Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tajikistan: Banking Crisis Nears Cracking Point

One of the countries we thought might be ripe for a color revolution this year. From January's "Report: UK, U.S., Russian troops in Libya":
Got a little (four years and counting) regime change going on here.

For those playing at home, some of the early betting favorites for 2016 are Moldova, Burundi, Tajikistan, Macedonia and Burkina Faso....
We'll probably be hearing next from Burundi as, to use Pepe Escobar's term, the "Empire of Chaos" seems to be ramping up faster there than in the other contenders.

From Eurasianet, Mar. 16:
Tajikistan’s banking system is edging closer to the precipice. Panic is spreading among customers at the country’s second-largest private lender, which services swaths of government workers and employees at international organizations.

Tojiksodirotbank’s cash dispensers are running dry. Customers are signing up to waiting lists in their thousands to withdraw whatever money they can. People whose salaries are transferred through the bank have not been paid for three months.

Firuze, a health worker with the state’s National Medical Center, said that when she saw the waiting list for hopeful Tojiksodirotbank depositors awaiting consultations had reached 3,000, she decided to swallow the added fee of withdrawing her savings from another lender.

“I am paid 50 somoni ($6.35) per shift, and I have four shifts per month. When I withdrew money from another bank, I was charged a 35 somoni commission. But nobody listens to our complaints,” she told EurasiaNet.org.

But now rival banks are balking at processing Tojiksodirotbank transactions, further sowing alarm. “My mother hasn’t withdrawn cash for the last five years — she wanted to save up. She asked me to withdraw her money, but I only just about managed to get 500 somoni ($63.5). She’ll have a heart attack if she finds out,” said Sulton, a Dushanbe resident in his thirties.

Because of the prevailing climate of state repression, many people prefer not to be identified for fear of retribution.

On March 14, Tojiksodirotbank issued a statement that attributed interruptions in its services to a switchover in its money-processing system. “Short-term disruptions in the functioning of bank cards are possible. We apologize for the inconvenience,” the statement said.

But signs of an impending banking meltdown have been present for a long time and have been further confirmed by a flurry of engagements with international financial organizations. Warning signs were clear from an International Monetary Fund report issued in February following an exploratory visit to Tajikistan.

“One large bank is already insolvent and another one fails to meet the prudential requirements. Under an adverse scenario the system-wide capital shortfall could be around 5 percent of gross domestic product. Banks are particularly sensitive to credit risk and market [exchange rate] risk, including via indirect credit risk from lending in foreign currency to unhedged borrowers,” the IMF said in its report.

Although the IMF did not mention the banks by name in its report, it is evident they were alluding to Tojiksodirotbank and Agroinvestbank.

Authorities are appealing for help wherever they can get it, as they struggle to restore liquidity to the country’s financial system.

The Financial Times reported in February that Tajikistan is in talks with the IMF to try and secure a $500 million bailout....MORE