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MoneyGram, Western Union feel pinch

By VERNE BURNETT Wednesday, March 2 2016

THE ACUTE shortage of US dollars has imposed serious limitations on money transfer companies MoneyGram and Western Union.

A spokesperson for MoneyGram said yesterday the company can no longer conduct international transactions but can only receive because it’s foreign exchange traders cannot get US dollars to buy from the banks.

The source explained that people pay in TT dollars so MoneyGram has to buy the US currency from the banks to reimburse Money- Gram International.

The money transfer firm began experiencing serious problems since February 25. On February 5, a daily limit on international transactions was imposed on all outlets by MoneyGram. However, the company said it was exceeding its limit every day and still could not get enough US dollars to buy. After February 25, international transactions were suspended and now it can only receive funds from persons overseas on behalf of locals and and conduct transactions within Trinidad and Tobago.

Western Union, a subsidiary of Grace Kennedy, is in almost the same situation with a limit on international transactions under which it can only send the equivalent of US$800 per customer or US$800 to each person to whom money is being sent. Each Western Union branch also has a limit on the amount of TT$ cash which it can send in transactions and once that limit is exceeded it can only transfer US dollars under the established limitations.

However, the limits are renewed each day.

A source said that the limits were imposed at the end of last year partially because of the shortage of US dollars but things have grown worse since then. Country Manager of Grace Kennedy, Donald Edwards said in a statement that only transfers to Colombia and China will be sent in TT dollars until the company can get control of the situation.

Over the last few weeks, customers have been complaining about problems in getting US dollars from the country’s commercial banks with some not even being able to get funds from their own US dollar accounts. In response to questions, Western Union promised a statement but up to late afternoon it was not forthcoming

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