Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Afghan Currency Along the Pakistani Border

. Sunday, January 2, 2011

Many traders in East Afghanistan will not accept their own currency as payment. They would rather sell their goods for Pakistani rupees - to the anger of the Central Bank. Whether cookies or cars: salesmen prefer rupees.

An afghani is actually worth almost twice as much as a Pakistani rupee. But taxi drivers in East Afghanistan think otherwise, which often leads to conflict. Recently, for instance, in the vegetable market in the centre of Jalalabad, a rickshaw driver got into a fight with a customer. The client paid the agreed 50 rupees with a 50 afghani note and demanded change. About 25 afghani. But the driver refused, saying: “As far as I’m concerned, afghanis and rupees are the same”.

For decades, the Pakistani rupee was the main currency in markets and shops in Jalalabad. It still is, despite President Karzai’s financial reforms a few years ago, whereby the introduction of the afghani provided a stable currency for the first time in many years.

1 afghani is worth 1.88 rupees - at least in theory

Pakistan is only a few kilometres away from Jalalabad. Most imports and exports come across this border. Because Afghanistan does not have its own access to the sea, it depends on the Pakistani port of Karachi. Furthermore, roughly 1.7 million Afghan refugees still live in Pakistan. They also contribute to the fact that the economies of both countries in the border region are so closely linked.
Bilal, for example, has a fruit and vegetable shop near Jalalabad. He buys his produce mostly with rupees, so prefers his clients to also pay him in Pakistani money. When he himself goes shopping, he likes to pay in the foreign currency. In this way, he saves himself the hassle of having to exchange money. He also saves money, since money changers give him only half an afghani for every rupee, despite rupees and afghanis having equal value in the market place.
I also found this nugget of information incredibly interesting:
Many government workers benefit from being paid in afghani. As the head of the union of money changers, Ghulam Mustafa Rahimi, confirms, many employees immediately exchange their salary into rupees at the official rate, and so receive more for their money.
There's more on the Afghan currency at Afghanistan Today.

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The Afghan Currency Along the Pakistani Border
 
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