Stirrings in Niger.

Position:Country overview

News of some remarkable developments has been coming out of Niger in recent weeks. On March 13, 2007, the Senegal based African news service Panapress (Dakar) distributed a story on its wires with the following headline: "Decreased Cost of Living Announced in Niger."

While the headline itself was eye catching, the detail provided by Panapress was even more striking. "The cost of basic utilities in Niger, including water, fuel, health care and education will go down by between 15 and 60 percent starting 15 March [2007]."

Panapress cited Niger's national consumer organization, the Coalition for Equity-Quality Against High Cost of Living for the information.

Depending on whose statistics are trustworthy at the moment-and "trustworthy" and the phrase "international economic statistics" are not often used in the same sentence-Niger is either the world's poorest country, or the second poorest.

A March 12, 2007 Reuters dispatch characterized Niger this way: "Niger, a landlocked country stretching from Nigeria's northern border deep into the Sahara, rated [at the] bottom of the most recent U.N. Human Development Index of 177 nations ranked by quality of life."

So the huge cost of living reduction takes on much more notice against the background of Niger's extraordinary privation-particularly since the reduction involves such basic services, which impact on prices and availability for nearly everything.

And there is more.

Since 2000, according to a January 5, 2007 press release from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Niger has...

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