Turkmenistan lowers limit for ATM withdrawals abroad


ASHGABAT (TCA) — Authorities in Turkmenistan have reduced the limit on cash withdrawals from ATMs abroad for the third time this year, in an apparent attempt to keep more money in the country amid an economic downturn, RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service reported.

The State Bank of Foreign Economic Activity announced on November 6 that clients traveling or residing abroad can now withdraw no more than $50 or its equivalent per day from ATMs in other countries.

The new regulation also restricts the size of transactions abroad to $200.

The main foreign destination for Turkmen citizens is Turkey, which is one of the few countries where they can travel without a visa. Some go there to find work, with cultural and linguistic similarities making it easier.

In March, the Bank cut the daily limit on withdrawals abroad from $1,000 to $250. In October, it was reduced to $100 per day.

Tightly controlled Turkmenistan’s economy is struggling, with government revenues depleted due in part to unsuccessful energy deals and low world prices for natural gas, the country’s main export.

There have been shortages of staple foods in shops, and the government has decreased or abandoned subsidies on prices of household needs such as water, gas, and electricity.

The Turkmen national currency, the manat, fell abruptly on the black market in October, from 7.5 manats to 9 manats to the U.S. dollar. The fixed official rate has stood at 3.5 manats per dollar since 2015.

Government critics and human rights groups say President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the restrictive country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.

Like Niyazov, Berdymukhammedov long relied on subsidized prices for basic goods and utilities to help maintain his grip on power.

Sergey Kwan