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Zimbabwe's Funny Money and the Astrophysics of Hyperinflation

This is a joint posting with Robin Kraft

When I lived in Zimbabwe a mere 18 years ago, one U.S. dollar was worth about 2.5 Zimbabwe dollars. A few years later I returned and was shocked that the value of the local currency had fallen by more than 50% to Z$6: US$1. (How quaint!) Since the central bank has spent much of the last few years pointlessly trying to defy the laws of money supply -- printing more and more cash to pay its bills -- we are witnessing both hyperinflation (231 million % at last official count) and a mind-spinning vortex of collapsing value for the local currency. The government released a new Z$500 million note last week. As of last Friday, this was worth around US$10. But let's not forget that 14 zeros have been lopped off the currency in the past two years. Thus, using the original Zim dollar (I must still have a few in an old backpack) the exchange rate is really US$1 to:

Z$ 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Stopping the Emerging Markets Contagion Boomerang

The U.S. rescue package is (rightly) focused on shoring up our domestic financial markets, ground zero in the global credit crisis. Even if this effort is successful, the United States and other global financial leaders cannot ignore the impact on emerging markets. As the crisis has now spread to Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere, we need to ensure that all available tools are used so that the downturn doesn't eventually boomerang back to us.