For the real people on this forum, and not for purported ghosts, I would like to offer the following surprising prognosis for the future from Eddie Cross.

It is surprising because Cross is one man who has remained valiantly optimistic and upbeat about the future.

Now it is clear reality is turning his thoughts in another direction.

Ladies and Gentlemen a storm is coming.

</font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Accelerated Decline

Some in the region and abroad might be thinking that Zimbabwe has reached a sort of plateau in terms of its economic and social deterioration. I want to disabuse you of any such thoughts as all the evidence points in the other direction - if that is possible.

It is now the official view of the Ministry of Finance that we can expect the economy to shrink this year by 12 per cent -the same as the decline in GDP last year. In fact all our estimates put the decline at closer to 15 per cent - the sixth straight year of decline in the GDP and still accelerating.

Official estimates of inflation in July put this at 400 per cent for the year. In August retail organisations were reporting overall growth rates reaching up to almost 1000 per cent above the same month last year. There can be no doubt now that the IMF ceiling for hyperinflation (50 per cent per month) has been broken in Zimbabwe - for the first time in the history of the country. This is new territory.

The collapse of the farming sector is now almost complete - support industries that relied on demand from commercial farmers and met the needs of small scale and peasant farmers in the process are either closed down or close to collapse. The once powerful seed industry, which did plant breeding to an international standard, is now defunct and there is little or no seed
in the country for this year's crop. Fertiliser - affected by the cost of foreign exchange has become totally out of reach for most farmers.

The effect is there for all to see - the winter wheat crop is now estimated at less than 10 per cent of demand - 40 000 tonnes, down from almost 400 000 tonnes at peak. The tobacco season just coming to an end will see only 65 000 tonnes sold - compared to 230 000 tonnes three years ago and the next crop looks as if it will be down again by half. Only 14 per cent of all
households reported more than one month's supply of food in August - a much worse situation than last year. Imported maize for stockfeed now costs nearly Z$1 million per tonne and eggs are now over Z$200 each!

The chaos in liquid fuel markets continues - this weekend not a single government or municipal ambulance was working in the city of Bulawayo. Filling stations stand idle and we buy our fuel from vendors at prices ranging up to Z$2000 a litre - at official exchange rates that is R20.00 - 5 times the price in South Africa. The chaos in cash supplies also continues to worsen - and in 10 days time the Government, against all advice is to withdraw the highest denomination bank note worth Z$500.00 from circulation. This will cause untold suffering and loss - most seriously in the low-income urban areas and in the rural districts.

The Zimbabwe dollar at independence was stronger than the US currency and on a par with the British pound, this week the US dollar is trading at 6000 to one and the pound is over 9000 to one. A year ago the US dollar was about 450 to one. This massive devaluation is now feeding through to the prices of all imported commodities and will affect virtually everything that people have to have in order to live. Local incomes are now so devalued that people simply cannot afford even the most basic necessities and assets. Replacing assets is out of reach of all but the mega rich. There are those in the country who are benefiting from this economic situation but they are all associated with the government or the ruling Party.

This chaotic situation is feeding through to mass migration to regional states where job opportunities or crime offer a means of survival. They take with them their training in Zimbabwe terror camps and their high rates of HIV infection. They also take with them a sense of frustration and despair and a desperate need to send home something each month to their families in Zimbabwe so that they can survive. They are not good news to regional States struggling with their own problems. When a rumours of a relaxation in visa conditions spread through Harare the riot police had to be called to control the crowd at the SA High Commission. No such mechanism exists on the Limpopo and only the crocodiles grow fat.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 16th September 2003. </font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">