ASHGABAT -- Turkmenistan’s already battered currency slid sharply, as black market rates reached 40 manats to the U.S. dollar, down nearly 50 percent since January.
The manat has been under pressure for months now, a slide blamed in part on a decrease in remittances sent by Turkmen migrant workers from Turkey to their families.
In mid-January, the manat was trading on the black market for around 27 or 28 to the dollar.
In recent weeks, however, the currency has slid further, and on April 3, RFE/RL correspondents in the capital Ashgabat reported that the manat had reached 38 to the dollar by midday, and 40 by day’s end.
The decline has been blamed by experts in part on the recent opening of the Turkmen-Iranian border, which was closed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Turkmen government has denied the existence of COVID-19 in the country, despite substantial evidence otherwise.
The central bank established an official rate of 3.5 manats per dollar in 2015 and has not changed it since. All currency exchange in cash has been banned since January 2016.
Turkmenistan's tightly controlled economy has been struggling for some time, with government revenues depleted partly due to unsuccessful energy deals and low global prices for natural gas.
The Central Asian country sits on some of the world’s largest proven reserves of gas.
The currency crunch began in March 2020, when the government tightened control over foreign currency after China, the main buyer of Turkmen gas, slashed imports and global energy prices plunged.
At the time, the central bank ordered banks to pay salaries of employees of foreign companies, organizations, and entities operating in the country, only in manats.
Last month, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov demanded that officials ensure “strict control over the implementation of regulations when converting manat funds into foreign currency at the official rate."