Economic Reckoning in Zimbabwe

A time of economic reckoning may be close,
according to a front page article in the New York Times.

Economic reckoning is close at hand in Zimbabwe, according to economists quoted in an article by Michael Wines in Wednesday’s New York Times.

With an inflation rate soaring at 1280% the government can no long control the deteriorating economy according to these economists. Employees in the civil and military sectors earn less than the poverty level. Teachers, police and municipal employees (who keep the water and lights running) earn merely one-quarter the income necessary to stay above the poverty line.

Families cannot afford school fees, which are equivalent to $15 U.S. per school year. School uniforms are beyond reach. Water systems are not being maintained in cities and towns. Doctors and nurses have been on strike. There is talk of the military being unhappy with a three hundred percent salary increase. They need 1000 percent to stay even with inflation. Teachers are considering a work slowdown. Farmers buy fuel at subsidized rates and sell it on the blackmarket for more profit than they can realize by growing crops.

A food crisis is already felt in some regions of the country and it’s estimated the harvest this year will be even less than last year, and food was short last year. However, the government is unable to buy food outside the country because foreign exchange has dried up and Zimbabwe’s currency has no value in the world market.

These problems have been growing the past several years but uncontrolled inflation is starting to unravel the country’s infrastructure and create widespread suffering. Most Zimbabweans are enduring hardship, and a vast number struggle in poverty. When the board of directors of United Methodist Communications met in Zimbabwe the first week of January they participated in feeding programs at public schools in a rural district. They learned that many children receive only one meal a day, and that is a bowl of porridge provided by the non profit organization Zimbabwe Orphans Endeavor. Similar conditions prevail in other districts.

I have wondered for quite some time just how long this situation can continue before something snaps. If the projections in the Times are accurate, the pressures are mounting and a time of reckoning is approaching.

Conditions in country call for those of us outside to continue to be supportive of reform and to support those agencies that are effectively assisting people to survive. Church groups and civic organizations have already raised their voices, usually at great risk. Hunger creates instability. Pressure is mounting. How this will play out is not yet clear. But one thing is clear. Hunger stalks Zimbabwe today and support for groups such as Zimbabwe Orphans Endeavor can make a difference by relieving immediate needs.

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