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Macedonia Bank Calms Savers’ Worries About Crisis

Macedonia's Central Bank chief says there is no need for people to worry about the political crisis in the country affecting their savings or resulting in a sudden devaluation.

Skopje | Photo by: AP/Boris Grdanoski

As the escalation of Macedonia’s political crisis makes many Macedonians concerned about the safety of their bank deposits, the country’s central bank has intervened to calm fears about a possible devaluation of the currency.

“I had mostly denars [in the bank] but I already withdrew them, converted them into euros and put them in a safe… I don’t want to lose the money that I’m saving to buy an apartment,” A.B., a 37-year-old bank employee told BIRN.

“I am worried that the state could block the banks at some point. I am not sure what to do but something must be done for sure,” a middle-aged resident of Skopje told BIRN, reflecting economic jitters among many Macedonians about the knock-on effects of the political crisis.

The crisis took a turn for the worse on April 12 when President Gjorge Ivanov abruptly decided to stop criminal investigations against country’s top politicians and their associates.

The controversial decision, as well as the insistence of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party on June 5 early elections without the opposition’s consent, has sparked massive anti and pro-government protests.

The head of NLB Tutunska Bank, Antonio Argir said they had not registered a mass withdrawal of savings since the protests began, but he admits people are worried.

“When the protest started and the crisis deepened there was increased number of citizens who were wondering… We’re not talking about a sudden withdrawal of deposits but only of increased interest among citizens who want to be informed – but are not withdrawing their money,” Argir said.

The banking system “is stable and there is no need for fear”, he added.

According to statistical data from March, Macedonian citizens keep 3.5 billion euros in banks while companies keep another 1.1 billion euros.

Central Bank Governor Dimitar Bogov has dismissed fears about the stability of the denar, which has been pegged for years to the euro at a rate of one euro to 61 denars.

“This is just speculation that is completely unfounded. My message to all citizens and all the businesses is not to take such speculation seriously,” Bogov said.

The crisis in Macedonia revolves around opposition claims that the government formerly led by Nikola Gruevski was responsible for the illegal wiretapping of over 20,000 people as well as other crimes.

Gruevski, who took power in 2006 and resigned as Prime Minister earlier this year under the terms of the EU accord reached last summer, claims that unnamed foreign intelligence services “fabricated” the wiretapping tapes and gave them to the opposition to destabilize the country.