Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has once again stirred the hornet’s nest with his approach to answers to interview questions with Bloomberg. While questions have been raised about the validity of a trip to Davos considering we have gained very little if anything at all from the Davos trip a year ago. The video left a bitter taste in the mouths of many as Ncube showed complete ignorance on the issues being faced by people in Zimbabwe. His responses to the food situation and inflation particularly caught attention.
Asked about the inflation situation the minister quickly pointed to the most recent Month on Month inflation figures which showed a slight slow down compared to the previous month, 16.55% as compared to 17.55% proclaiming that inflation is coming under control on a month on month basis. A quick look at the month on month inflation for the last 2 years tells you that it is nowhere near under control. Not only is rather erratic but it is also generally on a long term upward trend that doesn’t look like it’s going to stop.
The year on year inflation shows that inflation is not quite under control as it is now over 500%. With questions being asked about the validity of Zimstats figures, it is not unreasonable to expect real inflation to be higher. Across the board, prices have increased sharply and a few weeks into the new year we can see retailers and operators agitating for price increases.
The minister was also asked about the food security situation and tried to play it down though he conceded that Zimbabwe is in fact forced to import grain on the back of poor agricultural season gone by. With the credible threat of this season being just as bad the situation is a precarious one. However, the minister assured the interviewer that Zimbabwe will be fine. He has really become synonymous with raising eyebrows when it comes to his public face on issues including the salary situation and the health care system in the nation.
To say inflation is under control is a departure from the facts. A recent upward push in the exchange rate, which is responsible for inflation, saw the Reserve bank of Zimbabwe come in heavy-handedly to try to control the situation. It is only a matter of time before traders adjust prices given the direction of the exchange rate. The above month on month inflation graph shows us that inflation tends to be highest around major monetary announcements. With that mind, inflation is likely nowhere near under control.