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Dictator numerology money

General Ne Win, the dictatorial leader of Burma, was a fan of numerology. This meant that he had a penchant for creating new currency in interesting denominations – and making the old banknotes worthless.

Here’s the timeline. Between 1972 and 1979 the central bank issued banknotes for 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 kyats. So far, so good. In 1985, on Ne Win’s 75th birthday, a 75 kyat note was introduced. A bit weird, but standard dictator fare. Unfortunately,  at the same time the 50 and 100 kyat notes were demonetized. People were allowed to exchange the now-useless notes for the new ones, but only in limited amounts. Next year, it would get worse.

In 1986, 15 and 35 kyat notes entered circulation. Not for long: the next year, they were both demonetized, along with the 25 kyat note. Ne Win introduced 45 and 90 kyat notes (supposedly because they incorporated the numerologically significant number 9), but millions of dollars of savings were wiped out.

What’s the solution to such insanity? In 1988 the country rose up in protest and Ne Win resigned, promising multi-party elections. Those elections never happened, and much bloodshed and a military dictatorship followed.

[Thanks to Shaun T for suggesting this topic]





Categories: Asia Economics & business History Modern history Places Politics & law

The Generalist

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and am curious about most things.

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