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Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 07:10 GMT 08:10 UK
Coin shortage as Ecuador adopts dollar
Money changers
Ecuadorean money changers looking for trade
Ecuador has formally adopted the United States dollar after ditching its old currency - the sucre - in a package of economic reforms.

Long queues had formed outside banks as people waited to exchange their old coins and notes into dollars and cents.

We're still taking sucres because we can't afford to lose a sale in these difficult times

Market trader in Ecuador
The currency change has been introduced to try to control Ecuador's economic crisis and spiralling inflation.

But as the US dollars became the only legal tender on Monday, many customers found that the lack of small change meant that some prices had in effect risen steeply.

Some people have had to use dollar bills to buy a newspaper priced at 25 cents, as sellers have been unable to offer them their change.

Market stall holders, shoeshine boys and other traders who rely on small change are also being hit.

There has been a lack of foresight by the government in not providing coins in time and in sufficient amounts

Economist Roberto Aguirre
"I have to keep taking sucre coins, if I don't, I can't make any sales," said fish stew seller Francisco Quijije.

The coin shortage was attacked by economist Roberto Aguirre, who said the government had not planned the switch thoroughly enough.

"There has been a lack of foresight by the government in not providing coins in time and in sufficient amounts," he said.

All trading is now supposed to be in dollars, but people have until March to switch any remaining sucres.

President Noboa
President Noboa: Policies have brought semblance of stability
Ecuador's Central Bank has estimated that up to $20m dollars' worth of the old currency has still not been traded in.

Some people still regard the adoption of the dollar as an affront to national sovereignty.

A wave of protests over the move contributed to the overthrow of President Jamil Mahuad's government last January.

A short-lived civilian military junta was taken over by senior military officers who quickly installed vice president Gustavo Noboa, a 63-year old law professor, as president.

Since the dollar began to be introduced in April, some confidence has returned to the country's financial institutions and the government says this shows that its strategy is working.

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See also:

29 Aug 00 | Americas
Ecuador's Indians call for uprising
15 Jun 00 | Americas
Ecuador faces new economic protests
09 Mar 00 | Americas
Ecuador adopts US dollar
11 Jan 00 | Americas
Bank approves Ecuador dollar plan
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