Letter from Home 27-07-06

Knock off the noughts - here comes the Kilodollar
Dear Family and Friends,
Zimbabwe's banks are apparently in trouble and bankers and chartered accountants met recently to talk about what do with all those pesky zeroes that are causing the problem and clogging up their works.

It seems that standard computer software is designed to cope with figures in millions and even billions but starts getting confused when having to deal with 15 digit figures.
It’s the trillions that are apparently the problem and these are now part of regular transactions. So a proposal is being made to have three digits dropped from our currency. Instead of a thousand dollars being a thousand dollars, it will be just
one dollar and will be called a Kilo Dollar. Perhaps calling it a Killapsed Dollar would be more to the point.
This is the latest example of just how utterly ludicrous our economic situation has become in Zimbabwe – inflation of over 1,000 percent, bank transactions in trillions, town budgets in something called quadrillions and simple dollars that aren’t really dollars anymore.
To ordinary people who don’t really understand the logistics of a collapsed currency, this news comes as just another head shaking confusion in our chaotic lives. Most of us have hardly come to terms with the logistics of doing ordinary things like paying bills. If we are paying in cash we find ourselves walking around with carrier bags, duffle bags, plastic sacks and even suitcases literally filled with notes.
It’s a huge relief to get to where you are going without being mugged because its just
not that easy to hide a sack of money. Although these days I suppose even muggers must have to think in terms of wheelbarrows at the very least. The next mission is to get the timing right so that you pay bills when the electricity is on otherwise the money counting machines aren’t working, the computers that write receipts aren’t working and you spend hours waiting in queues, your arms getting longer and longer, weighed down by heavy bags of money.
Paying bills by cheque has its own set of problems too and we have had to
master the art of using smaller and smaller handwriting. Most standard
personal cheques have a five inch (13 centimetre) line on which to write
the amount in words that the cheque is for.
Nowadays it’s not unusual to get bills for multiple millions of dollars. This month for example medical aid companies have increased their rates by a whopping 85 percent. This makes a very small family contribution to a standard private medical scheme require over Z$25 dollars. I find myself having to do practice runs before I even open the cheque book – just to make sure I can squash up the words enough so that they all fit into those five inches.
You try and write in five inches (13cms) all these words: Twenty five million eight hundred and ninety two thousand five hundred and fifteen dollars and fifty five cents. It’s not possible or feasible really and so we all just round everything up, no one says thank you, no one offers change – its just the way life has become here now.
Everything in Zimbabwe, even writing a cheque, has become an exercise in
extremes – miniscule handwriting for massive amounts of money to pay small
fractions of huge monthly expenses.
So, from the land where we already have trillions and quadrillions but perhaps will soon have both dollars and kilo dollars, thank you for reading. Until next week, Ndini shamwari yenyu.

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