The Common Good

My Four Weeks in Zimbabwe

Blessings of shalom for 2009! I have just come back from a four week visit to Zimbabwe. As I have mentioned before, for me the Zimbabwean people are the heroes in the midst of extremely challenging times, economically, politically, and socially.

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Inflation is estimated at around quintillion percent (18 zeros!). To meet the challenge of this mind-boggling, ever-rising inflation, the government continues to print new money bills with higher denominations, e.g. Z$1 million (there is talk of a new Z$1 billion note). Banks don't have enough money and are forced to impose withdrawal limits on their clients. With prices going up on a daily basis, the withdrawal limits force people to withdraw money everyday. Many sleep overnight outside banks.

This financial crisis has resulted in the "dollarization" of the economy where the U.S. dollar has become the main currency used for most transactions, including purchase of basic food stuff. The U.S. dollar is used in conjunction with currencies from neighboring countries such as the Botswana Pula and South African Rand. This has brought some form of stability, but the irony is that workers are not paid in U.S. dollars, Pula. or Rand! This money comes from remittances from Zimbabweans working outside the country and circulates among citizens. There is a high level of money literacy where people are able to operate efficiently within the different currencies.

The tragedy is that there are many who have no regular income, are unable to access foreign currency, and continue to suffer. It was so hard for me to listen to families telling me of their struggle to live; some go for days without food and others can only manage one meal a day. Ways of survival include working in exchange for food and clothing. I saw a group of young boys (aged around 10) filling up potholes along a strip of road and holding out their hands to passing motorists -

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