By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Three months after the official changeover to the euro, people are continuing to hoard nearly euro 600 million worth of old punts and pence, according to figures from the Central Bank.
The bank says almost 39 percent of old coins — worth _118 million punts (euro 150 million) — have yet to be exchanged.
Last Thursday was the last day the commercial banks accepted old coinage. It was also the last day for the free service offered by the Central Bank to exchange old legal tender notes from other euro-zone countries for euros.
The Central Bank will continue to exchange old banknotes and coins for euro indefinitely.
The figures show that old notes and coins with a value of _464.9 million are still in the public’s hands.
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Still not exchanged are _16 million worth of old _100 notes or about 16 percent.
There are about 5 percent of the _50 notes and 9 percent of the _20 notes that have still not been handed in.
Even more of the lower-value notes are still outstanding. Still not handed in are 24 percent of old tenners and about 38 percent of old fivers.
Central Bank spokesman Neil Whoriskey said the missing coinage would go back many years and they did not expect most of it would ever be exchanged.
Much of it would be lost and a proportion would have been taken home by departing tourists down the years.
“Many of the small coins just go missing,” he said. “People lose them.”
He urged people to change their old money.
“If there are people still holding old notes or coins, it is not doing them any good — unless they want to hold onto a particular note or a couple of coins for sentimental reasons,” he said.
Whoriskey added that if people do not want to go to the bother of counting and bagging old coins, they could give it to a number of charities that have launched fund-raising appeals for the old cash.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank bulletin also revealed that economic growth has dropped sharply and is expected to average 3 percent GDP this year – less than half the rate last year.
It estimates the economy grew by 6.75 percent GDP during 2001 but that the “deceleration in Ireland’s growth rate was much sharper than in most industrialized countries.”
It says growth remained robust in the early part of last year but activity weakened as the year progressed.
The difficulties of the IT sector globally, the impact of the events of Sept. 11 and the effects of the foot-and-mouth crisis last year all contributed to the slowdown.
“There are now signs that the international environment may be improving and there has also been some improvement in producer confidence domestically, along with reasonably robust domestic demand,” the report said. “While there are few indications of any significant output growth in the early part of this year, growth in the Irish economy should pick up during 2002 if the external environment continues to improve.”