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.
Taipei on Friday rejected Hanoi’s characterization of its recent live-fire drill near Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) as “illegal,” saying that Taiwan’s claim to the small island in the South China Sea was “unquestionable.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said in a statement that the comments made by its Vietnamese counterpart about the military’s routine live-fire drills near Itu Aba on Tuesday were “unacceptable.” Earlier on Friday, Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang called Taiwan’s military activity “a serious violation of Vietnam’s territorial sovereignty,” saying it had caused tensions and complicated the situation in the region. Hang
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) yesterday said it is more than doubling its US investment to US$40 billion as it plans to make 3-nanometer chips in 2026 at a second Arizona fab, adding to the chipmaker’s original plan of building a US$12 billion fab to make 4-nanometer chips in 2024. The investment would mark the largest foreign direct investment in Arizona’s history and one of the largest foreign direct investments in the history of the US, the world’s largest contract chipmaker said in a statement yesterday. In addition to the more than 10,000 construction workers at the site, TSMC’s two fabs
ENHANCEMENT: The sale would update Taiwan’s Patriot missile system to improve its missile defensive capability and deter threats, the US Department of State said The US has proposed selling Taiwan as many as 100 of its most advanced Patriot air-defense missiles along with radar and support equipment in a deal valued at US$882 million, according to a US Department of State notice obtained by Bloomberg News. The proposal was made under the provisions of a 2010 sale and so technically is not new. It is classified as an enhancement to the earlier deal, with a potential total value of US$2.81 billion. The upgrade would not change the overall value of that deal, which infuriated Beijing at the time and led it to halt planned military exchanges
‘UNITED FRONT’ TOOL? There are already many accounts on Douyin impersonating government agencies, and even Premier Su Tseng-chang, DPP Legislator Mark Ho said Lawmakers and a number of experts yesterday called on the government to ban or heavily regulate Douyin (抖音) over concerns that the short-video platform could be used by China to spread disinformation. Owned by ByteDance Ltd (字節跳動), Douyin and its international version, TikTok, are a subject of concern in democracies worldwide because of potential manipulation by the Chinese government. FBI Director Chris Wray on Friday said that Beijing might have the ability to control TikTok’s recommendation algorithm, “which allows them to manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations.” TikTok could also be used to collect personal data