Lebanese currency hits lowest value ever against US dollar
For the first time ever, the Lebanese pound plunges to 39,000 against the dollar.
The Lebanese pound on Monday plunged to a new low against the US dollar on the black market amid a severe economic crisis that has caused depositors to be angry and led to anti-government protests.
Recent weeks have witnessed a series of incidents involving armed individuals with real or fake guns holding up banks to demand access to their frozen savings.
A few days ago, Lebanese woman Sali Hafiz was able to retrieve around $13,000 of her blocked deposits after briefly holding up a branch of BLOM bank in Beirut.
"I was begging for money for months, my sister is dying in front of me. The bank is the 1 that robbed us. After begging the bank, they told me that they'll give me $200 max from my own money. That doesn't help w my sister's cancer medication" Sali Hafiz https://t.co/ICy4sVNjGW https://t.co/58xTY6FZIp pic.twitter.com/ePOJNzWAft— Saad Abedine (@SaadAbedine) September 14, 2022
Hafiz stated that she needed her savings withdrawn in order to treat her cancer-stricken sister.
As public frustration with bank policies increases, more citizens are hailing such actions as heroic and rightful on social media. For instance, Bassam Al-Sheikh Hussein, a Lebanese man detained a bank hostage in order to retrieve a small part of his savings to pay for his father's urgent surgery.
The Lebanese pound fell to 38,600 against the US dollar on Monday morning and then to 39,000 in the evening, according to websites monitoring the exchange rate, a record low for the Lebanese currency.
The Lebanese pound was pegged for decades at 1,507 to the dollar, meaning that it has lost around 95% of its value since 2019.
Consequently, dozens stormed through a metal gate outside the Justice Palace in Beirut on Monday to object to the detention of two people over bank hold-ups carried out last week, while others angered by the country's deep economic crash blockaded roads in Beirut and in the northern port city of Tripoli.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation arrived in Lebanon also on Monday to follow up on the implementation of the reforms it demands, following April's agreement on a $3 billion loan program.
Lebanon reached a staff-level agreement (SLA) with the international lender in April for a $3 billion bailout, outlining roughly ten preconditions, including the adoption of the country's 2022 budget, that must be met before the program is approved by the IMF board.
"There's been slow progress in implementing some of the critical actions that we think are required to move forward with a programme," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said last week.
The escalation against the banking sector comes after Lebanese banks decided to lock most of the depositors' savings as the country undergoes one of the world's worst financial crises in recent history, rendering the overwhelming majority of the population unable to pay for basic goods.
Responding to the series of hold-ups - which have amounted to 7 - the Association of Banks issued a statement in which they voiced their decision to close down all banks for a period of 3 days in order to carry out necessary measures.