In what feels like a last throw of the dice, Turkmenistan is forbidding the purchase of foreign currencies as it tries to ensure its own currency, the manat, does not buckle.
The measure, which citizens hoping to trade in their cash for dollars and euros only learned about at bank branches on January 12, did not come as a total surprise.
For months, restrictions have slowly tightened as authorities watched with apparent dismay as Kazakhstan’s tenge and Azerbaijan’s manat collapsed. Starting last August, citizens were limited to exchanging $1,000 each month per person. Tellers at cash exchange points plugged passport details into a computer database to ensure against repeat attempts to change money elsewhere.
The clamor for foreign cash is being fueled by the anxiety of a long-rumored devaluation. Savers with large amounts of money in manat-denominated bank accounts were badly stung at the start of 2015, when the currency was suddenly devalued overnight from 2.85 to the current official rate of 3.50 to the dollar. Prior to that, account holders were offered recurring reassurances that no devaluation was on the way.
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