Venezuela again vows to launch new forex system soon

CARACAS, Venezuela, March 20 Thu Mar 20, 2014 4:13pm EDT

CARACAS, Venezuela, March 20 (Reuters) - Venezuela's long-awaited new foreign exchange system, which has already missed several promised start dates, will begin operations on Monday, the country's vice president for the economy said on Thursday.

The government has said several times in recent weeks that the system, Sicad 2, is about to start. The system is intended to weaken the black market for U.S. dollars and also to place more hard currency in the hands of importers.

"Sicad 2 will begin operating on Monday, March 24," the economy vice president, Rafael Ramirez, told state television. "Every day we have been testing the system, running tests from the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry."

Sources at private banks have told Reuters that prospective participants in Sicad 2 had yet to receive any of the literature explaining its rules, casting doubt on the latest launch date.

The new Sicad platform will add a third exchange rate to 11-year-old currency controls that sell dollars at 6.3 bolivars for preferential goods and around 11 bolivars for other items.

Officials say it will help lower the price of dollars on the black market, where greenbacks are fetching around 65 bolivars. That level has fallen from around 90 bolivars a couple of weeks ago.

Dollars can be offered in cash or bonds via Sicad 2 at a price above the other two official rates, but lower than the black market rate. Officials say the system will operate daily, and that businesses and individuals can take part. (Reporting by Diego Ore; writing by Daniel Wallis; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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