Venezuela Enters the Record Book, Officially Hyperinflates

Venezuela’s inflation has officially become the 57th official, verified episode of hyperinflation and been added to the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table, which is printed in the authoritative Routledge Handbook of Major Events in Economic History (2013). An episode of hyperinflation occurs when the monthly inflation rate exceeds 50 percent for 30 consecutive days. Venezuela’s monthly inflation rate first exceeded 50 percent on November 3rd and continues to do so, sitting at 131 percent as of December 11, 2016. The peak monthly inflation rate thus far was 221 percent, which is relatively low in the context of hyperinflations. This and more is documented in detail in the linked paper, which I co-authored with Charles Bushnell, titled “Venezuela Enters the Record Book: The 57th Entry in the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table,” newly published in the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise Studies in Applied Economics working paper series.

The Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table and a chart of Venezuela’s monthly inflation rate are reproduced below. Sources for the Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table are at the bottom.

 

 

 

 

Hanke-Krus World Hyperinflation Table Notes and Sources

- When a country experiences periods of hyperinflation that are broken up by 12 or more consecutive months with a monthly inflation rate below 50%, the periods are defined as separate episodes of hyperinflation.

- The currency listed in the chart is the one that, in a particular location, is associated with the highest monthly rate of inflation. The currency may not have been the only one that was in circulation, in that location, during the episode.

- We are aware of one other likely case of hyperinflation: North Korea. We reached this conclusion after calculating inflation rates using data from the foreign exchange black market, and also by observing changes in the price of rice. Based on our estimates, this episode of hyperinflation most likely occurred from December 2009 to mid- January 2011. Using black-market exchange-rate data, and calculations based on purchasing power parity, we determined that the North Korean hyperinflation peaked in early March 2010, with a monthly rate of 496% (implying a 6.13% daily inflation rate and a price-doubling time of 11.8 days). When we used rice price data, we calculated the peak month to be mid-January 2010, with a monthly rate of 348% (implying a 5.12% daily inflation rate and a price-doubling time of 14.1 days). All of these data were obtained August 13, 2012 from Daily NK, an online newspaper that focuses on issues relating to North Korea (http://www.dailynk.com/english/market.php). We also acknowledge that our investigation was aided by reports from Good Friends USA, a Korean-American advocacy and research organization, as well as from Marcus Noland at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. 

(*) The authors calculated Zimbabwe’s inflation rate, from August to November 2008, using changes in the price of the stock, Old Mutual, which was traded both on the Harare and London stock exchanges. The stock prices yielded an implied exchange rate for Zimbabwe dollars, under purchasing power parity.

(†) The Republika Srpska is a Serb-majority, semi-autonomous entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina. From 1992 until early 1994, the National Bank of Republika Srpska issued its own unique currency, the Republika Srpska dinar.

(‡) Greece’s inflation rate was estimated by calculating the drachma / gold sovereign exchange rate.

(§) The peak monthly inflation rate listed for China in the table differs from that presented in one of the authors’ previous pieces on hyperinflation (Hanke and Kwok, 2009). This revision is based on new data from a number of sources, which were recently obtained from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

(**) We calculated the Free City of Danzig’s inflation rate using German inflation data, since the German papiermark was in circulation in Danzig during this time. It is worth noting that Germany and Danzig experienced different peak months of hyperinflation. This is case because the last full month in which the German papiermark circulated in the Free City of Danzig was September 1923. Germany continued to circulate the papiermark beyond this point, and subsequently experienced its peak month of hyperinflation (October 1923).

(††) The data for many of the post-Soviet countries were only available in the World Bank’s Statistical Handbook: States of the Former USSR. In this publication, the authors stated that the data should be viewed with an extra degree of caution because the statistics were taken from the corresponding official internal government source and not independently reviewed by the World Bank. However, these statistics are official and are the only source of data available for the corresponding time periods for each country.

(***) We calculated PPP implied inflation for Venezuela using black-market exchange rate data from dolartoday.com.

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