Tajik central bank denies termination of ruble transfers

By bne IntelliNews February 8, 2016

Russian money transfer operators have halted money transfers in rubles to Tajikistan, news agency Asia-Plus reported on February 5. The agency said Zolotaya Korona had stopped offering transfers in rubles. The transfer operators now convert the rubles into either the somoni, the euro or the dollar before sending the money to Tajikistan, according to Asia-Plus. The Tajik National Bank has denied the validity of this information, citing the same sources.

Rubles are converted to somonis at the rate of RUB9.86 to the somoni in Russia as of February 8, while in Tajikistan the official rate stands at RUB10.38 to the somoni, which raises concerns for Tajik families as migrant workers would lose out on remittances if they have to convert the rubles at Russia’s rate. Zolotaya Korona told Asia-Plus that Tajik credit institutions no longer accepted rubles due to the Tajik National Bank’s new regulation from February 2 that requires Tajik credit institutions to release ruble remittances in somonis. As a result, Russian transfer operators need to convert rubles to other currencies before transfering the money. However, the task of converting the rubles to somonis was delegated to Tajik credit institutions, not Russian money transfer operators.

On the same day, the Tajik central bank clarified additional misconceptions about its plan to convert ruble remittances to somonis. Responding to reports by Asia-Plus and Avesta news agencies, the bank denied concerns that the ruble-to-somoni conversion rate would be based on the official central bank rate rather than the “unofficial market rate”. The bank will convert rubles to somonis based on the “market rate”, which deviates from the bank’s official rate. The bank illustrated an example that RUB1,000 amounted to TJS104 at the official rate, but at the “market rate” it stood at TJS107.5, which the bank argues to be a “favourable” rate for the Tajiks.  

The bank claims that the regulation will help support the somoni, proping up its exchange rate. The authorities are attempting to minimise currency exchange activities on the country’s black market. In January, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon ordered the authorities to set up more bank-affiliated exchange offices around the country to provide alternatives to illegal exchange offices. The black market rate of the somoni diverged to TJS7.6 to the dollar from the official rate of TJS6.72 on November 30 following the central bank’s decision to shut down all private exchange offices across the country and limit foreign exchange operations to banks and credit institutions. The bank’s new regulation does not so far apply to transfers in other foreign currencies. On January 28, currency dealers were changing cash dollars at TJS8.75 to the dollar on the black market, according to a Tajik opposition-run news website Tajinfo.org. As of February 8, the official rate stands at TJS7.84 to the dollar, according to figures by the Tajik central bank.

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