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Last Updated: Friday, 31 December, 2004, 14:22 GMT
Turkey knocks six zeros off lira
New Turkish 20 lira note
Turkey hopes the new currency will help stimulate trade
Turkey is to relaunch its currency on Saturday, knocking six zeros off the lira in the hope of boosting trade and powering its growing economy.

The change will see the end of such dizzyingly-high denominations as five million lira - enough for a short taxi ride - and the 20m note, worth $15.

These valuations were the product of decades of inflation which, as recently as 2001, was as high as 70%.

Inflation has since been tamed and economic prospects are improving.

New year, new lira

The currency - officially to be known as the new lira - will be launched at midnight on 1 January.

From that point, the one-million lira note will become the new one-lira coin.

The government hopes the change will be seen as a promise of growing economic stability as Turkey embarks on the long process of trying to join the European Union.

The new lira is the symbol of the stable economy that we dreamed of for long years
Sureyya Serdengecti, Turkish Central Bank

On an everyday level, it is hoped the change will stimulate more international trade and end confusion among foreign investors and Turks alike.

"The transition to the new Turkish lira shows clearly that our economy has broken the vicious circle that it was imprisoned in for long years," said Sureyya Serdengecti, head of the Turkish Central Bank.

"The new lira is also the symbol of the stable economy that we dreamed of for long years."

Harsh medicine

The Turkish economy teetered on the brink of collapse in 2001 when the lira plunged in value and two million people lost their jobs.

Chefs in an Istanbul restaurant
Turkish businesses are having to adapt to the new currency

Turkey had to turn to the International Monetary Fund for financial assistance, accepting a $18bn loan in return for pushing through a wide-ranging austerity programme.

These tough measures have borne fruit.

Inflation fell below 10% earlier this year for the first time in decades while exports are up 30% this year.

Meanwhile, the economy is expanding at a healthy rate, with 7.9% growth expected in 2004.

The government hopes that the new currency will cement the country's economic progress, two weeks after EU leaders set a date for the start of Turkey's accession talks.

Cosmetic change?

The slimmed-down lira is likely to be widely welcomed by the business community.

This will affect people psychologically
Hayriye Evren, shop owner

"The Turkish lira has been like funny money," Tevfik Aksoy, chief Turkish economist for Deutsche Bank, told Associated Press.

"Now at least in cosmetic terms it will look like real currency."

However, some do not feel quite so happy about seeing the nominal value of their investments reduced.

"If a person has 10 billion lira in investments this will suddenly decrease," shop owner Hayriye Evren, told Associated Press.

"This will definitely affect people psychologically."

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