Currency value has substantial impacts on trade, investment, and the general economic growth of a country. The countries with the strongest and most valuable currencies in the world are included in the list of developed countries and can boast of their success in attracting investments as stable and reliable partners. Meanwhile, many countries with weak currencies are seen as risky and less attractive for investments because of economic or political instability, so they are avoided by businesses.
Third World countries were heavily impacted by economic crises, military conflicts, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which hasn’t added value to their currencies. Since the list of worthless money changes, here we’ll figure out what the most worthless currency in 2023 is and whether there are other countries facing similar issues. Let’s delve into it.
What Country Has the Most Worthless Currency?
Even people who are not into trading or doing business internationally are aware of which countries have strong economies. We are sure you’ve heard of EUR, USD, GBP, and other top currencies and maybe even know their rates, at least approximately. But most people do not know about currencies with low values.
So, what is the most worthless currency in the world? In 2023, the cheapest currency can be found in Iran – it's the Iranian rial. We’ll take a closer look at its performance below.
*The exchange rates presented in the article were actual on March 24, 2023.
1. Iranian Rial (IRR)
1 USD = 42,069 IRR
The list of the top ten most worthless currencies globally is headed by the Iranian rial. It is the cheapest currency in the world right now.
The rial has been used in Iran since 1932. People use banknotes like 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 rials, and the Central Bank also issues cheques in 500,000 and 1 million rial denominations, which are not formally banknotes.
In 2018, the Iranian currency was traded at the rate of around 42,000 to the US dollar (compared to 35,000 at the end of 2017) after President Donald Trump announced a unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and the resumption of sanctions.
In 2020, the government implemented a currency reform, renaming the national currency the Toman, with a denomination in the ratio of 10000:1.
2. Venezuelan Sovereign Bolivar (VES)
1 USD = 24,134 VES
Venezuela ranks second in our list of countries that have devalued their currency. The Venezuelan sovereign bolivar is not the world’s most worthless currency, but it is close to achieving this title. Currently, Venezuela is also among the poorest countries in the world.
Initially, the bolivar was based on the silver standard, and since 1910 – on the gold standard. Until 1983, the bolivar was the most stable currency in the region, and then it sharply lost its value.
In 2008, the hard bolivar (bolivar fuerte) was introduced, but its market value was significantly lower than the fixed exchange rate. In August 2018, President Nicolas Maduro announced a new sovereign bolivar and exchange rate (100,000:1). It didn’t save the currency since, in the same year, the exchange rate on the black market exceeded 5 million bolivars per dollar, which was much higher than the official rate.
In 2018, Venezuela devalued the bolivar against the dollar by 96%, and the prices rose. To ease the shock for the population, the authorities increased the minimum wage by 60 times over. Today the situation looks better, and it is no longer the most devalued currency, so perhaps it still has a chance of recovering.
3. Vietnamese Dong (VND)
1 USD = 23,255 VND
The economy of Vietnam is still recovering from the wars, and the transition from a centralised to a market economy has greatly affected the country and its activities. Investors are still very cautious about investing in the country, which restrains the value of Vietnam’s national currency.
After the reunification of Vietnam in 1976, the government faced many challenges. In two years, a new monetary reform was carried out, and the Northern dong and the dong of South Vietnam were merged. Due to the increase in inflation in 1987-1991, new banknotes of 20,000 and 50,000 dongs were printed, and in 1994, a 100,000 VND banknote appeared.
The currency pair rate reached the highest rate of 23,679.375 in 2022, compared to a record low of 0.976 reached in 1983.
4. Sierra Leonean Leone (SLL)
1 USD = 17,543 SLL
The leone is the official currency of Sierra Leone. Located in Africa, it’s one of the poorest countries on earth. Civil unrest, the recent war (1991-2002), and repeated battles with viruses such as Ebola do not allow the country to focus on economic prosperity. Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, these circumstances have further worsened the country’s situation, and its currency has depreciated even more than before.
Until the 1980s, the leone was stronger than the US dollar, but then it rapidly declined due to inflation. By the 2000s, thousands of leones were equivalent to a single US dollar. A new version of the leone called the SLE was announced in August 2021 and officially introduced in July 2022. It was worth 1,000 of the old leone (SLL). However, the old leones remain legal tender and continue to circulate.
Today, devaluation persists and continues to reduce the purchasing power of the leone, with an average annual inflation rate exceeding 20%. There’s a hope that the rich reserves of natural resources will help Sierra Leone recover from the economic downturn in the coming years.
5. Laotian Kip (LAK)
1 USD = 16,949 LAK
The Lao kip (LAK) is one of the cheapest currencies in the world. The low currency value is not a new problem in this country. In 1979, the denomination was carried out: the kip of liberation from Pathet Lao, used since 1968, was replaced with new banknotes in the ratio of 100:1.
Since 1991, the country has suffered from chronic inflation, and since 2010, Laos has had a 100,000 kip banknote. Small businesses don’t usually have change for 100,000 LAK notes. For larger transactions, people prefer dollars or Thai baht. The position of kip as a national currency has changed for the worse since 2020. In 2022, the USD/LAK rate reached its highest level in the last 15 years, of 16,938.3.
6. Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
1 USD = 15,151 IDR
Indonesia is one of the few relatively wealthy countries in Southeast Asia. Its economy is stable, and the country is at a good stage of development; however, the currency exchange rates are still low.
High monthly inflation forced Indonesian regulatory authorities to carry out the denomination of the national currency. In 1965, a new rupiah was issued: the rate was 1,000 old rupiahs for one new. During the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, the exchange rate of the rupiah fell sharply by 35 percent.
In 2008-2011, the exchange rate fluctuated between 8,500 and 12,000 rupiahs per 1 US dollar. Since then, the rate is steadily growing, and in 2022 it was about 16,200. The government continues to implement monetary policy tools to support the currency, despite the ongoing depreciation.
7. Uzbekistan Som (UZS)
1 USD = 11,363 UZS
Uzbekistan is considered one of the world’s worst and weakest economies. This is a Central Asian country and a part of the Third World. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the som became the only legal means of payment in Uzbekistan.
Due to the extremely low exchange rate, in 2019, the bank issued a banknote of 100,000 soms. The rate reached an АТН of approximately 11,300 in 2023, and the lowest point of 9,400 was in 1994.
While the new governmental measures have been mildly successful in helping the economy grow, Uzbekistan still has a long way to go to become competitive in the global market.
8. Guinean Franc (GNF)
1 USD = 8,620 GNF
Guinea is an African country with large reserves of valuable minerals; however, its national currency is weak. The country is one of the world’s poorest, with high poverty rates, terrible crime rates, and hyperinflation.
The economy of Guinea is one of the most inflated globally. The country has experienced a lot of problems regarding its currency – and as many as five monetary reforms were carried out.
Since the 2000s, the situation has worsened, and the USD/GNF exchange rate has been growing. The highest exchange rate in the last 20 years was achieved in 2021 and amounted to approximately 10,300 Guinean francs to USD.
9. Paraguayan Guarani (PYG)
1 USD = 7,194 PYG
Paraguay ranks third in the list of the poorest South-American countries and has the ninth-weakest currency in the world. The local currency is named after the people inhabiting Paraguay – the Guarani tribe.
With the high inflation and the low value of the currency, céntimos (100 céntimos = 1 guarani) are no longer used in Paraguay, and coins of 1, 5 and 10 guarani are rare.
The value against the US dollar was actively growing until the 2000s, but between 2002 and 2008, it fell by almost half. In recent years, the exchange rate of the guarani has been increasing – this is facilitated by both domestic policy and exports of soybeans and cotton, but this is not enough to overcome the economic downturn, corruption, and poverty rates.
10. Cambodian Riel (KHR)
1 USD = 4,065 KHR
The Cambodian riel is in 10th place on our list. Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia. The Cambodian riel was first introduced in 1955 to replace the Indochinese piaster. Riel was not popular among the locals and remains unpopular in the area even now. During the reign of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, there was no national currency in the country, so the actual payment means was rice. In April 1980, riel was reintroduced.
Cambodia is a multiple currency zone, where the US dollar commands the largest share of domestic use. The dual-currency economy of Cambodia benefits from dollarisation because it helps maintain the flow of money, encourages savings, and stabilises price levels.
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