Banks in Uzbekistan are still not selling foreign currency, despite promises from the government it would be possible from October 1.
Authorities dealt a major blow to the black market currency trading business on September 5, when banks were given the go-ahead to start buying foreign denominations. Many are frustrated, however, that the same approval has not been given to sell dollars and euros in exchange for Uzbek sum.
Those coming to trade in their Uzbek money for dollars continue to be told that they cannot get hard cash, but that they can have $5,000 deposited onto their Mastercard or Visa cards once every quarter.
Clerks at two retail banks contacted by EurasiaNet.org said instructions have still not been issued to begin selling foreign currencies.
“There was some information about the sale of foreign money, but it hasn’t started yet, and we don’t know when it’s going to start,” said Sarvinoz, an employee at Ipoteka Bank.
A worker at another bank said the order might not come through until October 10.
“As far as I have heard, the authorization is being prepared and has to be approved at all levels, including the Justice Ministry, the Senate and the Central Bank,” he told EurasiaNet.org.
It is not immediately evident whether there will be restrictions on how much money can be changed. In Tashkent, the hiccups in the system have led to the reappearance of black market traders, who are able and willing to provide foreign cash, at their regular spots.
It remains too early to say whether these are kinks that will be gradually ironed out or if the banking system is still too sclerotic to properly meet demand. Long lines are a commonplace and changing money can, in some places, take several hours, rather than the few minutes it has always taken down at the bazaar.
Predictions about the potential withering of the black market may be premature.