Venezuela’s central bank has announced that it will introduce a new set of coins and notes as the country with the world’s highest inflation struggles to make its currency usable.
Six new bills will enter circulation from 15 December, ranging in value from 500 Venezuelan bolivars up to 20,000 bolivars. This means the highest-value note is still worth less than five US dollars.
The central bank said the new notes “will make the payments system more efficient, will help commercial transactions, and will minimise the costs of production, replacement and movement”.
The inflation – bordering on hyperinflation – has made the currency extremely cumbersome for daily use, as well as wiping out savings. It has also led to a massive black market in other currencies.
Despite sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela’s economy has ground to a halt, with widespread food shortages and a deep recession.
The fall in oil prices worldwide from well above $100 to trade below $30 has decimated the government’s budget, leaving president Nicolas Maduro hanging on to power. Maduro continues to claim that the country is a victim of deliberate US economic policy.
The IMF forecasts that the economy will have shrunk by 10 per cent in 2016, before shrinking by 4.5 per cent next year.
The country stopped reporting inflation figures in December 2015 at an annual rate of over 180 per cent. The IMF’s 2016 estimate in October 2016 measured inflation at 475.8 per cent year on year, rising to 1,660.1 per cent next year.