One Finger for the Man in White

Aside from the human rights abuses he has perpetrated, Zimbabwe’s president Mugabe has ensured that his country’s economy is shrinking faster than almost any other in the world (the latest number I could get my hands on was 2000, when its GDP per capita growth rate was minus 6 percent).

In my view, John Howard has been pretty good on this issue. But the South African government has been appallingly slow to act, probably only outdone in moral culpability by the truly abysmal gents at the International Cricket Council.

Update: Mike kindly tracked down data (he provides sources in the comments section), indicating that Zimbabwe’s GDP growth rate in 2003 was -13.6%. For those who don’t like GDP as a measure of wellbeing, its ranking for happiness and life satisfaction is almost as bad. In the 1995-2000 World Values Surveys, Zimbabwe ranked 69th out of 77 countries for happiness, and 77th out of 78 for life satisfaction.

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4 Responses to One Finger for the Man in White

  1. mike says:


    You need a research assistant !

    2000 -6.1
    2001 -6.5
    2002 -12.1
    2003 -13.6

    ranked 205 of 206 listed countries Australia was listed in position 115.

    IMF predict a strong growth in an article written may 2004.

    I can not find any more updated figurers it would be interesting to see if they were right.



  2. Mike says:


    I am not sure what your target audience is for you blog. At times it is easy for people to use terms like GDP on the assumption that general readers will understand what that means. The reality is that very few people have even the vaguest of notions as to what that means.

    So for those who do not know here is my simple definition of what GDP is:

    Gross Domestic Product

    In the simplest of terms it is a summary of the total movement of money in an economy. It is the total of all monies spent on consuming Good and Services Plus the Value of Money Invested Plus the value of Money earned from Exports (Goods and services out of a country return money into the country) Less the Value of Imports (good and services brought into a country mean that money flow out of the country).

    This is some times used as a measure of the standard of living of the citizens of a country. If GDP is growing then thing in general terms should be getting better conversely if GDP is declining like in Zimbabwe thing must be getting worse for the citizens.

    So is this a good measure…NO.

    Lets assume that in year one Good and Services consumed are $1,000,000 there is no other economic activity then in year two G & S consumed is $1,500,000…a 50% growth in GDP Woo HOO !!! What this doesn’t tell you is that inflation over that period was 50% so GDP was net 0%.

    Zimbabwe has 50% unemployment and inflation of 100% (approx) (to think when I went to school Phillips was well respected). This means the GDP needs to be adjusted. Less people able to spend, money moving in black economies, bartering are all factors that need to be considered. The distribution of wealth is yet another factor as well.

    I probably have a few minor errors in this which I am sure some one will point out but I do hope it helps some one understand what this measure is.

    Andrew I hope you dont mind me posting this. Knowledge is power and I think the more you spread it the better off we all are.


  3. Andrew Leigh says:

    Mike, you’re hired! (Sorry, couldn’t resist. Thanks for your comments, they’re very valuable.)

  4. mike says:

    I actually have no doubt as to the level of unhappiness on Zimbabwe. The problem of establishing an adequate response is a difficult issue. How do you get a response from some one who has no concept of the numbers one to ten. The actual question asked is “If happiness is a ladder and the bottom of the ladder is unhappy and the top of the ladder is Very Happy where on the ladder are you?”

    You have to ask how is the survey undertaken if it is by phone is this fair since if you have a phone you at least benefit a little in society. The residence of the shanty towns (which incidentally have just been bulldozed into the ground in the capital) would not seem to have much chance to participate.

    There is no doubt that the quality of life there is a travesty. GDP as a measure is totally inadequate because it does not show the true level of human suffering.

    Yesterday I skilfully avoided the issue of the ICC and their failure to act against the goings on in Zimbabwe…sanctions…it seems a very tired track to go retreading. I know you know that sanctions do little to improve the lot of the average person. Granted that cultural sanctions are a different thing. The thing that is wrong is that the ICC compels nations to participate in this country. It does not allow individual nations to take their own action unilaterally. (A little veiled jibe in there)

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