Zimbabwe unveils 500 million dollar note

December 12, 2008 12:00 am

, HARARE, December 12 – Zimbabwe’s central bank on Friday introduced a 500 million dollar note, as the African country struggles to cope with the world’s highest inflation and crippling currency shortages.

The half-billon note, worth about 10 US dollars, was released together with a 200 million dollar bill, which the central bank said in a statement was introduced for the "convenience" of the public.

Finance minister Samuel Mumbengegwi announced the new bills in a government gazette, bringing to 29 the number of new notes put into circulation this year alone.

Just last Thursday, Zimbabwe introduced a 100 million dollar bill that at the time was worth 14 US dollars. One week later, it’s worth less than 50 cents.

Zimbabwe’s highest inflation was last estimated in July at 231 million percent but is now believed to be much higher.

The central bank struggles to print money fast enough to keep pace with prices that rise several times in a day.

Due to currency shortages, cash can now only be withdrawn once a week from banks. Ordinary people can take out 500 million dollars a week while companies are permitted to withdraw 50 million dollars.

Winding queues in banks are commonplace in Zimbabwe as people take hours to withdraw money which is still not enough to see them through the day, while others sleep outside banks to get money the next day.

Once the region’s breadbasket, the country is now battling widespread food shortages while cholera has killed nearly 800 people since late August, according to the United Nations.


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