For the millions of hungry and unemployed, Zimbabwe's once vibrant economy has collapsed. For the tiny rich elite, it hasn't. The thriving black market keeps their cars on the streets and their cupboards replete with food and luxuries. \nEconomic meltdown in Zimbabwe is a question of perception, financial analysts and bank executives say. Unlike a bankrupt firm, a country doesn't simply shut down. \nIt prints its own money, its industries battle to stay open -- factories run at less than 40 percent of their capacity in Harare -- and on the surface, there appears some normality. \nBelow it, however, a different picture emerges. Most gas stations in the capital have not received fuel deliveries for a month because of hard currency shortages for fuel imports by the state oil procurement monopoly. \n"As long as you can print your own money, you don't go bust. It causes inflation and a host of other problems, but you can grind on for a long time," said Harare economist John Robertson. \nBlack market gasoline, selling for four times the government's fixed price, keeps traffic moving. \nAdvertisements in the main state newspaper regularly offer "fuel available" and give mostly mobile phone numbers for price quotations. \nWhile shelves are bare in regular stores, other advertisements offer foodstuffs, cooking oil and even bank note counting machines to help traders in the hyperinflationary economy do their business. \nHyperinflation \nRobertson said about 6,000 Zimbabwe dollars buys today what 100 Zimbabwe dollars bought in 1995. \nThe official hard currency exchange rate rose from about 8 Zimbabwe dollars to US$1 in 1995 to 824 to 1 this year, alongside a current black market exchange rate of up to 2,700 to 1. \nThe state Central Statistical Office said last month annual inflation reached a record 269 percent and unemployment exceeded 70 percent, driving many unemployed to scavenge for goods to sell in order to survive. \nThe chaotic government seizures of thousands of white-owned farms have been blamed for starting three years of political violence and disruptions in the agriculture-based economy that in turn have led to acute shortages of food, fuel, power, medicines and other imports. \nAccording the UN World Food Program, nearly half of all Zimbabweans will need food aid this year to avoid mass starvation. About 80 percent of the people live in poverty. \nA fraction of the rest -- perhaps 3 percent, mostly President Robert Mugabe's ruling party elite and their business associates -- control the hugely profitable black market in goods and hard currency, Robertson said. They are enjoying boom times. \nAgencies selling limousines and even luxury cosmetics said that sales are brisk. \n"Shortages are profitable. The people who could fix the situation are the ones who are making a fortune out of it," Robertson said. \nOrdinary Zimbabweans "get up in the morning and try to find something to survive on," he said, adding that some join in spiraling crime. \nThe farm seizures and political violence since 2000 have disrupted production of tobacco, the main hard currency earner, and slashed hard currency earnings from mining, industry and tourism. \nMugabe,79, who has been in power for 23 years, traveled to Libya this week to discuss the resumption of gasoline supplies, cut off after Zimbabwe failed to pay US$62 million in arrears for previous shipments. \nZimbabwe, which needs about US$30 million worth of fuel a month, contracted with Libya last year to supply 70 percent of the country's gas, some of it traded for Zimbabwean beef, sugar and tobacco. \nFarms disruptions have prevented those deliveries. \nAnti-government strikes called by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change shut down much of the economy June 2 to 6, but street protests demanding democratic reform were thwarted by a massive show of force by police, troops and ruling party militia backed by armored cars, water cannons and helicopters. \nThe protests appeared of little concern to one pro-Mugabe businessman who threw his 50th birthday party soon afterward. He hired a replica of a Mississippi paddle steamer on Zimbabwe's northern Lake Kariba, according to guests at the party. \nThe calligraphy for the handwritten dinner place name cards alone cost five times Zimbabwe's average annual per capita income.
CAUTION URGED: Strong winds and heavy rain are forecast throughout the nation, even though the CWB was not sure whether the eye would make landfall in Taiwan The Central Weather Bureau (CWB) yesterday issued a land warning for Typhoon Chanthu, as it continued to gain power while approaching Taiwan from the southeast. As of 8pm last night, Chanthu was about 410km southeast of Pingtung County’s Oluanpi (鵝鑾鼻), the southernmost point of Taiwan proper, moving northwest at 15kph toward the Bashi Channel. The typhoon had maximum sustained winds of 209kph, with gusts of up to 263kph, bureau data showed. Chanthu, which is likely to come closest to the nation over the weekend, could pose a threat throughout Taiwan proper, but particularly in Taitung and Pingtung, the bureau said. Strong winds and heavy
CLOSED FOR DISINFECTION: Two of the three local cases were linked to a cluster infection at a kindergarten, while the other case works at a McDonald’s restaurant The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported three new local COVID-19 infections and 11 imported cases, but no deaths. The local cases are two men and a woman aged between 20 and 80 who reside in Taipei, New Taipei City and Taoyuan, the CECC said in a news release. Two of them are linked to a cluster infection at a kindergarten in New Taipei City’s Banciao District (板橋), said Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is the CECC’s spokesman. He said they are both associated with the mother of a kindergarten student, who was earlier confirmed to have
BIOLOGICAL AGENT: A containment exercise was held in southern Tainan, in response to a mock assault where troops were assumed to be attacked by bioweapons The live-fire component of this year’s annual Han Kuang military exercises, Taiwan’s major war games involving all military branches, began yesterday morning and is to run until Friday to test the armed forces’ capability to fend off a Chinese invasion. The 37th edition of the annual event officially began after the Ministry of National Defense’s Joint Operations Command Center, also known as the Hengshan Command Center, announced the initiation of the five-day live-fire drills. Yesterday’s drills were focused on testing the military’s preservation and maintenance of combat capabilities in the event of a full-scale Chinese invasion. As part of the drills, air force
‘RAISING TAIWAN’S VISIBILITY’: Premier Su Tseng-chang said changing TECRO’s name to include ‘Taiwan’ would make the representative office more recognizable The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday declined comment on a Financial Times report that the name of Taiwan’s representative office in Washington might be changed, saying only that bolstering and upgrading ties with the US has been the government’s long-term objective. The ministry made the comments after the UK-based newspaper reported on that US President Joe Biden’s administration is considering allowing the government to use the word “Taiwan” in the office’s title. The US is “seriously considering a request from Taiwan to change the name of its mission in the US capital from ‘Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office’ [TECRO] to ‘Taiwan