Operation Reduce Prices

Africans fretting of signs of impending Venezuelanization...
Africans fretting over signs of impending Venezuelanization…

This bit from the Google Memoryhole has been making the rounds:

Harare, Monday 16 July 2007 – Zimbabweans are shopping like there’s no tomorrow. With police patrolling the aisles of Harare’s electrical shops to enforce massive government-ordered price cuts, the widescreen TVs were the first things to go, for as little as £20. Across the country, shoes, clothes, toiletries and different kinds of food were all swept from the shelves as a nation with the world’s fastest shrinking economy gorged itself on one last spending spree.Car dealers said officials were trying to force them to sell vehicles at the official exchange rate, effectively meaning that a car costing £15,000 could be had for £30 by changing money on the blackmarket. The owners of several dealerships have been arrested.

President Robert Mugabe’s order that all shop prices be cut by at least half, and sometimes several times more, has forced stores to open to hordes of customers waving thick blocks of near worthless money given new value by the price cuts. The police and groups of ruling party supporters could be seen leading the charge for a bargain.

Mr Mugabe has accused business interests of fuelling inflation, running at about 20,000%, to bring down his government. A hotline is in place to report “overcharging”, and retailers who flinch at slashing prices are being dragged before the courts. Several thousand have been arrested for “profiteering” over the past week, including the chief executives of the biggest retailers in the country, some of them foreign-owned.

Economists say the price cuts will only deepen the national crisis, leaving many shops bare because they will not be able to afford to restock while official retail prices remain lower than the cost of buying wholesale or importing. Mr Mugabe has dismissed such warnings as “bookish economics”.

Some businesses fear that Operation Reduce Prices is intended to pin the blame on the private sector for Zimbabwe’s economic problems as a step towards seizing control of many companies in the way that white-owned farms were expropriated at the beginning of the decade, sparking the crisis.

It goes without saying that six years later, Mugabe is still in power.

[Hat tip: GTAvex]

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