The Perilous State of the Contemporary Zimbabwean Economy (2003)

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

As Roger Thurow pointed out in an article in The Wall Street Journal ("Rapid Reversal," 24 December 2003), Zimbabwe, which until its recent troubles produced enough food to serve as a regional breadbasket, is now desperately short of food for its own people. Robert Youker, who worked in Zimbabwe on World Bank projects in the 1980s, adds, "The untold story is that white farmers did a lot to develop their local staffs and local farmers, including training, establishing schools and internships. When large farms were taken over by Mugabe supporters, these trained locals were thrown off the land and sometimes killed" ("Brutality in Zimbabwe," WSJ, p. A9).

According to the 2003 edition of the World Factbook,

The government of Zimbabwe faces a wide variety of difficult economic problems as it struggles with an unsustainable fiscal deficit, an overvalued exchange rate, soaring inflation, and bare shelves. Its 1998-2002 involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, drained hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy. Badly needed support from the IMF has been suspended because of the country's failure to meet budgetary goals. Inflation rose from an annual rate of 32% in 1998 to 59% in 1999, to 60% in 2000, to over 100% by yearend 2001, to 228% in early 2003. The government's land reform program, characterized by chaos and violence, has nearly destroyed the commercial farming sector, the traditional source of exports and foreign exchange and the provider of 400,000 jobs.

The GDP declined 13% in 2003, and unemployment has reached 70%.

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Last modified 2 January 2004