As symbols of a failed economy go, nothing beats a ridiculous row of zeros at the end of a banknote. On my last trip to Zimbabwe I kept a $200,000 note, which at the time was the largest denomination. It was worth about 10 US cents. One of my editors at The Independent on Sunday went a few weeks later, returning home with $500,000 notes.
By the time Tendai Biti became finance minister in February the highest note was now $100,000,000,000,000 (that’s one hundred trillion dollars). It was worth about 27 cents.
One of the first things Biti did when he took over as finance minister in February was to abolish the Zimdollar. He’s replaced it with the US dollar, which has improved things dramatically. Prices used to double over the course of a day. Now a loaf of bread is $1 one morning and $1 the next.
There is one problem though. There are no coins. The smallest denomination is $1, which can be tricky if the cost of the item you want to buy is less. Shopkeepers are giving change in sweets or IOUs. This morning I tried to buy a Coke for 50 cents. I’ll go back tomorrow to cash in my IOU.