Zimbabwe is the most miserable country in the world according to an annual “misery index” that judges nations on mainly economic conditions.
The east African country beat war-torn Ukraine, Venezuela and Syria to the top spot amid soaring inflation.
The Annual Misery Index is compiled by Steve Hanke, professor of Applied Economics at John Hopkins University. The indexes are the sum of unemployment (multiplied by two), inflation, and bank-lending rates, minus the annual percentage change in real GDP per capita.
Mr Hanke has been monitoring Zimbabwe for more than 20 years since soaring inflation in 2008 when Robert Mugabe was president.
He has predicted economic growth of merely 0.9 per cent, in contrast to the 6 per cent recently predicted by Zimbabwe’s finance minister, Mthuli Ncube.
“Its [Zimbabwe’s] policies have resulted in massive misery,” Mr Hanke said.
“For example, Zimbabwe has suffered endemic inflation since the Mugabe era, including two episodes of hyperinflation, in which the inflation rate exceeded 50 per cent per month for 30 or more days.
“Last year didn’t deliver much better, with annual inflation at 243.8 per cent, and lending rates following suit at 131.8 per cent.”
On the streets of central Harare on Monday, the unofficial rate of exchange for $1 was Z3,500, up from four days ago when it was Z$2.800. In a wealthier part of Harare, in the northern suburbs, the rate had hit Z$4,000 by lunchtime on Monday.
Informal money changers swarm around Zimbabwe’s shopping areas and outside banks and even policemen and soldiers can be seen openly swapping scruffy local currency for a US dollar to buy a loaf of bread.
“The US dollar notes are in such short supply we worry they will not be available. No one wants Zim cash. It doesn’t work,” said one man trying to exchange local currency for a US$5 note using a Zimbabwe bank card in central Harare on Monday.
War-torn Sudan is fifth on the list while the UK made it to the 129th spot and the winner – the least miserable nation in the world – is Switzerland with Russia 79th on the list of 157 countries.
Zimbabwe is due to have elections, likely in August.