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UPDATE 1-Sierra Leone knocks zeros off bank notes in currency re-calibration

·1 min read

(Adds quote from president)

FREETOWN, July 1 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone will launch a re-denominated currency on Friday, knocking three zeros off bank notes but keeping their value unchanged, the central bank said.

Financial transactions with the West African country have been suspended since Wednesday in preparation for the re-calibration of the leone currency, Central Bank Governor Kelfala Murana Kallon told Reuters.

President Julius Maada Bio was the first person to use the new notes at a central bank launch event in the capital, Freetown, on Friday.

Maada Bio said the change was needed to simplify accounting records, reduce cash volumes needed for transactions and do away with other inconveniences and inefficiencies.

"We have removed three zeros but the money yesterday is the same value as the money today: new notes, same value. The value of your pension, your debts, your rents and your salary remains the same," he said in a video posted to his Twitter feed.

The change comes amid efforts to strengthen the tumbling leone, which is now fluctuating at about 13,000 to the dollar.

"It is a psychological boost knowing that the leone has appreciated against the dollar, at least on the face of it," university student Ibrahim Mattia told Reuters.

But critics, including the main opposition All People's Congress party, say the re-denomination is confusing and adds no value.

"So much uncertainty," said civil servant, Mohamed Koroma. "We wait to see where this cosmetic move leads us to amid the present hard economic climate."

The denominations of Sierra Leone's bank notes are currently 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,0000 leone. (Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Editing by Sofia Christensen and Clarence Fernandez)