Waiting for Gono

By: Adrian Ash | Wed, Jan 21, 2009
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A LITTLE theatre of the absurd guest-starring Zimbabwe's chief central banker, Gideon Gono, whose signature now adorns the world's first-ever 100 trillion-dollar bill...

A country road. A bare tree. Evening. Enter two clowns.

MERVYN: [Stops centre-stage, blinking into the footlights.] Nothing to be done.

BERNANKE: Let's keep trying anyway.

MERVYN: But nothing happens! Nobody borrows, nobody lends. It's awful.

BERNANKE: Don't lose heart, not when things are going so badly.

MERVYN: You'd rather give up when things go to plan? Nothing's happened. Twice! And all that money...

BERNANKE: He did warn us.

MERVYN: Who did?


MERVYN: [Irritably.] Will he never get here?

BERNANKE: He warned us against doing too little, too late. As did I, you'll remember.

MERVYN: Can't anyone guess how long he will take?

BERNANKE: Another quarter or more, no later than the second-half of the year - unless we missed him already. We are a long way from Harare.

MERVYN: Hardly a million miles though...

BERNANKE: [Ignoring him, scans horizon.] Perhaps he came and went when we weren't looking. Perhaps he's already been, job done, everyone saved, everyone rescued.

MERVYN: [Laughing.] What, carrying all that paper, all those zeroes? How could you miss a man like that! Did you never read your Minsky?

BERNANKE: I must have looked it over at college. Pretty cover, I recall. Nice font, too...

MERVYN: But nothing of the text, not a word of the inflationary crack-up?

BERNANKE: Inflationary crack-pot, you mean.

MERVYN: [Angrily.] A hundred thousand-thousand-thousand thousands! It doesn't grow on trees, you know. Well, except when it does. [Gestures sadly at the bare, leafless tree.]

BERNANKE: Nothing you can do about it now. No use struggling. You must do what you must.

MERVYN: And what's that, Bibi?

BERNANKE: Print. And wait.

MERVYN: We've been waiting for weeks, months already! And waiting for what, I ask you?

BERNANKE: Waiting for Gono...

[Angry shouts off-stage.]

MERVYN: [Anxious.] Is that him, coming now?

[Enter BOZO and UNLUCKY. Unlucky is first to appear, a rope tied round his neck. Bozo holds the other end and follows after. Unlucky carries three heavy shopping bags in each hand. Bozo carries a whip.]

BOZO: On! [Cracks whip.] Don't slack now!


BOZO: If you like. Whatever works, I always say.

MERVYN: [Disappointed.] Oh...Hello, Gordon. It's you...

BOZO: Actually, it's Bozo to you - the clown who saved the world!

BERNANKE: Ah, Bozo! [Pauses.] Not Gono?

BOZO: You mean the great inflationist?

BERNANKE: The very same. We're supposed to be meeting him here. He told us to wait by that money-tree.

BOZO: Not me, not me at all. [Kicks Unlucky.] Just ask my friend here.

MERVYN: [Also nodding towards Unlucky.] He looks tired. Why doesn't he put down his bags?

BOZO: [Suddenly violent.] Put down his bags? Put down his bags? Who then should carry them up, tell me that! The Chinese perhaps? Idiot! Besides, they're growing lighter each day. The burden of filling them is now falling, I made sure of that...down 1.5% from November to last month. That's how I'm saving the world. [Kicks at Unlucky, barking.] Go on, tell them!

UNLUCKY: [Anxious, gabbling.] Yes but the true cost of living - that relentless suck of rubbing your eyes, showering and shaving, spooning in breakfast, then shuffling off to bring home a crust (or not) and shuffling once more through the crowds and pricing up dinner until it's back to bed and time to resume the whole sorry cycle next morning - the price of domestic gas supplies rose 52% in 2008...water rates were up 6.5%...electricity added almost one-third again...tea-bags and a dash of milk were both 11% up...cereal 15.5%...fruit nearly 10% year-on-year...train, bus and other travel fares 14% higher...plus a daily paper, heaven forbid, at nearly a quid a pop or £1.80 if you must have the latest financial horrors...then mid-morning biscuits or cakes 11.5% up, even with shares in Premier Foods down by three-quarters over the year to today...oh and then a lunchtime sandwich up 4.5% (VAT reduction included)...perhaps a pint of your favorite on the way home 4.9%...gasping a cigarette outside in the rain another 5% more...then pig, cow, chicken or lamb for your supper up on average by 17%...fish more than 10% higher in 12 months...vegetables and potatoes all up 15% plus...maybe wine from the off-license to sluice it down 4.9% above the cost of a year ago, scarcely dulling the pain...then top it off with sweets or a chocolate for another 7% hike before finding something to sit or lie or collapse on as you stare at the ceiling and wonder where-in-the-hell this deflation has got to up by 4.2%, even while the furniture stores begin their closing-down sales and finally buildings insurance so you can squeeze your eyes tight knowing the whole damn house won't fall on your head when you're sleep, not at your expense anyway, that's another 7.5% on top, not that you'd have saved much just staying at home and nibbling bread and butter instead, pricier by 5.8% all told if you add a dollop of jam the same size as you had at the start of 2008 and now 28% more pricey than it was just three years ago, but who's counting...certainly not the fixed-income pensioners, poor sods, let alone the middle-aged investor - not now he's looking at the FTSE or the S&P and kidding himself that stock prices at 10 or 11 or 12 times trailing earnings might be worth buying as business tips into the steepest, deepest, post-inflationary slowdown since FDR's New Deal finally paid off and the factories began to hum once again making bombs and tanks and fighter-planes, all production, no surplus - use it up, then make another, turn and turn about - makes you wonder whether Dubya Bush had it right back in '03, the only sure way to fight a depression and keep young men off the dole is sending them out to...

BERNANKE: Is he finished yet?

BOZO: Pretty damn nearly, yes.

MERVYN: Looks at his last gasp to me. It's awful!

Lights fade to black. Curtains for everyone.



Adrian Ash

Author: Adrian Ash

Adrian Ash

Formerly City correspondent for The Daily Reckoning in London and head of editorial at the UK's leading financial advisory for private investors, Adrian Ash is the head of research at BullionVault, where you can buy gold today vaulted in Zurich on $3 spreads and 0.8% dealing fees.

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