Printing Error

Venezuela is now importing 100 bolivar bills by the planeload: more banknotes, actually, than the whole of the European Union needs.

There’s this nice image in the Venezuelan public imagination about “cranking up the Central Bank banknote printing presses”. You picture some big industrial printing press in Maracay spitting out masses and masses of Bs.100 bills.

Of course, it’s not quite like that.

It’s 2016: even the fast-depreciating banknotes are imported. And imported, it turns out, by the planeload.

Take it away Kejal Vyas,

Millions of pounds of provisions, stuffed into three-dozen 747 cargo planes, arrived here from countries around the world in recent months to service Venezuela’s crippled economy.

But instead of food and medicine, the planes carried another resource that often runs scarce here: bills of Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar.

The shipments were part of the import of at least five billion bank notes that President Nicolás Maduro’s administration authorized over the latter half of 2015 as the government boosts the supply of the country’s increasingly worthless currency, according to seven people familiar with the deals.

And the Venezuelan government isn’t finished. In December, the central bank began secret negotiations to order 10 billion more bills, five of these people said, which would effectively double the amount of cash in circulation. That order alone is well above the eight billion notes the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank each print annually—dollars and euros that unlike bolivars are used world-wide. [emphasis added.]

Dear lord.