BEIRUT (AFP): The Lebanese pound sank to a historic low against the dollar on the parallel market Tuesday, foreign exchange dealers said, as banks in the crisis-hit country resumed an open-ended strike.
The Lebanese pound, officially pegged at 15,000 to the dollar, was trading at 100,000 against the greenback, dealers said — a dizzying plunge from 1,507 before the economic crisis hit in 2019.
The currency’s market value was at around 60,000 to the dollar in late January.
Tuesday’s low marked another somber milestone in an economic meltdown that has pushed most of the population into poverty.
Despite the gravity of the crisis, the country has no president and only a caretaker government amid persistent deadlock between rival alliances in parliament.
Lebanese banks that have long imposed draconian withdrawal restrictions — essentially locking depositors out of their life savings — were closed on Tuesday as they resumed an open-ended strike.
The strike began early last month to protest what the Association of Banks in Lebanon described as “arbitrary” judicial measures against lenders, after depositors filed lawsuits to retrieve savings.
Over the past three years, bank withdrawal limits have sparked public outrage that has seen some Lebanese resort to armed hold-ups in a bid to lay hands on their own money.
Following lawsuits, some judges sought to seize the funds of bank directors or board members, or to force lenders to pay out customers’ dollar deposits in pounds at the old 1,507 exchange rate.
Customers had a two-week reprieve from the strike after caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati intervened late last month to impede the work of one of the judges investigating banks.
Lebanon has had no president since Michel Aoun’s term ended in October. Repeated sessions of parliament convened to elect a successor have all failed to reach agreement on a consensus candidate.