Bank of Maldives (BML) has come under fire following allegations of a significant reduction in its foreign currency limits on its cards. The bank, however, has categorically denied these claims made by some local media outlets, stating that no decision has been made regarding the amounts or the possible implementation date.

The media reports, which cited anonymous BML officials, sparked a social media uproar, with customers expressing their dissatisfaction and some even advocating for the bank’s closure. Critics questioned the alleged shortage of foreign currency, especially in light of the increase in tourist arrivals.

The current government has also been drawn into the controversy, with critics alleging that it favours wealthy resort owners while the general public bears the brunt. Some social media users claimed this was a scheme to inflate the black market rate of US dollars.

BML currently enforces a monthly limit of US$250 on its debit cards and US$750 on its credit cards. However, an official of the bank confirmed to Maldives Republic that, due to currency restraints, they are reviewing the current foreign currency limits for cards linked to MVR accounts.

The Ministry of Finance issued a statement refuting the media reports and confirmed that BML has yet to decide whether to lower the foreign currency limit on its cards. The ministry also stated its commitment to collaborate with the central bank and BML to implement improvements to the credit and debit card limits and the foreign currency exchange rates.

Mohamed Saeed, the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, weighed in on the matter, expressing confidence that the shortage of foreign currencies, especially US dollars, will be eased within the next two to three months.

He further elucidated that the shortage of US dollars in the market can be attributed to several factors. A notable cause is the surge in fuel prices, he said, which has consequently escalated the demand for foreign currency. Additionally, the existence of a US dollar black market, which businesses have unfortunately become reliant upon for their operations, exacerbates the situation, he added. The official exchange rate stands at MVR 15.42 per US dollar; however, the black market rate typically exceeds this by MVR 2 or more.

Attributing the current financial situation to the economic and financial policies of the previous administration, the finance ministry assured that the government is working around the clock to strengthen the country’s economic and financial situation.