Exchange rate data

The The UN World Food Prgram’s Rapid Food Security Assessment Mission (RFSA) offered some exchange rate data that I thought was worth pointing out:

Currently the official exchange rate is about USD1=KPW100 yet the market rate is closer to USD1=KPW3000. In other words, the redenomination of the national currency that occurred in November 2009 is all but neutralized. The effects of this policy on ordinary citizens appear to be mixed where people with over KPW 100,000 lost their savings. The purpose of such a policy was to control inflation by reducing money supply and to curb the growth in private enterprise. Worker salaries remained the same, but prices were reduced significantly.

The PDS prices were revised downwards in the wake of the currency revaluation making it even more affordable, at least in principle. For example, PDS prices of rice declined from KPW 44 to KPW 24 per kg and maize declined from KPW 24 to KPW 14. At these low prices the issue is the lack of commodities in the market, rather than consumers lacking money to purchase them.

An average worker makes around KPW 3,000 to KPW 4,000 per month. This translates into a dollar per month which only works in DPRK because everything is heavily subsidized and ordinary citizens do not rely on direct purchases of imported commodities. If PDS were to run out of cereals at the end April, people would not have the means to purchase cereals on the black market, where prices are KPW2000 per kilogram of rice and about KPW 1000 for maize. It is highly doubtful that the barter system which is the backbone of this informal economy will be able to withstand a shock of this magnitude over more than a couple of weeks. A humanitarian crisis is the likely outcome of such a series of events.


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