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Troubled Zimdollar wobbles as inflation runs riot

Editorials

Beware the Ides of March

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WHEN Russia launched its catastrophic military attack on Ukraine on 24 February, lots of naïve people and self-styled fence-sitters around the world glibly remarked that the war was none of their business.

Well, they are in for the shock of their lives; this invasion is affecting everyone on the planet — whether you are partisan, non-aligned or anarchist.

The price of oil has spiked alarmingly.

This, in turn, is pushing up the cost of food — and the price of basically everything else.

The United States is witnessing the fastest annual inflation rate in 40 years.

Zimbabwe, a perennially fragile economy, is already reeling from the price shocks. This week alone, stunned Zimbabweans gasped when the pump prices of petrol and diesel shot up not once but twice within a momentous week. Fasten your seatbelts; worse is coming.

By the time you read this editorial comment, the price of the staple maize-meal would have increased by at least 15%. The landed price of imported wheat is also rising, pushing up the price of bread.

Both Russia and Ukraine are leading producers of wheat.

Russia is the world’s third-largest producer of petroleum.

It would be illogical to yank offline the world’s 11th largest economy within a matter of days and still expect the global economy to continue functioning normally.

It was the German philosopher Georg Hegel who famously said: “The only thing that we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”

Wars, invasions and other major military operations are bound to have geopolitical consequences. Political leaders have a responsibility not only to keep the peace but also to actively avoid war.

But when conflict becomes inevitable — a reality that history has often rudely reminded us of — nations must plan on how best to cushion ordinary citizens from economic upheaval. Such forward thinking cannot be a linear decision-making process; while the counting of bombs and bullets is important, you dare not forget to plan for livelihoods and survival.

Tragically, it is Zimbabweans who will feel more pain from this war than any other nationalities in our neck of the woods. This country’s myopic, selfish, corrupt and incompetent leaders are the stuff of legend.

Right now this country has the most expensive fuel in southern Africa. There is no justification for this scandalous state of affairs. Zimbabwe is not the only land-locked country on the continent, therefore the lame argument of geographical location falls away.

When you look at the hefty taxes levied on fuel, an outrageous picture quickly emerges: utter greed. The country’s fuel sector is controlled by cartels whose beneficiaries are high-level characters who use their proximity to political power to pocket hefty profit.

In the blink of an eye –particularly during election season — unbearable food and energy prices could provide a dangerous powder keg to the impoverished long-suffering population, sparking mayhem. The Zimbabwean government must get its act together.

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