Updated : August 5, 2019
After Burma’s Independence, the Burmese Government phased out the use of British and Indian currency, and introduced the Burmese currency.
For some time, the Burmese Currency was tied to the “Sterling Pound” and/or “Gold Reserve”. There was a limited number of Notes in circulation.
The Notes had “Ye Zar” to deter counterfeiting and were guaranteed. Some early ones had the signature of Sithu U Kaung (father of U Thaw Kaung, Daw Yee May Kaung and Daw Kyi May Kaung). Subsequent ones were signed by U San Lin. Some children were named after the signer of the currency notes. They include U San Lin (M87, Maung Lu Pay).
The coins in use include
- One Pya
- Five Pyas
- Ten Pyas
- Twenty five Pyas
- Fifty Pyas
The Notes include
- One Kyat
- Five Kyats
- Ten Kyats
When we were young, we received a daily allowance of 25 Pyas.
We paid five pyas for simple food items. For example, a 25-pack of “Mayan Yo” would cost 75 Pyas (wholesale at Theingyi Zaw). Each pack would be sold for 5 Pyas retail.
Mohinga would sell for 15 Pyas (without Ah Kyaw) and 25 Pyas (with Ah Kyaw).
Later, we would encounter the sad events
- Three Demonetization (with increasing degree of severity)
- Distribution of non-standard Notes (e.g. 15 Kyats, 35 Kyats, 75 Kyats, 90 Kyats) supposedly as Yadaya
- Not using Bogyoke Aung San’s pictures
The degradation of the monetary system and the high cost of living led in part to the 8-8-88 “Ah Yay Taw Pone”.
We would see the dramatic change in exchange rates.
Kyat versus Baht
In the early days, one Kyat traded for 4 Bahts.
Then it became “Baht Taik, Kyat Taik” where one Kyat is traded for one Baht. Bad, but not too bad.
It became really bad when Four Kyats are trade for One Baht. The spending power of Kyat has decreased dramatically (sixteen times from the early days).
Kyat versus USD (United States Dollar)
In our younger days, one US Dollar was traded for 5 Kyats. The book shops would use the rate 6 Kyats per USD. We could afford to buy text books, fiction, non fiction, comics and cartoons.
In the 80s, one USD was traded around 50 Kyats.
A few years back, one USD was traded around 1000 Kyats.
With growing inflation, the low end Notes and all Coins are no longer used.
Two years ago, we had a road trip to Upper Burma. One of the tolls was K400. When the car owner gave a K500 Note, a “Cho Chin” was returned. The lame excuse was that the toll booth did not have a 100 Kyat Note to pay the balance. Was it an example displaying the decline of economics and ethics?