Recession leaves piggy banks bare

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The Independent Online

It's official: people in Ireland literally raided their piggy banks as they were hit by some of the toughest austerity measures and the longest recession in Europe.

The Central Bank of Ireland issued less than half the number of coins last year than in 2008 and actually took €23m (£19m) worth of coins out of circulation in 2009, because of extra supply from coin jars at home, data showed.

The Central Bank of Ireland said in its annual report that the lower demand for coins "may reflect a reduction in hoarding of such coins as economic activity weakened".

Demand also fell as shops and pubs processed fewer cash transactions in the recession, while commercial banks returned coins instead of paying for storage, The Sunday Business Post newspaper said in an article on the data.

The Department of Finance, struggling with Europe's biggest budget deficit compared to the size of the economy, had to take a €30m charge on the coins to cancel out profits booked on earlier issuance.

"It could be the ultimate measure of how bad things got in the recession," The Sunday Business Post said. "The state has lost money by making money."