Ukraine Enters Hyperinflation: Currency Trading Halted, "Soon We Will Walk Around With Suitcases For Cash"
Yesterday we summarized the most recent economic, political and social situation in Ukraine as follows:
"A year or so on from the last coup in Ukraine, Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Sergey Arbuzov told TASS, with growing popular discontent, "another state coup can’t be ruled out in Ukraine." As the cease-fire deal hangs torn and tattered in the Debaltseve winds, the nation is a mess: a new gas dispute looms as Gazprom demands upfront payments; capital controls have been tightened as the $17.5bn IMF loan may not be enough; and the central bank governor faces prosecution as the economy craters. All of these factors have driven massive outflows from Ukraine and the Hryvnia has crashed to over 33 to the USD - a record high (and 70% devaluation from the last coup)."
So as the Ukraine government watches its country go down in flames, with the blessings of the US State Department of course, it decided to take action. According to Reuters, with the hryvnia in free fall (see above) the central bank tried to call a halt on Wednesday by banning banks from buying foreign currency on behalf of their clients for the rest of this week.
Although banks could still trade with each other, by mid-morning there were no registered trades at any rate, leaving the currency in limbo. The previous day, the central bank rate based on reported trades had fallen 11 percent against the dollar.
Exchange kiosks on the streets in Kiev were selling limited amounts of dollars for 39 hryvnias, around 20 percent worse than the rates advertised in the windows of commercial banks where dollars were not available. This compares to the official rate of 33 USDUAH posted yesterday, a rate which will continue in freefall, now that the central bank has no more gold left to sell (it's mysteriously gone), and virtually no foreign reserves.
Following the closing of the FX market closing, the central bank has been able to artificially dictate the interbank rate, which it reduced from 32 to 24 hryvnias as of 12:45 p.m. local time. The artificial rate only affects exporters, who are forced to sell 75 percent of their foreign currency revenue to the National Bank at the rate.
Even the Ukraine government is shocked by what is going on: "I learned this morning on the Internet that the National Bank of Ukraine has, as usual on its own without any sort of consultations, made the decision to close the interbank currency market, which will absolutely not add to the stability of the national currency that the national bank is responsible for. This situation has a very complex and negative influence on the country's economy," Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.
The Ukrainian National Bank chairwoman Valeriya Hontareva, however, contradicted the Prime Minister's statement. "We coordinate all administrative measures with the International Monetary Fund first, and only then implement them," Hontareva told reporters.
In short: total chaos, which is indicative of any country's collapse into the hyperinflationary abyss.
It gets better. According to RIA, on Tuesday, Ukrainian television channel Ukraina announced that with the new exchange rate, the minimum wage in Ukraine stands at around $42.90 per month, which according to the channel, is lower than in Ghana or Zambia. There are currently no plans to raise the minimum wage until December.
Behold hyperinflation: "Food prices among producers rose 57.1 percent, with the price for grains and vegetables rising 91 percent from January 2014 to January 2015, while the official inflation rate over the period totaled 28.5 percent. Meanwhile, Ukrainian consumers responded to economic difficulties by cutting their spending in hryvnias by 22.6 percent, which amounts to an almost 40 percent decrease in real consumption."
And the punchline: "A construction worker exchanging dollars at a kiosk in a grocery shop in return for a bag filled with thousands of hryvnia, laughed and told shoppers: "Soon we will have to walk around with suitcases for cash, like in the 1990s.""
Which is ironic, because the central banks of "developed world" nations, most of which are now facing over 300% debt to consolidated GDP, would define Ukraine's imminent hyperinflation with just one word: "success."
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