Monday, December 31, 2007

The Bolivar Gets a Face Lift

And a few zeros lopped off of the currency. Read the article from the AP in the Houston Chronicle.

By lopping off 3 zeros from the currency, now the official exchange rate between the 'bolivar fuerte' and the dollar will be 2.15:1 instead of 2,150:1. Also now bills bigger than Bs. 100 will be printed. And I've also heard that the locha (12.5 centavos) is making a come back? I wonder if the puya is coming back too....

This harkens back to yesteryear when I was a little kid in Venezuela, and the exchange rate was Bs. 4.28 to $1. Of course, that was back during the Jimmy Carter administration and oil prices were high, and Venezuela wasn't fighting inflation like it is now. (Funny, oil prices are high again, but Venezuela is fighting inflation this time around. Wonder who screwed up that economic model. Could it be the economic genious of El Burro?)

I can remember buying Matchbox cars on my allowance for about Bs. 4 or maybe a little less. Ice cream was like a real y medio (75 centavos). I don't remember usng the locha very much, but I did use medios (25 centavos), reales (50 centavos), as well as Bs. 1, Bs. 2, and Bs. 5 coins. And of course, to see a Bs. 10 or 20 bill wasn't as big of thing as seeing a Bs. 100 bill. When I was a kid, that was a big deal.

In high school, the Bolivar went on a floating exchange rate. I remember the exchange rate popped up to 7 bolivares to a dollar and fluctuated there for a bit. I think it hit roughly 12:1 by the time I left Venezuela. By then, I was carrying around Bs. 100 bills, as prices went up for things I wanted to buy at the Japonesa.

Maybe Chavez wants to bring back the old days, so he figured he'd simply change the currency back to when he was a kid. He wants to yell "Heladero!" for the ice cream man and not have to pull out a wad of bills to buy a Tio Rico cone. He wants to be able to buy Chicle for a real, or a cafe con leche for a couple bolivares.

And he may be able to do that with the 'bolivar fuerte'. But the 'strong bolivar' is strong in name only as the article points out.

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