World’s weakest currencies | Dong, dobra, rial, rupiah, leone, franc, kip

The strong Aussie dollar has made overseas travel particularly attractive in the last year or so. But in some countries, one of our yellow notes is far more impressive than others. Forget the euro, the pound, the US dollar and the New Zealand magic bean – if you want to feel rich beyond your wildest dreams, these are the currencies you want to change into.

10. The Leone

Where from? Sierra Leone

How many to the Aussie dollar? 3414.48

Highest bank note: 10,000 leone (AU$2.93)

The leone has never been a model of stability – the Sierra Leonean economy is far too reliant on the prices received for its diamond exports – but inflation ramped up during the 1980s. Then all hell broke loose as the country embarked on an eleven year civil war from 1990 onwards. Naturally, this didn’t exactly engender faith in the currency.

9. The riel

Where from? Cambodia

How many to the Aussie dollar? 3634.78

Highest bank note: 50,000 riel (AU$13.75)

The Khymer Rouge regime destroyed Cambodia in many ways, but one of its most notable pieces of bonkers policy making was to insist on having no currency at all between 1975 and 1980. When the new Government tried to reinstate the riel in 1980, it had to give coins and notes away to ensure that people used it. This didn’t exactly do wonders for the inflation rate.

8. The guarani

Where from? Paraguay

How many to the Aussie dollar? 4,029.65

Highest bank note: 100,000 guaranies (AU$24.82) – although you’ll not get far if you try and use one; most 100,000 guarani notes are fakes and only an idiot shopkeeper would touch one.

It’s only in recent years that inflation has been under relative control in Paraguay – a huge black market and widespread corruption don’t exactly help matters.

You’ll have to get in quick if you want to feel ultra-rich, however. Paraguay is due to bring in the Nuevo guarani in 2011, which will have three zeroes slashed off.

7. The kwacha

Where from? Zambia

How many to the Aussie dollar? 4,058.31

Highest bank note: 50,000 kwacha (AU$12.31)

A disastrous policy of nationalising private companies following independence, an over-reliance on copper exports and a whopping level of debt destroyed the Zambian economy in the 1970s and 1980s. Recent reforms have helped, but the kwacha is still something of a special child. Needless to say, dividing one kwacha into 100 ngwee is a piece of staggeringly pointless optimism.

6. The franc

Where from? Guinea

How many to the Aussie dollar? 4,336.40

Highest bank note: 10,000 francs (AU$2.31) – they must make some pretty sturdy wallets in Guinea.

Guinea is a classic African basket case, blessed by a series of dictators and coups since gaining independence from France in 1958. Lack of stability and widespread corruption don’t make the country a particularly appealing target for investment, despite all the lovely juicy minerals waiting to be dug up.

5. The kip

Where from? Laos

How many to the Aussie dollar? 7,365.49

Highest bank note: 50,000 kip (AU$6.79)

Doing things the Communist way in the 1970s and 1980s really didn’t help the kip’s image, but inflation following the 1997 Asian financial crisis was what really put it in the clown shoes. An economy based on subsistence farming and backpackers watching Friends DVDs in Vang Vieng doesn’t exactly help, either.

4. The rupiah

Where from? Indonesia

How many to the Aussie dollar: 8,176.40 (AU$12.23)

Highest bank note: 100,000 rupiah

Every time the Indonesians try and stabilise the value of their currency, something new comes along to send it tumbling again. Competition between the islands, a more competitive black market, failed rice crops and the Asian financial crisis of 1997 have all led to the rupiah being a universal byword for a joke currency.

3. The rial

Where from? Iran

How many to the Aussie dollar? 8,605.14

Highest bank note: 50,000 rials (AU$5.81)

The rial collapsed during Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1979. Investors pulled out of the country and money poured out with them. Since then, inflation has been relatively high, leading to progressively sillier bank notes.

Redenomination plans are on the horizon, however – and three zeroes should be lopped off the rial soon.

2. The dobra

Where from? Sao Tome and Principe

How many to the Aussie dollar? 15,561

Highest bank note: 100,000 dobras (AU$6.43)

Massive debt, the need to import just about everything and a reliance on cocoa exports have ravaged the Santomean economy ever since the colonial umbilical cord from Portugal was cut in 1975.

Things are looking up though – oil revenue is about to come on tap and an agreement has been reached to tie the dobra to the euro. This should give a certain degree of stability.

1.  The dong

Where from? Vietnam

How many to the Aussie dollar? 16,168

Highest bank note: 500,000 dong (AU$30.92)

A rather famous war and years of Communist financial doctrine ruined the Vietnamese economy, and as a result the dong is the weakest currency unit in the world. Admittedly this is only because Zimbabwe withdrew its dollar in 2009, when a world of 231m per cent inflation and 100 trillion dollar bank notes became a little too much like hard work.

Other countries may have done something about this rather unwanted title by now, but Vietnam is an export economy, and it’s advantageous to keep the currency weak.

This article was originally written for Ninemsn. Data accurate as of 09 February 2010.


Copyright David Whitley

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