now virtually banned the release of inflation statistics) now at stratospheric levels, and grinding poverty is rampant.
Infrastructure — roads, schools, hospitals, clinics and bridges — is dilapidated. It’s the sort of thing we have seen elsewhere in post-colonial Africa from Ghana to Zambia and we know how it all ends.
President/dictator Robert Mugabe is going down in flames, and he appears bent on taking the country down with him.
These problems aren’t affecting just Zimbabwe either, from the looks of it. While that country is in perhaps the direst straits right now, many other African nations including Zambia, Nigeria and Angola are facing similar issues that look to only get worse over time.
Electrical grids, pipelines and roads are finicky things that require regular maintenance to stay effective. We’re seeing what happens when that maintenance isn’t performed, regardless of the reason. As energy prices climb, the cost of maintaining those pieces of infrastructure will rise as well and less of it will be done, especially in third-world nations. We will get many more object lessons in what modern-day economic collapse looks like in coming years, I think.
That said, we shouldn’t be kidding ourselves that the first world (and perhaps the USA, especially) won’t face similar issues. Much of our farmland is gripped by drought, that we are combating by irrigating our fields with fossil water from deep aquifers. This takes both money and energy to do.
We are also becoming more and more reliant on energy imports to feed our ever-growing demand for power. We will be facing issues with both petroleum and natural gas soon enough, which can have massive implications for large swathes of the country, whether it’s people in the Southwest dealing with extreme heat, or people in the North and Midwest dealing with extreme cold.
Modern culture relies on a global system of energy and transportation to keep things humming along, and we are pushing the boundaries of what that system can take. As the available pool of energy contracts, we’ll all start feeling the pinch; not all at once, and not evenly, but sooner or later it will come for all of us.