On August 4, the purchase of foreign currency at an exchange rate different from the official rate began in Cuba.Opapeleo provides a summary of everything announced by the Cuban government, WITHOUT intending to analyze the measures implemented.
According to the Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil, the purchase is significantly higher in relation to what was compared before the measure, and he highlighted the advantages such as legality in the transactions. He acknowledged that there is still no significant level of supply, and that the currency is accepted in the country for domestic consumption. Euros can be deposited and goods and services can be accessed in freely convertible currency; therefore, not all currencies have to be exchanged. Not all the currency being purchased by the national financial system is actually in cash at CADECAs or banks, as there are a number of transactions that are made electronically, including transfers from abroad that are credited to CUP accounts, and operations at ATMs. The Minister recalled that the initial objective of this first stage is to transfer to the national financial system the foreign currency that was reported to be operating in the black market.
According to the president of the Central Bank, Marta Sabina Wilson González, this process which began on August 4 was successful, and she pointed out that during these almost 20 days, there have been 10 times more foreign currency purchases than what would have been bought in a month with an exchange rate of 1×24, which means that the new exchange rate encourages people to sell their foreign currency to the financial system. According to her, the currency most exchanged in cash was the euro, followed by the dollar, and after that sterling pounds, Mexican pesos and other currencies. As of the 9th, it became possible to exchange money deposited in foreign currency accounts into Cuban pesos at the new exchange rate, at ATMs. These foreign currency cards can also be used to make payments in CUP through POS terminals, at the new exchange rate, or to withdraw cash at bank offices. In addition, payments for services by Transfermóvil and EnZona were permitted, using the cards in MLC, and transfers from a card in MLC to one in CUP, because of the new exchange rate, which means there is no need to go to the bank to make these transactions.
Resolution 137, governing this decision and to be published this Monday night in the Official Gazette, states that “[t]he institutions and cadecas and other institutions to be defined when appropriate, may begin to perform sales operations for natural persons. These operations will initially be cash only, because Cadeca (the institution chosen to start this process) has no way of matching the operations with the bank accounts. Performing this process using bank account cards will be delayed for a second stage.
The Minister President of the Central Bank of Cuba pointed out that people who buy foreign currency, when buying dollars, are not allowed to deposit them in bank accounts. This limitation – she explained – is still in place because the restrictions established by the blockade have not changed, restricting the country’s ability to export these dollars for deposit in bank accounts abroad in order to acquire the needed assets.
The president of the Central Bank of Cuba said that 37 exchange houses have been chosen across the country, mainly in the provincial capitals and in some municipalities, to begin implementing the sales mechanism for foreign currency. In the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud this will be implemented in the Banco Popular de Ahorro (BPA), as Cadeca has no representation in this territory. Cadeca’s directors will publish on its website the exchange houses initially selected to implement the sale, and the Central Bank and the other banking systems will also publish the information, to inform the population where to go to make their foreign currency purchase transactions.
It was confirmed that the exchange rate used for the exchange market operations remains at 120 CUP for one dollar, and that the difference between buying and selling is in the margins implemented by the banks. Initially, only natural persons will have access to this market, given the demand of natural persons to have access to a secure and reliable market, without any type of illegality, both nationals and foreigners. The Minister President of the BCC also highlighted that although the first step that was taken, i. e. the purchase of foreign currency, is maintained under the same conditions as approved by the measure and exactly the way it was implemented during the last 19 days. One important thing to keep in mind is the fact that there is a limit to implement the sale, because the markets are self-sustaining, and if one has a certain amount of foreign currency acquired, that is the amount that can be sold to the population.
Within the more specific measures, the following stand out:
- Cadeca will not sell at airports.
- Operations are limited to USD 100 or its equivalent in other currencies to enable more people to access this market and meet the existing demand, which is far greater than the supply.
- Foreign currency sales transactions in cash will have a margin of 5%, but 3% specifically for the dollar.
- The country still has two exchange rates and the limitation of depositing dollars in cash on cards for domestic consumption in stores in MLC.
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