I walk to work in the center of Dushanbe every day, and, along the way, I pass dozens of places to change money. Most of them have signs identical to the one pictured above giving the exchange office’s buy (ХАРИД) and sell rates (ФУРЎШ) for the day on a variety of currencies against the Tajik somoni. Invariably, the US dollar is one of the currencies listed.
Last week, the dollar took a real dive against the somoni. Now, I don’t get paid in somoni (or dollars for that matter) and I make enough that most currency fluctuations won’t hit me too hard. That said, it was a bit odd to see the somoni go from approximately 4.88 to the dollar on last Thursday, down to about 4.60 to the dollar by last Sunday. I wasn’t aware of any macroeconomic event causing the shift, and I didn’t even hear anyone comment on the change. Just — poof! — and almost 6% of the value of the dollar disappeared in a few days for no apparent reason.
The only thing I can figure is that the streetside exchange offices like the one above offer a market rate for money exchange that is often fairly different from the rate set by the National Bank of Tajikistan. I know this because our contractors at work often whine that they are getting less than than expected when they get paid according to the National Bank rate rather than the market rate for contracts denominated in dollars. Hell, I whine about that too when I get my dollar-paid reimbursements back in somoni. So, I wonder if someone from the National Bank, or elsewhere in the government, leaned on the money changers for having a better exchange rate, which then caused the exchange offices to overcompensate with a rate worse than the National Bank rate.
Just conjuncture, who knows? All I know is that this morning on my walk to work, I spied the market rate above, 4.81 somoni to the dollar. Not exactly back to where we started, but it is quite a two-day rally for the dollar against the somoni. Maybe it’s time to short the somoni, if you could do such a thing.