(Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s economy lies in ruins with the world’s highest inflation, chronic food shortages and queues for bread as long as those of people voting in the country’s crucial election on Saturday.
Below are some figures showing how the economy has declined and the difficulties suffered by ordinary Zimbabweans.
In 1987 inflation averaged 11.9 percent. It surged to an official record of 100,586 percent in January 2008, but economic experts say the real rate is much higher.
Average life expectancy dropped from 63 years in 1990 to 37.3 years in 2005, according to World Bank and U.N. figures.
In 2007, Zimbabwe had an HIV prevalence of 15.6 percent among adults aged 15-49 years — the fourth-highest rate in the world. The United Nations Development Program says the epidemic causes the death of around 3,200 people per week. The population is 13 million.
Zimbabwe’s mortality rate for children under five was 76 deaths out of every 1,000 in 1990. This increased to 105 in 2006.
The World Food Program says 83 percent of Zimbabweans live on less than $2 per day and that 45 percent of the population are malnourished.
Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product has contracted each year since 2000, the biggest decline in 2003 when it fell 10.4 percent. The IMF estimates that GDP will fall by 4.5 this year.
Zimbabwe first fell into arrears with the International Monetary Fund in August 2001. As of February 29, it owed $88 million, of which $79.64 million has been in arrears for three years or more.
Government spending as a percentage of GDP rose from 20.7 percent in 2002 to 53.5 percent in 2006, according to UBS data. The investment bank forecasts it will reach 66.7 percent in 2007. The rate in neighboring Zambia was 24.4 last year.
Zimbabwe’s dollar is virtually worthless.
The price of a loaf of bread on Saturday was about 6.6 million Zimbabwe dollars on the official market but as much as 15 million on the black market. In October last year bread cost 100,000 Zimbabwean dollars, in 2003 around 1,000 Zimbabwean dollars and in 1998 five Zimbabwean dollars.
Broad money supply increased an average 48.3 percent in 1997-2001, 520 percent in 2005, 1,579.5 percent in 2006. UBS estimates it will grow 2,690.5 percent in 2007.
Once the breadbasket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe now needs to import maize. The U.N. agricultural production index for Zimbabwe fell from nearly 107 in 2000 to just over 74 in 2005.
Exports of goods and services as a percentage of GDP averaged 33.5 percent in 1997-2001. UBS forecast this would decline to 9.9 percent in 2007.
In 2000, the country received official aid and developmental aid worth $175.8 million. The figure rose to $367.7 million in 2005.
Sources: UBS, Reuters, WFP, World Bank, Unicef, UNDP, IMF
Reporting by Marius Bosch; Editing by Barry Moody