Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Zim price control causes chaos

As the police and a pro-government youth militia swept into shops and factories, threatening arrest and worse unless prices were rolled back, staple foods vanished from store shelves and some merchants reported huge losses. News reports stated that some shopkeepers who refused to lower prices were beaten by the youth militia, known as the “Green Bombers” after the color of their fatigues.

In interviews, merchants said that crowds of ordinary citizens were following the police and militia from shop to shop, descending on the stores to buy goods at the government-ordered prices.

“People are losing millions and millions and millions of dollars,” said one Bulawayo merchant, referring to the Zimbabwean currency, which has been rendered increasingly worthless given the nation’s inflation, the world’s highest. “Everyone is now running out of stock and not being able to replace it.”

Because the government has threatened to seize any business that does not sell goods at the advertised price, the merchant said he was keeping his shop open, but with virtually nothing on its shelves.

Economists said that the price rollbacks were unsustainable and that shops and manufacturers would soon shut down and lay off their workers rather than produce goods at a loss. “You can’t buy eggs or bread or things of that sort,” said John Robertson, an economic consultant in Harare. “Suppliers can’t supply them at a price that allows retailers to make a profit.”,,,,

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