Need a Napkin? In Venezuela, People Are Just Using Paper Currency Instead


currencynapkinWhat does inflation look like?

It’s the image of a man, holding a piece of food, but instead of holding it in a napkin he is instead using a paper dollar. The reasoning here is that it’s more expensive to purchase napkins (if any stores even have them in stock) than it is to just use the country’s currency.

This is what Venezuela looks like right now.

The country has been struggling with severe inflation for months now, but it was only recently that its currency hit such an all-time low. According to Business Insider, a Reddit user submitted a photo on Monday showing himself holding an empanada wrapped up in a note worth two bolivars.

Even though analysts aren’t able to assess the exact decline of the Venezuelan bolivar — President Nicolas Maduro’s government stopped releasing fiscal information about the country at the beginning of the year — the government is now saying that the official inflation rate is at 68.5%. Using these numbers, it only cost the Reddit user about $0.31 (U.S.) to hold his meal.

However, as Business Insider also noted, the situation is even more bleak on Venezuela’s black market, which is how the majority of residents are buying everyday items because the government has such strict regulations on imports. On the black market, one U.S. dollar is worth 676.88 bolivars (as of August 18), making the bolivar-napkin even more worthless than numbers can express.

The worst part for average people isn’t just being able to afford food and basic household items; it’s being able to find a store that has those items in stock. As reported by Yahoo! and an earlier Business Insider article, Venezuelans often wait in supermarket queues for hours on end just to get a few items like toilet paper and coffee.

The gravity of what’s happening in Venezuela is sometimes too foreign for American consumers to understand. In a country where it’s possible to order almost anything online and see it arrive at your doorstep within a matter of days — spending about $52 billion online in one year — it can be difficult to comprehend that items aren’t just “out of stock” for a few weeks.

Even with smugglers bringing in items from nearby countries, Venezuelans never seem to have the basic items they need. The country has turned into a place where customers queue outside of supermarkets overnight and where chicken is so rare, it’s considered a luxury.

Right now, Maduro’s government is doing all it can just to keep looting and rioting to a minimum. As many Venezuelans have said, perhaps instead of deploying soldiers onto the streets with tear gas, supplying boxes of tissues would be more effective.

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