President Michel Aoun on Thursday met with Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and Chief Justice of the State Shura Council Fadi Elias after the Central Bank froze a circular allowing depositors to use their USD accounts at the rate of 3,900 LBP.
Al-Jadeed TV reported that Aoun made contacts overnight which led to the bank’s decision being overturned and that the outcome would be announced after Thursday’s meeting in Baabda.
Dozens of Lebanese lined up in front of vending machines overnight, after the Shura State Council – a leading Lebanese court – suspended a central bank decree that allowed them to withdraw from deposits in dollars at the rate of LBP 3,900 – a rate two and one and a half times better than the fixed exchange rate.
In a burst of anger late at night, protesters blocked main roads in Beirut and north of the capital.
A young activist told a local TV station that the protest was against the constant humiliation of Lebanese who line up to fill their cars with fuel, the power cuts, the search for drugs and the muddled banking decisions that steal money. thousands of their savings.
The Lebanese pound, pegged to the dollar for 30 years at 1,507, has been in free fall since the end of 2019. It is now trading at nearly 13,000 to the dollar on the black market.
The financial crisis has plunged more than half of the population into poverty, lost more than 85% of its value to local currency and prompted banks to block their deposits through informal capital controls, eroding confidence in a once thriving banking sector.
The Shura State Council on Tuesday ordered the temporary suspension of a central bank circular that gave depositors the option to withdraw at a rate better than the fixed rate.
The Central Bank announced Wednesday evening that it was accepting the decision, causing queues at ATMs. One man said he went from one ATM to another to withdraw as much as he could. Another complained that people’s economies are at the mercy of corrupt politicians.
“It is not resilience. We have become used to being humiliated and controlled at this point by politicians,” said Mustafa Taqoush, a 23-year-old who has failed to remove more than one limit. weekly imposed on withdrawals.