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The inflation rate of a small African country doesn’t often make the front page of the New York Times. But Zimbabwe is no typical African country: inflation hit 913%. The Times' Michael Wines writes:

How bad is inflation in Zimbabwe? Well, consider this: at a supermarket near the center of this tatterdemalion capital, toilet paper costs $417. No, not per roll. Four hundred seventeen Zimbabwean dollars is the value of a single two-ply sheet. A roll costs $145,750 — in American currency, about 69 cents.

This gives Zimbabwe the dubious honor of having the world’s highest inflation (which of course is the worst kind of tax on the poor). Add to this the world’s lowest life expectancy and an economy shrinking faster than a war zone and you have a complete mess that is almost entirely man-made. Which man? Robert Mugabe.

Wines also adds an interesting tidbit about the once-respected leader’s reaction to the deepening crisis:

…Mr. Mugabe has tightened his grip on power even further, turning the economy over to a national security council of his closest allies. In addition, he has seeded the government's civilian ministries this year with loyal army and intelligence officers who now control key functions, from food security to tax collection.

The growing militarization of the country is indeed a worrying trend, but it may ironically accelerate the inevitable collapse.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.