EVEN a modest rate of inflation compounds over time. This is why your tipsy grandfather might wistfully recall how little a pint of beer cost in his heyday. In Venezuela, where prices are rising at a four-figure annual rate, the good old days were last month. The defence minister, Vladimir Padrino López, on January 19th urged business leaders to peg back prices to their levels of December 15th, when presumably everything was just fine.
The spending power of the bolívar, Venezuela’s currency, had collapsed long before then. The Economist’s Big Mac Index gives a rough guide to how fast it has fallen. The index is based on the idea of purchasing-power parity (PPP), which says a fair-value exchange rate is one that leaves consumer prices the same in different countries. In our index, the price of a Big Mac is a proxy for all goods. In Caracas, this week, a Big Mac cost 145,000 bolívars; in American cities, it cost an average of $5.28. The ratio of those prices gives a PPP exchange rate of 27,500 bolívars. Two years ago, the rate was 27 bolívars. By this yardstick, the currency has lost 99.9% of its value in almost no time.