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60th Anniversary of Indonesia~Myanmar

K5000 note achieves objective of making big transactions easier

By Edward Xu and Kyle Sherer
July 19 - 25, 2010
A K5000 note
A K5000 note sits on top of a stack of old and new coins. Pic: Seng Mai

WHEN the K5000 note was abruptly announced last year, there were fears that the high value denomination – boldly adorned with the emblem of a white elephant – would devalue notes at the lower end of the scale.

But nine months after it was thrust into circulation, there is evidence that it is achieving its intended purpose of making large purchases easier.

The K5000 note, worth about US$5, was announced on September 24 last year and issued a week later on October 1, surpassing the K1000 note as the nation’s highest value legal tender, apart from the Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC).

For businesses with large cash flows, the K5000 presents a welcome change from moving mountains of K1000 notes.

U Zaw Zaw, manager of Unity real estate, said businesses that deal with large amounts of money definitely benefit from the K5000 note.

“When we deal with amounts of money that range in the millions or billions of kyat, the K5000 is more commonly used now,” he said.

“When banks give us big amounts of money using K200, K500, or K1000 notes, they are difficult to work with because they are inconvenient to carry around and count. The K5000 is useful because there are fewer stacks of cash, and they’re lighter to transport.”

Ma Thin Thin Soe, sales director at the KMD computer sales centre, said that when customers buy computers, which can cost between up to K800,000 at her shop, the K5000 note is more convenient to deal with.

But she added that K5000 notes make up a minority of the money that comes in, with K1000 notes still the currency of choice for her customers.

Likewise, in the hospitality industry, the K5000 is visible but not dominant.

Ei Ei Nge, communications manager at the Parkroyal Hotel Yangon, said that K5000 notes make up roughly 10 percent of the notes they receive, adding that the hotel also uses the K5000 note when paying staff salaries.

Daw Ei Shwe Sin, assistant director of sales at the Chatrium Hotel, said K5000 notes have been filtering into the hotel for roughly six months, though they are still a rare sight.

At 50th Street Bar and Restaurant, which attracts a mixed clientele of expatriates, tourists and locals, the K5000 note only makes rare appearances, according to general manager Phil Blackwood.

“I’ve seen them in people’s wallets but they must save them for a rainy day because they don’t pay us with them,” he said, although after checking with his finance department, he confirmed that the restaurant had received a few.

“We get paid in kyat, but in K1000 notes. It would be good if we got K5000 notes. And K10,000 or K50,000 notes would be good as well,” he said.

“The people who do have K5000 notes tend to be locals rather than foreigners,” he added.

Another money changer, working in a nearby area, said that he deals in K5000 notes “once in a while”.

“People who change dollars to kyat like the K5000 note. It’s easier to deal with. I started seeing them from the moment they were introduced and I haven’t heard anything about fakes,” he said.

While the customers of the money changers appreciate the convenience of the K5000 note, the changers themselves said they have little use for them.

“If I tried using a K5000 note at a betel nut stand they wouldn’t take it,” said the first money changer. “In fact, they probably wouldn’t have enough change.”

That sentiment was echoed by some small business owners in the city.

“For merchants, it’s small and easy to carry around,” said a woman who runs a street-side teashop.

What people think of the note

A K5000 note
U Myat Soe, 40 years old, taxi driver:

Sometimes I start the day with just a K1000 note – if someone tries to pay me with a K5000 note I have to give them the ride for free.

A K5000 note
Daw Myint Myint Khine, 50 years old, housewife:

I’ve only used a K5000 note three or four times, but I like them and haven’t had any trouble with them as yet.