Central Bank says no new note designs for now
The Central Bank says the economy is not stable enough to support a redesign of bank notes to feature national hero Bogyoke Aung San, nor to justify the cost and interruption.
A NATIONAL League for Democracy MP has requested that the animals on Myanmar’s currency be replaced with pictures of national hero Bogyoke Aung San. But senior Central Bank officials believe Myanmar’s economy is not stable enough to justify the cost and interruption.
U Kan Myint (NLD; Thayet) of the Pyithu Hluttaw called for new notes featuring pictures of Bogyoke Aung San, a national hero and Daw Aung San Su Kyi’s father, at a parlimentary session on November 22.
He pointed out that currency in other countries is often gracefully decorated with respected figures including kings, queens and national heroes. The fact that Myanmar’s currency features “elephants and lions” rather than its own historic idols was “sad and shameful”, U Kan Myint said.
Myanmar first printed notes featuring Bogyoke Aung San in 1958, just over a decade after his assassination, according to Central Bank vice president U Soe Min. New notes featuring the general were issued in 1965, but those have since disappeared from circulation and the currency now features animals and famous buildings.
The mythical Myanmar chinthe first appeared on notes in 1994 and elephants in 2009, said U Soe Min. The NLD’s U Kan Myint, however, takes umbrage with using animals on the currency.
“If we think seriously, it is like animals, which have knowledge only of sleeping, eating and mating, have been put in the pockets of the people across the country and also representatives now in this hall,” he told parliament.
An effort to rid bank notes of exotic animals will not be cheap, however. The government would have to withdraw existing notes from circulation, store them and reprint new ones. U Soe Min said that the cost of replacing a single denomination note would run to around K100 billion.
Withdrawing currency in order to issue redesigned notes would be costly and create uncertainty for the public, he said.
“We need to consider the cost and insecurity [that would result] from issuing new notes,” he said. “Therefore, [new notes] will be printed when the country’s economy is more stable, and the timing is more appropriate.”
For the general public, despite Bogyoke Aung San’s widespread popularity, some feel that with the kyat nearing historic highs against the US dollar and the country facing an array of economic challenges, there may be more pressing matters at hand.
“The government needs think about the country’s economic situation, the value of the currency and the issues at hand,” said Ko Nay Soe, who works in a rice mill in Nay Pyi Taw, which like much of Myanmar is struggling with low market prices of paddy and rice.
“The hluttaw’s time shouldn’t be taken up because [someone] doesn’t want to look at a picture of a lion on the banknotes. There are many matters more important than this to deal with our country.” – Translation by San Layy and Win Thaw Tar
A chinthe looks out proudly from the face of a K1000 note.