Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Economic free fall in Zimbabwe - International Herald Tribune

Where good news may actually mean things getting worse

Humans are cognitively remarkably efficient machines i.e. we perform a lot of activities, even ones purporting to require loads of attention and concentration is actually very little of it. Devotion to details simply means that everything else is ignored.

As a result, given the really limited capacity that we have to be pay to pay attention to any number of issues at any one point in time (or sequence of time), Zimbabwe has fallen by the way side simply because of Worse Things Happening (TM) read Sudan, Rwanda, Ethopia - Somalia and of course everyone's favourite official stupidest war Ethopia-Eritrea (I probably shouldn't be too hard on the Ethopians because they did clean up the Somali Islamist situation. They seriously get no respect despite the fact they could kick most of their neighbours in a war).

So one might well wonder, given decades of political oppression, an entirely screwed up land redistribution policy resulting in a collapse of the agricultural industry and turning a net exporter into a net importer, using starvation and beatings as a political weapon and a economy in the doldrums, how could it get worse?

Well, we now know that the economy is in a free-fall. The sort of hyper-inflation that caused the collapse of the Weimar Republic, except in this case, an brutal autocratic regime is already in power and made a mess of things.


Maybe I'm being overly optimistic. Despite a textbook example of state sanction and state sponsored genocide in Rwanda, people stayed out and the Press Secretary went into this darkly hilarious attempted explanation of how many acts of genocide constitute genocide in toto. Corpses were floating down river for goodness sake and the international community was so paralyzed that they could not even launch a medical mission to fish them out to prevent pestilence downstream. Same for Sudan where it was actually a big deal for one of the P5 to call what was happening there genocide.

So why would we consider the total collapse of Zimbabwe to bring any help from the international community? Well the situation in Africa is settling down and maybe a disaster on a big enough scale will either prompt the domestic government to open up or the international community to step in (mass refugee crisis constitutes a threat to international peace and security so technically the SC could launch a humanitarian intervention).

Or so one could hope.


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