And I thought the US dollar was weak... UPDATED

the one cent, through to the fifty thousand

and from the five hundred thousand to the fifty million...

Seeing this story about the new 100 billion dollar bill reminded me that our Zimbabwe correspondent, at my special request, sent some photos not too long ago to illustrate the astonishing explosion of numerals plaguing the Zim dollar. Although we are proud that our correspondent has maintained a complete collection of all the banknotes issued throughout the course of Zimbabwe's ongoing hyperinflation, things have been a bit hectic over here at antarcticiana and we never quite got around to running them.

you do the math... and have a close look at the expiry dates

By the time some corrupt functionary admits there is a problem and the determination is made to authorize the printing of yet another round of silly-sounding monopolyesque tissue paper denominated in the multi-millions, the new, ballyhooed note is more than likely already close to worthless. The fifty-million dollar bill pictured here was the biggest available in April. Now it's July and one-hundred billion dollars aren't enough for bus fare. One Hundred Billion Dollars! Why, a normal country could wage war against Iraq for several months, fueling their entire military-industrial complex, with that kind of money! Coming soon, the "one to the nth power" note, with a blank space for the user to fill in the exponent of his or her choice.

Photo credits withheld pending the reestablishment of Zimbabwean democracy

UPDATE: In the latest twist on this farce, renewed sanctions against the government by European powers in the wake of the recent, flagrant, election-theft in Zimbabwe have cut off all exports of bank-note paper. The Guardian has the story. The result is that the government, despite desperately printing money (almost) as fast as they can spend it, has nonetheless run out of currency, and cannot pay the security apparatus that is propping up the regime.

One delicious detail in the story is that the former provider of the watermarked paper is none other than the German firm, Giesecke & Devrient, which both printed Germany's money during the Weimar Republic hyperinflation between the two great wars, and supplied Rhodesia's white regime with their currency. As one might imagine, they have only cut off supplies to Zimbabwe in response to pressure brought by their own government.

Obviously, it is time for the ministry of finance to get serious about recycling the countless sheaves of worthless notes issued over the last couple of years, except that by the time they collect, bleach, and reprint a one dollar bill as a one-hundred billion dollar bill they will have spent far more than the final product is worth. As of this morning, when the Guardian went to press, the Zim 100 Billion was worth about fifteen US cents. I imagine it is worth rather less by now.

1 comment:

mgrace said...

What a mess!
Ken Silverstein has a good article about the China lobby in Washington in this month's Harper's, connecting the dots between that, American corporate sponsorship with the Olympics, and China's dismal record of human-rights violations (including, among others, its support for Zimbabwe).
Of course, being from the States, it's difficult these days to hold to the moral high ground, considering the past eight years of our misguided foreign (and even domestic) policies.