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Turkmen District Further Restricts Daily ATM Cash Withdrawals, Card Payments

People waiting to take out money from ATM machines in Ashgabat in August 2019.
People waiting to take out money from ATM machines in Ashgabat in August 2019.

DARGANATA, Turkmenistan -- Authorities in Turkmenistan's eastern Darganata district have further limited daily ATM cash withdrawals for individuals, another sign the Central Asian energy-rich nation may be cash-strapped.

An RFE/RL correspondent reported on April 6 from the district capital, Darganata, that over the weekend local automated tellers started giving clients a maximum of 100 manats per day, which is less than $30 by the official rate, and less than $5 on the black market, the main place where citizens can buy foreign currency

That is the lowest amount allowed to be withdrawn from ATMs in Turkmenistan per day since the authorities started introducing such limits since early 2018.

In February 2018, the daily limit for cash withdrawals per person was set as 1,000 manats. In November 2019, the amount was decreased to 800 manats. Last month, some ATMs started allowing people to withdraw 200 manats per day.

An RFE/RL correspondent also reported from Darganata that the daily limit for noncash transactions through bank cards in the district was set at 80 manats.

Turkmenistan's central bank established an official rate of 3.5 manats per dollar in 2015, and has not changed it since. Meanwhile, the rate on the black market is more than five times higher. Since January 2016, all currency exchange in cash has been banned.

Last week, the central bank ordered banks to pay salaries of employees of foreign companies, organizations, and entities operating in the country, only in Turkmenistan's national currency.

In March, Turkmenistan tightened controls over foreign currency in the country after China, the main buyer of its natural gas, slashed imports and global energy prices plunged.

Turkmenistan's tightly controlled economy has been struggling for months, with government revenues depleted in part to unsuccessful energy deals and low global prices for natural gas, the Central Asian country's main export.

With reporting by Reuters