It’s not an honour that will please Zimbabwe’s touchy monetary authorities but others will find it grimly amusing: winners at the spoof Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony this week got their prizes in worthless old Zimbabwe dollars.
Ten trillion of them per prizewinner, to be exact, reports say.
Just as Zimbabwe’s central bank chief John Mangudya is preparing to issue new bond notes, Thursday’s ceremony at Harvard University has highlighted the spectacular failure of these notes’ colourful predecessors, which were known as bearer cheques.
Ten Ig Nobel prizes are given out each year (by bona fide Nobel laureates) for achievements in scientific research that are unusual and trivial, but also thought-provoking. One of this year’s prizes went to Ahmed Shafik a (now late) scientist from the University of Cairo who studied the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or wool trousers on the sex life of rats, according to Science Magazine.
Wrote John Bohannon in Science Magazine: “Just like the $10 trillion prize accepted on stage by the winning scientists – it is a Zimbabwean banknote with little value as a result of hyperinflation – many of this year’s studies focused on perception and deception.”
Printed in ever bigger denominations Zimbabwe’s bearer cheques contributed to Zimbabwe’s spectacular economic crisis and spiralling hyperinflation ahead of elections in 2008. There are fears the new bond notes will do exactly the same.
Bearer cheques went out of circulation officially in early 2009. By then almost everyone in Zimbabwe was using or trying to use foreign currency. The notes are now available as collectors’ items.
Amazon sells 10 trillion dollar notes for just £5 on their UK website: on Saturday this bill was “currently unavailable” in the US.
The 10 trillion dollar note was not the biggest. Zimbabwe also printed a 100 trillion dollar bill.
Zimbabwe’s former vice president Joice Mujuru has lodged a court challenge to the new bank notes. It is due to be heard next week.