By Girish Gupta
CARACAS (Reuters) – Crisis-stricken Venezuela’s money supply has surged over 200 percent in a year, its fastest rise since records began in 1940, putting it on track for what is likely the world’s highest inflation.
Soon after a month-long hiatus from publication, the central bank said late on Friday the total amount of local currency in circulation – known as M2 by economists – as of March 24 was 13.3 trillion bolivars, up 202.9 percent from a year earlier.
In contrast, the United States’ money supply was up 6.4 percent in the same period.
Venezuela is in a major economic crisis, with millions struggling with food shortages and inflation thought to be in triple digits – though no official data is available.
The exponential rise in M2, the sum of cash, together with checking, savings and other deposits, means an exponential rise in the amount of currency circulating.
Coupled with a decline in the output of goods and services, that has accelerated inflation.
The central bank website shows five separate spreadsheets with money supply data going back to 1940. Back then, as now, Venezuela’s primary export was oil.
While M2 may seem an obscure technical indicator, the figure was routinely published by newspapers in Venezuela, whose oil-dependent economy has been dogged by inflation in the past.
Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, which accuses the leftist government of destroying the OPEC country’s economy, says inflation reached 741 percent in the year to February.
President Nicolas Maduro says right-wing businessmen are hoarding goods to sabotage his administration, an accusation the opposition rejects.
The last year for which official inflation data is available from the central bank is 2015, when consumer prices rose 181 percent.
(Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Dan Grebler)