Goods shortage makes measuring Zimbabwe inflation impossible

Times:

Zimbabwe can no longer calculate the rate of inflation because there are not enough goods left in the shops to allow price comparisons, the Central Statistical Office claimed yesterday.

Moffat Nyoni, the Director of the CSO, said that it had been impossible to compile reliable data for the past month because of “the unavailability of required information such as prices of goods, due to their shortage on the formal market”.

According to leaked figures, the annual inflation rate in October stood at 14,840 per cent — almost double the 8,000 per cent in the previous month. The CSO usually publishes its statistics in the middle of the month, and its failure to do so this month led to allegations that they had been deliberately suppressed. Each passing month’s figures openly contradict the Government’s constantly trumpeted claim that it is beating inflation.

But Moffat Nyoni, the director of the CSO, said inflation in Zimbabwe could no longer be measured, because there were not enough goods in the shops.

“There are too many data gaps,” Mr Nyoni said. “We went to too many shops to observe and so compilations have not been completed. Some of the goods used in the inflation basket were not available in the shops.”

Goods have been scarce since July, when businesses were forced to slash their prices to well under what it cost to buy or produce them. President Mugabe hoped that the strategy would beat inflation, which he believes is a plot by businesses in collusion with Western governments to create economic chaos that would lead to open revolt and bring about his overthrow. Thousands of businessmen were arrested for “overcharging”. Shops that refused to lower their prices were raided by soldiers, police, state secret agents and often price inspectors in an orgy of legalised looting.

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A true measure of inflation would require shopping on the black market where the prices are substantially higher than the stores normally checked. By dictating prices Mugabe has probably moved even more goods to the black market where he has no control. Eventually even dictators have to learn that they can not dictate the law of supply and demand. they may be able to manipulate for a while but they cannot control it.

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