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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Dutch plan euro giveaway
Gulden notes
The Dutch are racing to take the guilder out of circulation
By BBC World Business Report's Duncan Bartlett

On 1 January 2002 the euro finally becomes legal tender in 12 different countries.

More than 15 billion euro notes and 50 billion coins will be delivered to banks around Europe over the next few weeks in preparation.

The Netherlands has embraced the single currency with enthusiasm, and aims to complete the changeover in less than half the time that other countries are aiming for.

The government has undertaken an expensive advertising campaign and plans to give away free cash.

"All Dutch people of six years and older will get a letter in the first week of December containing a voucher. With that voucher they can get a free set of coins," said finance ministry spokesman Geroun Sprenger.

"It is a kind of gift from the government to mark the fact that it will be the new currency from the 1 January onwards."

The 'gift' is expected to total about 3.88 euros.

Ambitious plans

The Dutch have given themselves just 28 days to take the guilder out of circulation.

In contrast, other countries are allowing two months for the changeover.

Cor De Klerk, head of euro operations at ABN Amro, says the shorter time frame is putting pressure on business.

He believes that while most big companies, banks and financial institutions are well prepared for the changeover, many medium-sized companies are not.

"I think they still have a lot to do to get prepared not only for the changeover themselves, but also on their coins and notes preparations," he said.

Retail challenge

Retailers will initially have to accept guilders in payment from customers but give change in euros.

Frank Ponsionen, managing partner of the accountants Grant Thornton, says that may cause confusion.

He believes most people are aware of the euro but are not yet ready for the introduction of the new currency.

"They need to be trained in what the euro is all about - to convert their computer software, to convert their product pricing," he said.

"They have to train their employees and especially they have to get ready to order their coins and notes and not everyone is aware of that," he added.

Opinion polls show 70% of Dutch people are confident the euro will benefit their economy.

But they're also hoping that the big launch party on 1 January won't be followed by a terrible hangover.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Duncan Bartlett
"The Netherlands has embraced the single currency with enthusiasm"
See also:

30 Aug 01 | Business
Countdown to euro cash
29 Aug 01 | Business
Q&A: Euro cash launch
28 Aug 01 | Business
Euro launch creates inflation fears
26 Jul 01 | Business
Dutch relax over euro launch
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