UPDATE 2-Kazakhstan tightens foreign exchange controls to support tenge

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ALMATY, March 23 (Reuters) - Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered state-owned companies on Monday to start selling part of their foreign currency revenue on the domestic market to support the local tenge currency, his office said.

Tokayev also said his government was increasing to $10 billion its package of stimulus measures aimed at softening the impact of the oil price crash and the coronavirus outbreak on the Central Asian nation’s economy.

The tenge has lost about 14% of its value against the dollar since the collapse of the global oil producers’ pact which sent the price of crude, Kazakhstan’s key export, into free fall.

At a meeting with his cabinet, Tokayev ordered state-owned companies to start converting their foreign-currency deposits into tenge and to pay out up to 100% of last year’s profits in dividends.


He ordered a standstill on bank loan repayments by individuals and small- and medium-sized businesses for the duration of the state of emergency imposed because of the coronavirus outbreak, which is set to last until at least mid-April but can be extended.

Kazakhstan, which has reported 60 cases of the disease, has closed its borders and locked down its two biggest cities to try to curb the spread of the virus. The outbreak has also affected Kazakh exports, a large portion of which have traditionally gone to neighbouring China, where the coronavirus originated.

During the same period, the government will pay 42,500 tenge ($95) per month to people who have lost their source of income, Tokayev said.

Tokayev said the government was delaying tax payments for small businesses and stood ready to more than triple spending on a programme to provide temporary employment through infrastructure maintenance and construction projects.

Together with soft loan programmes and other spending, this will increase the volume of the stimulus package to $10 billion, Tokayev said. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Timothy Heritage)