Thursday, February 16, 2006

Silly Money

In 1997 I spent several months teaching in Zimbabwe. I decided to go there mainly because I knew they played cricket and I wanted to see the Victoria Falls. The economy was reasonably stable, based as it was on the most efficient commercial farming sector in Africa. The country was beautiful and the people were friendly. The two notes above are indicative of something that was very close to any student's heart. In 1997 a beer, a Castle lager with frost on the sides, bought from a posh hotel like the Meikles in Harare cost Z$5, the equivalent of 25p. I didn't often buy them there, preferring the Z$3 bottles from bars and shops but the 5 buck note was the smallest one and I can't find a photo of a Z$1 coin.

In Zimbabwe now, the same beer costs Z$50,000. The cheque above is the largest denomination note available in a country where the overwhelming majority of transactions are cash-based. When I was in Zambia recently the largest note is worth approximately £1.20 - a Kw10,000 note. A visit to the cash-point left my wallet bulged out like a Rockefeller.

I played a good deal of cricket in Zambia, and once, off to do a spot of umpiring, I asked at the bar if anyone had six coins. The response was one of total incomprehension - they hadn't even seen a coin since the seventies. The old rule was that Governments that print money face inflation. In Zimbabwe this has been demonstrated so effectively that the face value of most of the notes are less than the intrinsic value - the money isn't worth the paper it's printed on.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you remember when we bribed our way across the Zam/Zim border with Kwatcha as the desireable 'hard currency'... anything to get hold of currency that was not Z$!

still reckon it was the second dumbest thing we did during our time out there!

9:41 am  
Blogger Tim J said...

Second to dislocationg your shoulder or second to blowing the points out of our car 100ks out of Livingstone and having to drive at 145kmh the rest of the way to avoid stalling?

2:07 pm  

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