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Official inflation triples to 66,212 percent in Zimbabwe
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    HARARE, Zimbabwe — The official rate of annual inflation in Zimbabwe tripled in the space of one month to 66,212 percent in December, by far the highest in the world but less than half the rate calculated by independent analysts.
    The state Herald newspaper published the figures from the central bank Friday, showing a dramatic escalation from November’s already dizzying rate of 24,470 percent.
    In early October, the state central statistical office gave official inflation at just below 8,000 percent. It then suspended its monthly updates on inflation because there was not enough in the shortage-stricken shops to calculate a regular basket of goods.
    The National Incomes and Prices Commission, the government’s price control body, this week allowed sharp increases in the prices of the corn meal staple, sugar, bread and other basics in a bid to restore viable operations by producers and return the goods to empty shelves.
    Even the Herald predicted that ‘‘in most cases, the products will be available only immediately after the price increases’’ and would disappear again as production costs rise.
    Independent analysts estimate the real annual rate of inflation is closer to 150,000 percent. They cite supermarket receipts showing the price of chicken rose more than 236,000 percent to 15 million Zimbabwe dollars, or about $2.15 for 2.2 pounds between January 2007 and January 2008.
    Zimbabwe, a former regional breadbasket, is facing acute shortages of food, hard currency, gasoline and most basic goods in an economic meltdown blamed on disruptions in the agriculture-based economy after the often-violent seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms began in 2000.

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