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Taliban Shut Down Money Market

April 19, 2000

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ The ruling Taliban shut down Kabul’s money market Wednesday to stop a freefall of the Afghan currency, which has nose-dived 30 percent in three weeks.

According to World Food Program figures the Afghani was selling for 55,075 to the U.S. dollar on March 31. On Wednesday it traded at 75,000 and many money dealers in Kabul have begun refusing to exchange the Afghani.

Before the Taliban ordered the money market shut, people were seen lugging bags of Afghani notes trying to find a money dealer who would exchange the currency.

The Taliban have blamed the weakening currency on a flood of paper money coming from opposition territory and finding its way into Taliban-held areas. The opposition, led by ousted president Burhanuddin Rabbani, still receives shipments of currency from a Russian currency printer.

The Taliban say a drought in south and western Afghanistan has further weakened the currency.

Shattered by two decades of war, Afghanistan has few functioning financial institutions and the Taliban have limited expertise to handle the freefall of the currency.

``Everyone is trying to sell their Afghanis, but there just aren’t any buyers,″ said Mohammed Amin, a currency dealer. ``Everyone is after dollars or the Pakistani rupee.″

``I think everything has gone crazy here,″ said Mohammed Jabbar, a flour dealer in the beleaguered Afghan capital.

For the impoverished people of Kabul, who earn on average 80,000 Afghanis a month, the plummeting currency has been devastating, sending the price of food soaring. Flour has jumped 40 percent this month.

In Kabul’s biggest market, shopkeepers have begun closing food stores. Ghulam Dastaki said that the money he made on the food he sold Tuesday was not enough to buy more food on Wednesday.

``By the time I got to the market with the money I made selling my food the prices have doubled,″ he said.

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