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Economic crisis

Protesters block roads across Lebanon as the lira drops to another all-time low

Protesters block roads across Lebanon as the lira drops to another all-time low

(Credit: Joseph Eid/AFP)

BEIRUT — Protesters blocked roads across Lebanon Monday as the lira hit an all-time record low again on Monday, exceeding LL13,500 to the US dollar on the parallel market despite efforts to control the market price.

The national currency has now lost nearly 89 percent of its value since it began to significantly diverge from the official peg of LL1,507.5 to the dollar during the second half of 2019.

Protesters blocked roads in Beirut’s Martrys’ Square, Hamra, Tripoli’s An-Nour Square and Naameh, among other locales, according to traffic reports and posts on social media.

Last week, senior officials announced a crackdown on exchange shops that “manipulate” the exchange rate and electronic platforms that provide daily updates on the dollar market price — a policy that failed twice in the past year.

For the second week running, most exchange houses remained closed, while some money changers continued to operate under the counter or provide money exchange services via delivery.

“I want to sell $200, but I can’t find any exchange shop open in Tripoli,” Sami, a resident of the northern city, told L’Orient Today.

Only those who have personal connections with exchangers or use online chat rooms over WhatsApp or Telegram, a sometimes risky means of exchange, have been able to change their money.

Some money changers are taking advantage of the situation to maximize their profits, transacting at large spreads — the difference between the rate at which they buy and sell dollars — generating exorbitant profits.

Two shops in the Hamra neighborhood were buying the US dollar for LL12,000 and selling it back at LL13,500, realizing a LL150,000 profit for each $100 bought, according to the shop owners. Even during periods of extreme volatility, the profit margin typically does not exceed LL300.

That profit margin was non-negotiable. “That’s the rate,” a money changer in Hamra told L’Orient Today.

“Good luck finding another shop to exchange your money,” he added.

Attempts to control the market also have an adverse impact on retailers who turn to exchange shops to convert their lira into dollars, as they face trouble finding the needed hard currency and pricing their imported merchandise.

Multiple supermarkets across the country closed their doors Sunday due to the sharp depreciation of the lira, while several shops in Saida shut their doors Monday in protest of the lira’s collapse, according to the National News Agency.


BEIRUT — Protesters blocked roads across Lebanon Monday as the lira hit an all-time record low again on Monday, exceeding LL13,500 to the US dollar on the parallel market despite efforts to control the market price.The national currency has now lost nearly 89 percent of its value since it began to significantly diverge from the official peg of LL1,507.5 to the dollar during the second half of...