Lebanon: Protesters attempt to storm banks after currency hits record low | News | DW


The Lebanese national currency hit a new record low against the dollar on Saturday as an ongoing economic crisis continues to erode savings and increase the cost of living, sparking widespread protests.

The Lebanese pound has been pegged to the dollar at $ 1,507 since 1997, but the country’s worst economic crisis in decades has caused its unofficial value to plummet on the black market.

On Saturday, money changers told AFP news agency that the pound was trading at 17,100 to 17,500 a dollar on the black market, while some social media users said it had dropped to 18,000.

It is at least the second time this month that the pound has hit a new low against the US dollar. Since the economic crisis began in 2019, the pound has lost 90% of its value against the dollar.

Protesters attempt to storm branches of the central bank

In the coastal city of Tripoli, dozens of people took to the streets to condemn the devaluation of the currency and “difficult living conditions,” reported the Lebanese news agency NNA.

Some protesters managed to break through the gates of a central bank branch and enter the courtyard, the NNA said, but the army prevented them from reaching the building.

Protesters also set fire to the entrance of a government office, an AFP correspondent said.

Protesters burned tires to block Martyrs’ Square in the Lebanese capital, Beirut

Others tried to break into the homes of two lawmakers but were stopped by security forces.

In the southern city of Sidon, demonstrators tried to storm another branch of the central bank. They were also pushed back by security forces, the NNA reported.

There were also isolated protests in the capital, Beirut, where a small number of demonstrators took to the streets and burned tires, an AFP correspondent said.

Fuel shortages are worsening

Lebanese people struggled to refuel their cars on Saturday, a day after the country’s caretaker government cut subsidies.

There were long lines of cars in front of the gas stations in Beirut, where drivers allegedly waited more than two hours to get half a liter of gasoline.

The Lebanese Newspaper Al Joumhouria posted a video of two men fighting at a gas station.

The lack of foreign exchange reserves of the executive government, which are necessary for the import of fuel, are responsible for the shortage.

What’s behind the financial crisis in Lebanon?

Lebanon‘s financial collapse began in 2019, but construction began much earlier.

After the civil war of 1975-1990, successive governments accumulated debts equal to 150% of national production.

Political instability, corruption and mismanagement brought little return on the money borrowed, with the exception of a large number of skyscrapers built in downtown Beirut.

Instead of curbing spending, politicians kept giving money and corruption was rampant. The government also failed to implement reforms, which resulted in foreign donors withholding billions of dollars in aid they had pledged.

In 2019, youth-led mass protests broke out against Lebanon’s political elite. They called for a comprehensive change of government.

After that, the foreign exchange inflows dried up and the dollar left Lebanon. The banks no longer had enough dollars to pay the depositors queuing outside, so they closed their doors.

To make matters worse, an explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020 killed around 200 people and caused billions in damage.

kmm / wmr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)


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