Sat, Mar 24, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Venezuela to cut face value of the bolivar in June

Reuters, CARACAS

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday ordered a redenomination of the ailing bolivar currency, knocking three zeros off amid hyperinflation and a crippling economic crisis.

The measure to divide the so-called bolivar fuerte — or “strong bolivar” — currency by 1,000 would take effect from June 4, Maduro said, adding that it would not have any impact on the bolivar’s value.

The move illustrates the collapse of the bolivar, which has fallen 99.99 percent against the US dollar on the black market since Maduro came to power in April 2013. A US$100 purchase of bolivars then would now be worth just US$0.01.

However, Maduro, 55, presented the move as a positive development intended to protect Venezuela against currency speculators and a US-led “economic war” against the OPEC member.

Critics said that the currency measure was no panacea for Venezuela’s economic mess and just a psychological ploy to make Venezuelans forget the extent of the hyperinflation.

While the move sounds like a currency revaluation, economists consider it a currency redenomination, as the country is not changing the value of its official exchange rate.

Venezuelans will not need to turn in the currency now in their wallets, but all new currency printed or minted is to be in the new denominations.

Millions of Venezuelans are suffering from shortages of food and medicines during a fifth year of recession that critics blame on government incompetence and corruption, but which Maduro has said is due to Western hostility against him and the fall of oil prices.

“Venezuela has been victim of a brutal, economic war,” said Maduro, whose government has been the target of US, EU and Canadian sanctions over allegations of political and rights abuses.

Maduro made the announcement during an event shown live on TV, flanked by aides and bankers, to discuss Venezuela’s new cryptocurrency, the petro.

Venezuela’s government similarly redenominated its currency by knocking off three zeros a decade ago.

Prices in Venezuela rose 6,147 percent in the 12 months through last month, according to estimates by the country’s opposition-led National Assembly, which are broadly in line with independent economists’ figures.

Maduro is running for re-election on May 20 in a vote critics have said would be rigged to extend the president’s rule.

The opposition coalition is boycotting the vote, although Progressive Advance party presidential candidate Henri Falcon has broken ranks to run against Maduro.

Falcon has promised to dollarize Venezuela’s economy as a way to beat hyperinflation and regain investor confidence.

“Amid the biggest economic collapse in the history of Latin America, the government of Nicolas Maduro attempts to hide hyperinflation by knocking zeros off the currency,” said Francisco Rodriguez, a Venezuelan economist and Wall Street analyst working as Falcon’s chief economic adviser.

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