Zimbabwe's hyperinflation, courtesy of one Gideon Gono - the brilliant man behind such grand monetary experiments as QE and its offshoots throughout the developed world - and numerous one hundred trillion dollar Zimbabwe dollar bills, may have come and gone, and the country may no longer have a functioning currency of its own, but it certainly has the aftermath of the most recent episode of modern-era monetary hyperinflation to contend with. And with the holidays here, AP provides a very bleak snapshot of what the country which currently has an 80% unemployment, has to look forward to. Zimbabweans are facing bleak holidays this year amid rising poverty, food and cash shortages and political uncertainty, with some describing it as the worst since the formation of the coalition government in the southern African nation.... Banks have closed, ATMs have run out of cash and transport services have been paralyzed." It gets worse: "Zimbabwe's unemployment is pegged at around 80 percent with many people in Harare, the capital, eking out a living by selling vegetables and fruits on street corners." And all of this is after the massive economic imbalances in Zimbabwe's economy should have been "fixed" (or so conventional economic theory would have one believe) courtesy of hyperinflation, which left any savers in tatters, destroyed the value of the old currency, benefited solely debtors but also allowed a fresh start to a government, which could only remain in power due to a violent power grab by the democratically elected-turned-dictator Robert Mugabe.
What else do all those countries (all of them) engaged in a wholesale currency destruction have to look forward to? AP explains :
Matthew Kapirima, 60, waits outside a busy supermarket for customers to buy his boxes of weather-beaten peaches and litchis for $10 each.
But holiday shoppers go about their business without even giving him a second glance. Kapirima has not sold any fruit in days and with a day left before Christmas, he said has to concede that he won't be able to provide his family with food and new clothes this year.
"This is the worst Christmas ever," Kapirima told The Associated Press. Kapirima has four wives and 25 children living in the rural areas, but all he has managed to get them this Christmas is a 40-kilogram (88 pound) bag of maize seed to plant on his small-sized family plot in Mudzi.
* * *
Food shortages are "worse" this year compared to the last three years due to drought and constrained access to cash to buy seed and fertilizer for rural farmers, said World Food Program Zimbabwe country director Felix Bamezon. Bamezon said the Zimbabwe government for the first time has assisted by providing grain to give to starving communities in rural areas.
"This is good because they don't interfere to tell us which people to give the food to," he said.
The World Food Program has been donating hampers of 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of cereal, vegetable oil and mixed beans to each person in qualifying households every month since September.
For those who live in areas where there are grain traders, WFP gives out $3 per person in a household to buy the grain from traders instead of the food hampers.
An average household has five people, making it $15 for a family to spend for Christmas.
Bamezon also said their organization helps vulnerable communities by engaging them in "food for work" projects where people work to get food during the time they are not provided food assistance.
"Food for work" projects - remember that...
Naturally, creative solutions to deal with the endless misery have emerged, such as no longer eating, and of course forcing your children into prostitution:
Rural communities have come up with coping mechanisms such as cutting down the number of meals a day from three to one and selling their prized livestock, furniture and household goods. Bamezon said he had heard reports that some young girls are given away to elderly men for early marriages.
The U.N.'s childrens agency, UNICEF, has in previous research this year noted that girls and young women have been pressured by destitute families to solicit as prostitutes in bars and shopping areas.
In the troubled economy, money is not trickling down from the nation's urban elite, who own luxury cars and mansions, to the urban and rural poor.
Can't they just raise the taxes on the nation's "urban elite?" Problem solved.
In summary: "Life is getting harder in this country," said fruit vendor Kaparima. "There is nothing to celebrate this Christmas."
Truly, there is so much to look forward to when the coordinate global attempt at wholesale currency devaluation finally succeeds.