Despite all the desperate and draconian measures being adopted by authorities in Tajikistan, the national currency has continued its downward trajectory.
The somoni officially closed 2015 at 6.99 against the dollar, but that slipped to 7.19 on January 6 — a more than 2.5 percent slide in under a week. (It has been a steady drop — although vastly less steep than Kazakhstan — since the start of 2015, when the official rate was 5.3 somoni to the dollar.)
And if at the end of the year, the dollar was selling in the banks at 7.45 somoni, banks’ websites are now showing 7.7 somoni. Meanwhile, banks are buying dollars at 7.4 somoni.
A $400 daily limit has also been placed on how many dollars account-holders can draw on their cards.
In December, the central bank suspected operations at all money exchange points, citing speculation, leaving only banks the right to perform the transactions. Anybody carrying out unauthorized currency exchanges could face stiff penalties, the central bank said.
All the while, authorities assured people that there was enough foreign currency to go around. Indeed, the central bank warned authorized credit organizations that failure to provide exchange service on more than two occasions could lead to penalties up to and including license revocation.
The warnings have had little effect. EurasiaNet.org visited several banks around the capital, Dushanbe on January 6 and found that banks authorized (obliged even) to sell dollars were unable (or unwilling) to do so. Banks will buy dollars, but refuse to sell it.
“If you want yuan, if you want Russian (rubles), you can have it, but we cannot sell you dollars. We are forbidden from selling it,” said a teller at one bank in Dushanbe.
Meanwhile, the black market is flourishing.
Money exchangers with a familiar client base are taking the risk of criminal sanctions to sell and buy dollars, albeit at the more exorbitant rates of 7.8-7.9.
There are reports that the rate in the northern city of Khujand, in the Sughd province, has hit 8 somoni to the dollar.
Experts warn that even 8 to the dollar is far from the bottom and even believe the rate could slip to 10 some time this year.
Remittances from Russia in January-September in 2015 dropped by 65.1 percent to $1.54 billion compared to the same period the previous year, when the figure stood at $3.16 billion.