BAKU (Guardian) — Azerbaijan’s currency has plummeted after moving to a floating exchange rate, causing a rush on dollars and shops as customers try to buy goods before prices increase.
The manat lost 32 percent to the dollar on December 21 following the central bank’s decision to stop protecting its value in the face of falling oil prices. The bank said it had lost more than half its foreign reserves trying to defend the currency.
But opposition leaders criticised authorities for allowing the manat to fall so dramatically.
“Azerbaijan has moved to a floating exchange rate but someone forgot to teach it how to swim,” said Natiq Cafarli, an economist and member of the opposition Republican Alternative.
Residents of Baku were angry at the sudden announcement and scrambled to convert their manats into foreign currency or durable goods.
“This is such a miserable situation for the whole nation,” one said. “Everyone wants to buy dollars and only a few [banks and exchange offices will] sell … There are almost no dollars left at exchange points.”