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Zimbabwe Inflation Tops 1,000 Percent

Saturday May 13, 5:04 am ET
By Michael Hartnack, Associated Press Writer

Zimbabwe Inflation Tops 1,000 Percent; Economy Still in Free Fall

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate has topped 1,000 percent for the first time, state radio reported Saturday.

The official figure for the 12 months to April 2006 was 1,042.9 percent, Moffat Nyoni, director of the Government's Central Statistical Office, was quoted as announcing.

In March the figure was 913 percent. Figures released by Nyoni's office showed 21.1 percent inflation for the month of April alone, fueled by a 27 percent increase in the cost of basic foodstuffs, 24.8 percent in rents, 35.1 percent in fuels such as gasoline and kerosene and 48.1 percent in motor vehicle and health insurance.

The economy has been in free fall since President Robert Mugabe's seizure of 5,000 former white-owned commercial farms in February 2000.

The radio broadcast said the poverty datum line -- absolute minimum consumption needs -- for an average family of five reached 37 million Zimbabwean dollars ($366) at the Government's rate of exchange but only $148 on the more realistic and flourishing black market.

The lowest-paid workers in formal employment -- domestic gardeners -- earn 2.5 million Zimbabwean dollars a month, but 70 percent of the work force lack regular jobs due to waves of bankruptcies.

"We are living with the consequences of (the government's) destructive policies of the past," said economist John Robertson. "They cannot raise the necessary taxes from our shrinking economy."
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