Confused by Venezuela's Currency Chaos? There's an App for That

(Bloomberg) -- Confused by Venezuela’s re-denomination of the bolivar this week, which lopped off five zeros from the currency to cope with a bout of hyperinflation?

There’s an app for that.

Venezuela’s central bank rolled out the Sovereign Calculator for Android phones this week. The calculations it performs aren’t particularly complex -- telling users, for example, that 100,000 of the old bolivars are now worth 1 of the new version. But it’s already been downloaded more than 5,000 times on Google Play, where it enjoys a nearly five-star rating from the 47 reviews it’s received.

“The Sovereign Calculator, a tool for everyone and all Venezuelans, is the best ally people will have to understand and assimilate the monetary re-denomination process,” the central bank said on Twitter. “Download it now!”

The developer, Comunicacion Digital VE, has created other apps that seem supportive of Venezuela’s socialist government. “Super Bolivar” is a game about independence hero Simon Bolivar, “Todo Chavez” celebrates the late President Hugo Chavez and “Vamos Nico!” appears designed to whip up support for embattled President Nicolas Maduro.

Miscalculating regulated prices in Venezuela could be costly both for consumers and store owners as the new currency rolls out after a devaluation. Authorities arrested several merchants Wednesday accused of exorbitant price increases following the 95 percent plunge in the official rate. Others were cited for only cutting off three zeros instead of five.

To add to the bedlam, shoppers still need to calculate what goods cost at the black-market exchange rate, which hasn’t disappeared. While the official sovereign bolivar is now set at 60 per dollar, the black-market rate is 40 percent weaker at about 100 to the greenback.

While the app can handle that calculation as well, it doesn’t appear programmed to spit out U.S. dollar equivalents just yet.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.