Magazine article Geographical

Questions & Answers

Magazine article Geographical

Questions & Answers

Article excerpt


How much money is there in circulation in the world at current exchange rates? How much currency is in circulation in the UK alone? Stephen Murray, UK

The most recent available data was for February 1999, when an average of 27.38 [pounds sterling] billion in cash was in circulation in this country. This includes the money in bank and building society tills. The Bank of England's website has a weekly breakdown of what it calls the `M nought' figure and other information at

A Bank of England spokesperson

I would say this is literally impossible for the whole world. But the Bank for International Settlements in Basle (BIS), Switzerland, made some efforts to estimate this amount for 10 countries. These are Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and US. For full details on the gazillions of centimes, lire, pfennigs and dimes in people's pockets or stuck down the back of the world's sofas, look for Statistics on Payments Systems in the Group of ten Countries under publications at

Being able to estimate the total amount of money in the world depends on the regulatory body of each country keeping a clear record of bank notes and coins issued and recalled. Usually it's a relatively straightforward matter but sometimes outside forces intervene. In Ukraine, for example, at the time of the former Soviet Union's collapse the only way to ensure there was enough money in circulation was for authorities to colour-copy bank notes. Even otherwise reliable Switzerland has a few complications. Its Reisekasse or `travel cash' which is accepted by petrol stations, restaurants and hotels complicates the picture: it's certainly a form of currency, but not one that's easy to track or quantify.

An economist at BIS, Switzerland


How many different tribes of pygmy people are there in the world today? Denise Wilcocks, Devon

There are 14 pygmy groups in Africa: Beku, Bongo, Jelli, Koa, Kola, Kuta, Rimba, Yaga, Twa, Gesera, Zigaba, Mbuti, Aka and Efe. Some also consider the Negritos of the Philippines, the Andaman Islands and some of the Malay peninsula to be pygmies. …

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