11:00 | 19/06/2015 Global Economy
Zimbabwe's central bank has announced that residents can exchange banknotes from its old currency, which collapsed and was discarded six years ago amid runaway inflation, for American dollars.
A shop displays a sign offering real money in exchange for 50-trillion and 100-trillion Zimbabwean dollar notes in Harare. (AP Photo)
But 100 trillion Zimbabwean dollars — that's right, $100,000,000,000,000 — will fetch only 40 US cents, the equivalent of 13.50 baht.
That's a fraction of what collectors on eBay and elswehere have been paying for the notes with numerous zeroes, given their novelty value.
Zimbabwe in 2009 abandoned its currency for a system dominated by the US dollar and the South African rand after inflation hit 230 million percent — that's right, 230,000,000%. Back then, even street hawkers refused to accept the $100-trillion Zimbabwean notes that were in circulation.
Starting from Monday, the stacks of bills that Zimbabweans still have in their possession can be exchanged for US dollars. The offer is part of what the central bank says is an overdue plan to phase out the currency entirely.
Some people in Harare, the capital, said they disposed of their Zimbabwean dollars long ago.
"I used it as garden manure," said Isaac Mutezowepasi, a street vendor. "Why would I have kept that dirt?"
Others said they still have heaps of old dollar notes at home, but won't respond to the government offer.
"I am keeping them for my grandchildren to see. Plus I know I will get more for them in future because these Zimdollars are going to be in demand," said Tendai Nyaundi, a graphic designer.
On e-Bay on Friday, five 100-trillion Zimbabwean dollar notes were being offered for $159. Another e-Bay post put five banknotes of the same denomination at $173.99.
Some members of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party are campaigning to reintroduce the Zimbabwean dollar. They argue that the use of foreign currencies is responsible for the country's current liquidity problems.
However, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has repeatedly said the U.S dollar "is here to stay"./.