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Sierra Leone slashes ‘zeros of shame’ from banknotes

FREETOWN (AFP) – Sierra Leone on Friday introduced a new family of banknotes, stripping three zeros off the leone, in a bid to restore confidence in the inflation-hit national currency.

The Bank of Sierra Leone announced the move last August, insisting the public’s purchasing power would not be affected by the change.

“We have removed three zeros from our banknotes but the money yesterday is the same value as today,” President Julius Maada Bio said at ceremonies at the central bank where the new bills were unveiled.

A note of 10 new leones is the equivalent of a note of 10,000 old leones, which changes hands for around USD0.75.

Year-on-year inflation in the West African state was 24.87 per cent in May, according to the national statistics agency.

New banknotes released in Sierra Leone. PHOTO: AFP

Rising prices had driven the printing of banknotes, resulting in a mountain of paper money that is costly to sustain and unwieldly for the public.

Shoppers need huge quantities of banknotes for the simplest transactions, and unscrupulous bank tellers sometimes pilfer notes from sealed bundles of bills.

“We are removing the ‘zeros of shame’ to get the currency properly aligned,” central bank director Morlai Bangura told AFP earlier in the week.

He said the bank had begun distributing the new paper notes to commercial banks last week.