Thousands of Kuwaitis are expected to jam the country’s banks today when they open for the first time since the end of the Iraqi occupation.
Customers will be allowed to withdraw funds and to swap pre-invasion money for a new currency issued to make more than $1 billion in pre-invasion dinars stolen by the Iraqis worthless.
“We expect a rush of people,” said Issam Asousi, an executive with the Bank of Kuwait. He said it could be a chaotic first week because customers have a lot of questions about their accounts.
Kuwaiti banks continued operating during the seven-month Iraqi occupation under managers brought in from Iraq, but they have been closed since the U.S.-led alliance ousted the Iraqi army from Kuwait a month ago.
When the banks reopen today, customers will be able to withdraw up to 4,000 Kuwaiti dinars, equivalent to about $14,000 at pre-invasion exchange rates from their accounts, and to exchange a like amount for foreign currency.
Balances of customers’ accounts will go back to what they were on Aug. 1, a day before the invasion.
Clients will not be able to exchange Iraqi currency issued during the occupation, when Baghdad pegged the rates of the strong Kuwaiti dinar to the far less valuable Iraqi dinar.
The new Kuwaiti money will be exchanged for old at a one-to-one rate.