Sierra Leone knocks zeros off bank notes in currency re-calibration

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FREETOWN, July 1 (Reuters) – Sierra Leone will launch a re-denominated currency on Friday, knocking three zeroes off bank notes but keeping their value unchanged, the central bank said.

Financial transactions with the West African country have been suspended since Wednesday in preparation for the re-calibration of the leone currency, Central Bank Governor Kelfala Murana Kallon told Reuters.

President Julius Maada Bio will be the first person to use the new notes at a central bank launch event in the capital, Freetown, later on Friday.

Authorities say the change will make it easier to carry cash and use it for payments.

It also comes amid efforts to strengthen the tumbling leone, which is now fluctuating at about 13,000 to the dollar.

“It is a psychological boost knowing that the leone has appreciated against the dollar, at least on the face of it,” university student Ibrahim Mattia told Reuters.

But critics, including the main opposition All People’s Congress party, say the re-denomination is confusing and adds no value.

“So much uncertainty,” said a middle-aged civil servant, Mohamed Koroma. “We wait to see where this cosmetic move leads us to amid the present hard economic climate.”

The denominations of Sierra Leone’s bank notes are currently 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,0000 leone.

(Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Editing by Sofia Christensen and Clarence Fernandez)

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