Turkmenistan exchange bureaus stop selling foreign currency

January 12, 2016 Reuters

Exchange bureaus in Turkmenistan stopped selling foreign currency on Tuesday, citing an order from the central bank and prompting a jump in black market rates as ordinary Turkmens fear a fresh devaluation.

Clerks at two bureaus visited by a Reuters correspondent in the capital, Ashgabat, said they were only buying foreign currency and cited a central bank order. The bank has not published any documents or statements on its website and could not be reached for comments.

For the last few months, long queues could be seen daily outside of exchange bureaus in Ashgabat as Turkmens rushed to convert their savings into dollars and euros, fearing a devaluation of the national currency, the manat.

Turkmenistan, whose main export is natural gas, devalued the manat by about 19 percent to 3.50 manats per dollar from Jan. 1, 2015, and some had expected another adjustment around the same date this year.

Neighbouring Kazakhstan, also an exporter of hydrocarbons, switched to a floating exchange rate last August. Since then, its currency, the tenge, has lost almost half its value against the dollar.

With Turkmen exchange bureaus refusing to sell dollars, the greenback jumped to 4.00 to 4.20 manats on the black market on Tuesday from 3.60 to 3.70 manats.

(Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov)