The term hyperinflation is almost an understatement when it comes to describing the level of inflation in Zimbabwe. In July 2008, inflation was estimated to be 231 million per cent. In January 2009, two estimates were made: one of 5 sextillion per cent (5 and 21 zeros); the other of 6.5 quindecillion novemdecillion per cent (65 and 107 zeros). These figures are simply mind-boggling for most people living in low-inflation economies.
Commentators say that prices can double in a single day and this can render banknotes useless very quickly. In fact, local banknotes are scarcely used as people turn to overseas currencies that offer more stability. Recognising this, in late January 2009 the government officially allowed foreign currencies to be used in Zimbabwe as well as the Zimbabwe dollar.
In an attempt to stabilise the currency the Zimbabwean central bank on more than one occasion has tried dropping several zeros from the currency. But this has had little effect and in January 2009 a new series of banknotes was issued, including a Z$100 trillion note. This is unlikely to be the last issue though, but what comes after a trillion?
Zimbabwe rolls out Z$100tr note BBC News Online (16/1/09)
ZIMBABWE: Inflation at 6.5 quindecillion novemdecillion percent IRIN News (United Nations) (21/1/09)
- Define the term hyperinflation.
- Analyse the main causes of hyperinflation.
- Discuss policies that the Zimbabwean government could adopt to try to reduce the level of inflation in the economy.
- Assess the impact of hyperinflation on the other major macro-economic targets.
- Research another instance of hyperinflation and write a brief summary of the cause(s) and the solution(s). You may find the Wikipedia entry on hyperinflation a good starting point.
Nationalisation has been coming back into fashion lately with the UK bank bail-outs. In other parts of the world though, it has been back in fashion for longer and the articles below look at two recent cases in Latin America: the nationalisation of the Chaco energy company and the renationalisation of Spanish-owned airline, Aerolineas Argentinas (AA).
Bolivia nationalises energy firm BBC News Online (24/1/09)
Argentina renationalises airline BBC News Online (18/12/08)
- Explain what is meant by nationalisation.
- Discuss the arguments for and against nationalising (a) an airline and (b) an energy firm.
- Assess why nationalisation has become more prominent in the media recently than privatisation.
- Discuss the arguments for and against privatisation.
Given all the attention that the recession has had for months in the media, it may be surprising to find out that in fact Britain only went into recession officially today (January 23rd 2009). This is because, as economists, we have a more precise definition of recession than much of the media. A recession is when there is two successive quarters of negative economic growth. Figures released by the ONS today, show that this is finally the case. The links below give a flavour of the media attention dedicated to this announcement.
Recession Britain: It’s official Guardian (23/1/09)
Countdown to recession Guardian (23/1/09)
No end to the melodrama Guardian (22/1/09)
Recession: we knew it was coming, but we didn’t know it would be this bad Times Online (24/1/09)
Recession: Sector-by-sector breakdown Times Online (23/1/09)
It’s official – Britain is in recession Times Online (23/1/09)
UK in recession as economy slides BBC News Online (23/1/09)
Recession figures heighten the gloom Independent (23/1/09)
UK recession: It’s official and the worst since 1980 Telegraph (23/1/09)
UK recession: How does this one compare to those since 1945 Telegraph (23/1/09)
UK recession: It’s now official Telegraph (23/1/09)
- Explain the principal reasons why the UK has fallen into recession.
- Discuss the extent to which the UK recession is likely to be worse than in other countries in Europe.
- Analyse whether the policies adopted by the UK government will reduce the length and depth of the UK recession.
- Evaluate two further policies that the governmnt could adopt to reduce the depth of the recession.
- Assess which sectors of the economy are likely to suffer (a) the most and (b) the least, as a result of the recession.
The European Commission is concerned that the economic downturn may have put the livelihoods of dairy farmers at risk. To try to prevent any problems for farmers, the Commission has re-introduced export subsidies for dairy products. The last time subsidies were paid to dairy farmers was June 2007 and the EU insists that the payment will meet World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
EU gives boost to dairy exports BBC News Online (23/1/09)
- Using diagrams as appropriate, illustrate the impact of the EU export subsidies on the market for milk.
- Additional support for dairy farmers comes in the form of EU intervention – European Commission purchases of surplus produce at a guaranteed price. Using diagrams as appropriate, illustrate and explain how this ‘guaranteed price’ scheme will work.
- Explain the role of the WTO in determining world trade rules.
- Discuss the likely reaction of other countries to the EU’s payment of export subsidies to dairy farmers.
Somali pirates have been much in the news recently with their high profile captures of oil tankers and other ships. The impact on shipping in the area is clear and this has disrupted trade in the region, but an unforeseen impact has been on the total worldwide catch of tuna. The Indian Ocean is one of the richest sources of tuna in the world and the pirate activity has led to a fall of around 30% in the total tuna catch.
Somali piracy ‘reduces tuna haul’ BBC News Online (22/1/09)
- Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact of Somali pirate activity on the market for tuna.
- Suggest likely values for the price elasticity of demand and supply of tuna. Analyse the extent to which these values are likely to affect the price rise in the market for tuna.
- What substitutes are available for tuna? Assess the extent to which the availability of substitutes will affect the rise in the price of tuna.