In a measure of Turkmenistan’s despair, authorities on January 12 halted the sale of all foreign currencies as demand for dollars and euros continued to pile pressure on the manat.
Workers at banks in Ashgabat informed customers that the restriction would remain in place indefinitely.
And while there have been reports on black market soaring, the signs are that illegal trading in foreign currency is being much more strictly policed than in earlier years. Bans on the sale of dollars occurred in the days of the late President Saparmurat Niyazov, when the manat experienced periods of high volatility, but access to the black was in those days far easier.
The official manat rate has stubbornly stayed fast at 3.50 to the dollar since January 1, 2015, when it fell from 2.85 in a sudden one-off devaluation.
Lines have been forming outside banks for several weeks now as people holding manat desperately seek to offload them for any currency they can obtain.
Banking authorities in the nearby countries, like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, have meanwhile been compelled to relent to varying degrees and allow their national currencies to slide.
Opposition websites have reported that black markets in Mary and Balkanabat are selling dollars at 4.20 manat. That figure could not be independently confirmed.
Customers trying to exchange their manat have been told by officials at money exchange that if they plan to travel abroad, they should use Visa and Mastercard to draw foreign currencies from their Turkmen bank account. Those account-holders are eligible to convert $1,000 from manat into dollars onto their account, although they cannot not draw this in cash in-country.
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