Phone Call for Janet Yellen!

In the department of “what could possibly go wrong?” we have the following headline: “Zimbabwe is planning to print its own ‘U.S. dollars’”

Shockingly, given the great stewardship of President Mugabe, Zimbabwe is once again facing an economic crisis.  The article reports that “the government is asking for more than $1 billion to feed millions that are in dire need of food aid.”  Things have gotten so bad that the “government is selling wildlife from its national parks to game reserves to scrounge up some cash.” [I know where they could have found at least some of that money without selling wildlife. See here and here.]

Zimbabwe has a checkered history with monetary policy.  In 2008, inflation reached 89.7 sextillion percent a year!  In response, “the country has officially used nine currencies, including the U.S. dollar, the euro, the South African rand, the Indian rupee, the British pound and the Chinese yuan.”

So what’s the plan with printing US dollars?  Perhaps not surprisingly, details are not very forthcoming.  The Central Bank governor claims they will be “bond notes” although it’s unclear why anyone would voluntarily buy a bond backed by the Zim government.  It’s also not clear if they would be identical to US dollars.  If they were, I think Zimbabwe would have an additional problem on its hands!


“A toxic blend of governance failures, corruption & criminality”

Holy cow!  I know that official delegations often use the excuse of a foreign trip to go on a huge shopping spree, but usually they stock up on electronics or clothing.  The Chinese delegation, on a 2013 trip to Africa, decided to go binge shopping for ivory tusks.  They bought so much that they managed to double the price of poached ivory during their stay!

Slate reports that “China has long been accused of fueling the illegal ivory trade in Africa. A new report out this week from London-based NGO Environmental Investigation Agency says the illicit trade implicates even the highest levels of the Chinese government.”

I guess this news won’t exactly help to dispel those rumors. The NY Times as a superb article about the “toxic blend of governance failures, corruption, and criminality” that has come together to decimate Tanzania’s elephant population.

At a time when the Chinese government is trying to prove itself a responsible state actor that is serious about rooting out corruption and abiding by international law, the organization’s report describes a devastating environmental cost of China’s geopolitical rise: Chinese diplomats and military personnel, it says, are colluding with corrupt Tanzanian officials and Chinese-led crime syndicates that send huge amounts of illegal ivory to China, reducing Tanzania’s elephant population by half.

In the past four years, Tanzania has lost more elephants to poaching than any other country, an estimated 10,000 in 2013 alone, according to the organization — an average of about 30 elephants slaughtered each day. The elephant population in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, a 19,000-square-mile wilderness larger than Switzerland, plummeted by 67 percent to 13,000 in 2013 from 39,000 in 2009.

Those numbers are shocking and heartbreaking.  Looks like the Chinese effect in Africa is even worse than I thought.