Zimbabwe inflation nears 1,600 percent

HARARE, Feb 12, 2007 (AFP) – Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate, the world’s highest, soared again by more than 300 points to 1,593 percent in January, according to official figures released Monday.

The often forcible seizure of white-owned farms which were then doled out to landless blacks often without any skills, tools or experience has been fingered by critics as a major cause of Zimbabwe’s present woes. The figure represents a 304 percentage point rise on the rate for December when it stood at 1,281 percent.

Analysts said government hopes of bringing inflation back down below the 400 percent mark within the year are now beyond reach.

Finance minister Herbert Murerwa was sacked by President Robert Mugabe last week but there has been no announcement to date of a change in policy by his replacement Samuel Mumbengegwi.

Moffat Nyoni, acting director of the statistics office, said that normal household goods and services were now an average 17 more expensive than at the same time last year.

The month-on-month rate of inflation was 45.4 percent, gaining 9.1 percentage point on the December rate of 36.3 percent.

“It means that on average, a bundle of goods and service