Venezuela issues new banknotes, coins a month behind schedule

Jan. 18 (UPI) — The Central Bank of Venezuela said it has begun progressively introducing new banknotes, known as bolivars, as the country deals with unprecedented inflation.

The bank first said the new higher-value banknotes and coins would enter circulation Dec. 15.

The International Monetary Fund predicts inflation in Venezuela will increase by more than 1,600 percent in 2017. To deal with record-high inflation, the bank in early December said it would issue new higher-value currency to aid consumers. The largest Venezuelan bolivar was the 100, to be replaced by a 20,000 note.

“The commitment acquired with the country is being fulfilled and the new denominations are incorporated in a progressive manner,” Central Bank of Venezuela Director José Khan said in a statement.

The new banknotes — worth 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000 and 20,000 bolivars — and coins — worth 10, 50 and 100 bolivars — were first available Monday. The bank previously warned it could take months for the new banknotes to reach all Venezuelans.

Venezuela is facing an economic crisis in which basic goods such as food, medicine and toiletries are in short supply or unavailable. Goods are also unaffordable due to inflation. The Venezuelan opposition has long-blamed the regime of President Nicolas Maduro of exacerbating Venezuela’s problems through corruption and inefficiency.

In early January, Maduro increased the minimum wage by 50 percent. Jose Guerra, a reputed economist and an associate professor at the Central University of Venezuela’s School of Economics, said the wage increase coinciding with the printing of more money “inevitably produces more inflation.”

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