Zimbabwe is about to see quadrillions of its dollars disappear as its citizens exchange the inflation-plagued currency for U.S. dollars.
The south African country’s central bank announced the exchange, saying that those who held Zimbabwean-dollar bank accounts before March 2009 will be paid US$5 for accounts up to ZW$175 quadrillion. All balances above ZW$175 quadrillion will receive an exchange rate of US$1 per ZW$$35 quadrillion (ZW$35,000,000,000,000,000).
The Zimbabwean dollar has been ruined by inflation, with several instances of the government eliminating many zeros from the value of its currency in order to fund budget deficits. In 2008, hyperinflation hit the currency at a rate of up to half a trillion percent (official estimates are hard to come by). At peak inflation, prices doubled every 24 hours.
In 2009, the government introduced a multicurrency system that uses foreign currencies such as the U.S. dollar and South Africa’s rand to stem inflation and bring stability to the economy.
“The decommissioning of the Zimbabwean dollar has therefore been pending and long outstanding since 2009,” Zimbabwe’s central bank said.
Zimbabwe’s economy retracted by almost 18% in 2008. Zimbabwae suffers from one on the worst poverty rates in the world, with around three-quarters of its population living under the poverty line in 2011, according to the World Bank.