Venezuela to remove five zeroes from ailing currency

In this file photo taken on June 20, 2018 a man counts 1000-Bolivar-bills to buy groceries at the municipal market of Coche, a neighbourhood of Caracas. (AFP)
Updated 26 July 2018
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Venezuela to remove five zeroes from ailing currency

CARACAS: Venezuela will remove five zeroes from the bolivar currency rather than the three zeroes originally planned, President Nicolas Maduro said on Wednesday, in an effort to keep up with inflation projected to reach 1 million percent this year.
The OPEC nation’s economy has been steadily collapsing since the 2014 crash of oil prices left it unable to maintain its socialist economic system that for years provided lavish subsidies while enforcing strict price controls.
Annual inflation in June topped 46,000 percent, according to the opposition-run Congress. The IMF said this week it could hit seven digits this year, putting it on par with the crises of Zimbabwe in the 2000s and Germany in the 1920s.
“The monetary reconversion will start on Aug. 20,” Maduro said in a televised broadcast, showing new bills that are to be released next month.
He said the overhaul would tie the bolivar to the recently launched state-backed cryptocurrency called the petro, without offering details.
Cryptocurrency experts have said the petro suffers from a lack of credibility because of a lack of confidence in Maduro’s government and the mismanagement of the country’s existing national currency.
The government has said it is the victim of an “economic war” led by opposition leaders with the help of Washington, which last year levied several rounds of sanctions against Maduro’s administration and a group of top officials.
The country’s high inflation rate has made it nearly impossible to obtain cash.
Venezuela’s minimum wage is now about the equivalent of $1 a month, which has left citizens across the country unable to eat properly or obtain basic medical care — fueling an exodus of Venezuelans seeking to escape the economic crisis.
The government had been prepared to cut three zeroes off the currency in June but postponed the measure at the request of banking industry leaders who said the financial system was not ready for the measure.
Maduro on Wednesday proposed an overhaul to the currency crimes law in order to improve the flow of foreign investments.
Economists routinely identify the exchange controls as a major hindrance to economic growth. The issue will be taken up by the country’s all-powerful Constituent Assembly, Maduro said.
He also said he was transferring a concession bloc of the vast Orinoco heavy oil belt to the central bank, which he said would help shore up the bank’s international reserves.


Fraudsters exploit interest in Libra digital currency

Updated 8 min 15 sec ago
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Fraudsters exploit interest in Libra digital currency

  • Fake Libra opportunities or offerings have popped up on Facebook and Instagram
  • Criminals routinely seize on hot topics to try to dupe people online
SAN FRANCISCO: Fraudsters are out to cash in on interest in Facebook-backed digital currency Libra, hawking bogus buying opportunities at online venues including the social network itself.
Libra is to launch next year, overseen by an association based in Europe, but as with other hot topics it has been seized on by nefarious characters intent on tricking people with false accounts, pages, and information.
Fake Libra opportunities or offerings have popped up on Facebook’s main social network and its image-centric online community Instagram, according to a report Monday in the Washington Post.
A number of Libra-themed deceptive accounts were removed from the Facebook platform after the California-based company was alerted by the Post, according to the publication.
Some of the fake accounts used the official Facebook logo and photos of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
“Facebook removes ads and Pages that violate our policies when we become aware of them, and we are constantly working to improve detection of scams on our platforms,” the Internet titan said in response to an AFP inquiry.
The Libra Association was reported to be working with Facebook to get deceptive pages about the currency deleted.
Criminals routinely seize on hot topics to try to dupe people online, from natural disasters and major tragedies to celebrity news.
A buylibracoins.com website accessible Monday offered a fake chance to buy the digital currency, encouraging potential victims to share contact details of friends in a referral program.
Fraudsters were said to be setting also hunting for victims at other online venues such as Twitter and YouTube.
The rise of fake Libra offerings comes as Facebook tries to dispel worries and build trust in what it hopes will be a global currency that gives life-changing financial tools to people around the world.
G7 finance ministers and central bankers last week dealt a blow to Facebook’s planned new cryptocurrency Libra, issuing a barrage of warnings about its dangers for the global economy at a two-day meeting outside Paris.
Facebook in June unveiled its plans for Libra in an announcement greeted with concern by governments and critics of the social network behemoth, whose reputation has already been tarnished by its role in spreading fake information and extremist videos.
Ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) major global economies “agreed that projects such as Libra may affect monetary sovereignty and the functioning of the international monetary system,” France, the current G7 chair, said in a statement.
It said projects like Libra with a “global and potentially systemic footprint... raise serious regulatory and systemic concerns, as well as wider policy issues, which both need to be addressed before such projects can be implemented.”
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his concerns about Libra and other cryptocurrencies — which he had made clear in White House news conference this month — were shared by G7 counterparts.
Libra is widely regarded as a challenger to dominant global player bitcoin. Expected to launch in the first half of 2020, Libra is designed to be backed by a basket of currency assets to avoid the wild swings of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.