02/03/08 (B437) All Africa. COM / Deux avions remplis de fausse monnaie somalienne, attendus au Somaliland. Somalia: Planeloads of False Currency Expected in Puntland (en Anglais – Info lecteur)

Two airplanes loaded with counterfeit Somali Shillings were expected to land in the country’s northern port city of Bossaso Friday but delayed for yet-unspecified reasons, Garowe Online has learned.

Each plane carried a load of the counterfeit cash, estimated to be somewhere between 16 and 22 billion Shillings, confidential sources said.

The false currency was printed overseas and transported by plane to Puntland, a self-governing region in northeastern Somalia.

Bossaso locals reported today that police units and huge vehicles used to transport the counterfeit cash were waiting at the airport for hours, but left after both planes failed to show.

Puntland President Adde Muse, Finance Minister Mohamed Gaagaab and Security Minister Abdullahi Said Samatar were all waiting at the presidential palace in Bossaso, sources said.

There are fears that hyperinflation experienced in the region since mid-2007 could worsen, due to the new false currency flooding local markets and devaluing the U.S. dollar.

Currently, a single U.S. dollar is being exchanged between 26,000 and 27,000 Shillings, the highest rates the region has ever known, according to traders.

Last month, Somalis across Puntland’s major cities, including Garowe, Bossaso and Galkayo, protested against rising inflation due to the false currency’s impact on the local economy.

A Bossaso businessman speaking with Garowe Online on the condition of anonymity suggested that a « humanitarian crisis » might engulf the region if immediate steps are not taken to stop the false currency from destroying the market.

Traders and ordinary citizens alike have been adversely affected by the spike in prices for necessary goods, including food, the business contact said.

But it is not clear whether or not anyone can stop the false currency from flooding local markets and severely impacting an already-battered economy.

Sources in the national capital Mogadishu said the Somali transitional government « has a stake » in the two planeloads of fake cash, because the cash-strapped, Ethiopian-backed government seeks hard currency to continue its costly attempt to pacify the restless capital.

Since his appointment last November, Prime Minister Nur « Adde » Hassan Hussein has not addressed the issue of false Shillings that has impacted lives of millions, in Puntland and as far south as the port of Kismayo.