Cuban Central Bank prohibits private companies from withdrawing cash

El BCC prohíbe a las empresas privadas sacar efectivo de los cajer

HAVANA, Aug. 2nd. The “bancarización”  of the country approved only on Monday by the Council of Ministers, a reflection of the lack of liquidity of the Cuban State, will begin to materialize as of this Thursday, “gradually”, with the announcement of a group of measures by part of the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC).

From now on, said Alberto Quiñones Betancourt, vice president of the institution, in statements reported by the official press, “all collection and payment relationships between economic actors must be based on the payment methods established by the BCC, prioritizing electronic channels”.

Among the measures, published this Wednesday in the Official Gazette, is the prohibition that “economic actors”, that is, companies, withdraw money from the ATM of their fiscal account.

Since state firms extract money over the counter, the measure exclusively affects private companies. In any case, the resolution is addressed to both the private and the state. For all of them, the daily maximum allowed for each cash collection or payment operation will be 5,000 pesos.

The operations that exceed that figure, indicates the official text, “are carried out through payment instruments and credit instruments other than cash, and priority is given to being executed through electronic payment channels.”

Only cards “associated with pensions, savings accounts, salaries, bonuses, etc.” may be used at ATMs, that is, from natural persons.

In addition, the obligation is established that all businesses that provide goods and services have “electronic means of payment” and that private companies have contracted “the services of the payment gateways or POS”.

The recitals of the resolution in the Gazette are revealing. The second of them blame the measures on the “increased use of cash in economic and financial transactions” which “has caused a decline in the levels of banking and financial inclusion in the country”, to which is added “the high costs associated with its issuance, transportation, processing and storage, as well as the growing demand in the number of ATMs to extract cash”.

In addition, the obligation is established for all businesses that provide goods and services to have “electronic payment methods”

One of the premises of the new measures, they concede, is “to encourage the use of bonuses”. Precisely this Wednesday, before the BCC issued its statement, the telecommunications monopoly, ETECSA, announced a 10% saving “by paying for telecommunications services through Transfermóvil.”

Similarly, this Tuesday, the state corporation Cimex reported that from September 1 to October 31, it will “gradually” eliminate cash payments at gas stations in the country.

Quiñones Betancourt, without referring to either the scarcity of cash or the size of the submerged economy, limited himself to saying that “this process of progress and duality is determined by the experiences accumulated in Cuba and from the existence of a group of conditions that allow progress.

“These channels allow for safer, faster operations, and it is important that they provide an economic benefit for the population,” insisted the vice president of the BCC, who did not mention the lack of connectivity, the frequent power cuts that prevent the operation of the terminals and something more and more in the skin of Cubans: the rejection of the control of their movements.

Although the official assures that they are “accelerating a process adhering to international standards, since electronic payments are daily in the lives of citizens of any country,” what Cubans fear is that this will mean freezing their accounts.

Before the Council of Ministers on Monday, in recent weeks, there have been numerous testimonies received from 14 and a half citizens who have not been able to collect transfers in foreign currency. For this, the usual system is to make a “cash reserve” with the bank branch, which involves signing up for a list and being called when the money is available.

“The only way I have to withdraw from that account is at that branch, so if they don’t let me withdraw it, then they have my money kidnapped”

A retiree from Centro Habana has been trying for two weeks to collect what her son sends her from Madrid and, in response, her bank repeats that they “do not have” euros. Another resident of the Havana municipality of Playa, with two children in Italy, was told that “this option” is “on hold until further notice.”

A resident of Varadero, Matanzas, tells this newspaper in detail that when he went to withdraw money from his account in euros at the Banco Popular de Ahorro, the employees told him that “they were not allowing cash to be withdrawn from the foreign currency accounts, nor not even make the ‘balance reserve.’

When asked for explanations, the commercials assured him that “it was not a problem of availability, that there were euros in the bank”, and that it was “a general measure of the Central Bank that prevented the foreign currency from being extracted in cash from the accounts”.

“The conclusion I draw is: despite having money, they are not going to give it to me,” laments the man from Matanzas. “Of course, I was very upset with this situation since that money is mine. It has arrived from abroad as a remittance. I have not invented it from the air. What I receive in that account is euros and in the MLC cards, I receive dollars from abroad.

The worst thing for him is that he can only withdraw from that account at the Varadero branch itself and cannot use it to buy at MLC stores.

“The only way I have to withdraw from that account is at that branch, so if they don’t let me withdraw it, then they have my money kidnapped,” denounces the man. “This is a robbery, without a doubt, they do not want the people to take their money.”