Afghanistan central bank says it is acting to halt currency slide

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Afghanistan’s central bank said on Tuesday it was working to ensure the stability of the afghani, a day after the currency lost almost 12 percent of its value against the dollar in a matter of hours amid a deepening economic crisis and soaring inflation.

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The abrupt withdrawal of foreign aid following the Taliban victory in August has left Afghanistan’s fragile economy on the brink of collapse, with prices for food, fuel and other basic staples rising rapidly out of reach for many.

Starved of dollars that used to be physically shipped in to Afghanistan, and cut off from the world financial system by the fear of US sanctions, the banking system is only partially functional and some $9 billion in central bank reserves remain blocked outside the country.

The central bank issued a statement saying that it had held a number of meetings with foreign exchange dealers, representatives of commercial banks and the business sector to halt the fall in the afghani.

“Based on its strategic planning policies, Da Afghanistan Bank has always tried to avoid volatility that could be harmful to the purchasing power of the people,” it said.

Efforts to bring in cash have been hampered by international reluctance to provide funds to the Taliban government, which is still not officially recognised by any other country.

The crisis has accelerated sharply in recent days. On Monday, the afghani, which traded at around 77 to the dollar before the fall of Kabul and at 97 a week ago, dropped from 112 to the dollar in the morning at Kabul’s Sarai Shazada money market to 125 by the afternoon.

Meanwhile within the space of a week, wholesalers said the price of a 50 kilogram sack of flour had risen by between 20-40 percent to between 2,800-3,200 afghani from 2,300 a week ago, with sugar up by a third and rice up by more than 15 percent.

Last week, the US Treasury Department formalised guidance allowing personal remittances to Afghanistan and protecting senders and financial institutions from US sanctions, offering some hope to those with relatives outside the country.

Longer term, business people said prospects were hampered by the structural weakness in an economy whose main exports apart from illegal narcotics were dried fruit and handmade carpets, and the lack of a clear economic plan from the new government.

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