Unique-Afghan central financial institution drained greenback stockpile earlier than Kabul fell

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Males are pictured as Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled central financial institution seizes a big amount of cash in money and gold from former prime authorities officers, together with former vp Amrullah Saleh, in Afghanistan, on this handout obtained by

By John O’Donnell and Rupam Jain

FRANKFURT/MUMBAI (Reuters) – The Afghan central financial institution ran down most of its U.S. greenback money reserves within the weeks earlier than the Taliban took management of the nation, based on an evaluation ready for Afghanistan’s worldwide donors, exacerbating the present financial disaster.

The confidential, two-page temporary, written early this month by senior worldwide financial officers for establishments together with the World Financial institution and Worldwide Financial Fund, mentioned the nation’s extreme money scarcity started earlier than the Taliban took management of Kabul.

It criticised how the central financial institution’s former management dealt with the disaster within the months earlier than the Taliban’s conquest, together with choices to public sale unusually giant quantities of U.S. {dollars} and transfer cash from Kabul to provincial branches.

“FX (overseas change) reserves in CB’s (central financial institution) vaults in Kabul have depleted, the CB can’t meet … money requests,” the report, seen by Reuters, mentioned.

“The most important supply of the issue is the mismanagement on the central financial institution previous to the Taliban takeover,” it added.

Shah Mehrabi, chairman of the central financial institution’s audit committee who helped oversee the financial institution earlier than the Taliban took over and continues to be in his publish, defended the central financial institution’s actions, saying it was attempting to forestall a run on the native Afghani foreign money.

The extent of the money scarcity may be seen on the streets of Afghan cities, the place individuals have been queuing for hours to withdraw greenback financial savings amid strict limits on how a lot they’ll take out.

Even earlier than the shock of the Western-backed authorities’s collapse, the financial system was struggling, however the return of the Taliban and abrupt finish of billions of {dollars} in overseas support has left it in deep disaster.

Costs for staples like flour have spiralled whereas work has dried up, leaving thousands and thousands dealing with starvation as winter approaches.

AID DRIES UP

Underneath the earlier authorities, the central financial institution relied on money shipments of $249 million, delivered roughly each three months in packing containers of sure $100 notes and saved within the vaults of the central financial institution and presidential palace, based on three individuals with direct information of the matter.

That cash has dried up as overseas powers shrink back from dealing straight with the Taliban, which fought towards overseas troops and the ousted authorities. Hundreds of individuals – a lot of them civilians – died.

The central financial institution, which performs a key position in Afghanistan as a result of it distributes support from nations like the USA, mentioned on Wednesday it had finalised a plan to fulfill the nation’s overseas foreign money wants. It gave no particulars.

The onerous foreign money crunch is making it troublesome for the Taliban to fulfill fundamental wants, together with paying for energy or dispersing salaries to authorities staff, a lot of whom haven’t been paid in months.

Afghanistan’s roughly $9 billion of offshore reserves have been frozen as quickly because the Taliban captured Kabul, leaving the central financial institution with simply the money in its vaults.

In response to the report, the central financial institution auctioned off $1.5 billion between June 1 and Aug. 15 to native overseas change sellers, which it mentioned was “strikingly excessive”.

“By August 15, the Central Financial institution had an impressive legal responsibility of $700 million and 50 billion Afghanis ($569 million) in the direction of the business banks,” it mentioned, including that this had been a significant factor in emptying its coffers.

Afghan central financial institution official Mehrabi mentioned, nonetheless, that though virtually $1.5 billion of auctions had been introduced, the precise quantity bought was $714 million.

He mentioned the central financial institution had “continued its overseas change public sale to scale back the depreciation and inflation.”

MONEY MISSING?

The report additionally questioned a choice by the central financial institution to shift a few of its reserves to provincial branches, placing it in danger as Taliban militants made advances throughout the nation from late 2020 within the runup to their victory.

It mentioned round $202 million was saved in these branches on the finish of 2020, in contrast with $12.9 million in 2019, and that the money was not moved as provinces began to fall to the insurgents.

“Some cash is reportedly misplaced (stolen) from ‘some’ of the provincial branches,” the report mentioned, with out specifying how a lot.

Mehrabi mentioned the central financial institution was investigating cash “stolen” from three of its branches, though not by the Taliban. He gave no additional particulars.

Former central financial institution governor Ajmal Ahmady, who left the nation the day after Kabul fell, didn’t reply to emails and different messages requesting touch upon his and the financial institution’s actions within the months earlier than the Taliban returned to energy.

Ahmady has mentioned on Twitter (NYSE:) in current weeks that he did his greatest to handle the state of affairs, and blamed any money shortfall on the freezing of central financial institution property overseas.

In his statements, he additionally mentioned the central financial institution had managed the financial system properly previous to the autumn of Kabul and that he felt dangerous about leaving employees behind however feared for his security. He has mentioned no cash was stolen from any reserve account.

($1 = 87.8700 Afghanis)

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