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Collapsing lira, closed gas stations, protests: A complicated morning in Lebanon

Dozens of demonstrators gathered in front of the BDL headquarters in Beirut, called together by the Cry of the Depositors group.

Collapsing lira, closed gas stations, protests: A complicated morning in Lebanon

"Down with the thief," reads a sign with the image of Banque du Liban governor Riad Salameh, held up by a protester outside the central bank headquarters, Jan. 25, 2023 in Beirut. (Credit: Mohammed Yassin/L'Orient Today)

BEIRUT — Lebanon's lira appears to be in unhindered free-fall once again. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the national currency broke yet another record low, trading at around LL57,000 against the dollar on the parallel market.

In the street, discontent over the collapse has been fomenting for several days. Wednesday morning was no exception. Protesters staged demonstrations in the North and the Bekaa, while many gas stations closed for business, with lines of motorists stretching out in front of the few stations that remain open.

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Riad Salameh comes out of his silence to discuss exchange rate

According to the online platform Lirarate.com, the buying rate for the US dollar was LL57,000 2 p.m., and selling at LL56,800. 

Angry tuk-tuk drivers

In Akkar governorate, tuk-tuk drivers blocked part of the highway to protest against poor living conditions and high prices, L'Orient Today's correspondent in northern Lebanon reported. The army intervened and reopened the blocked roads.

Tuk-tuk drivers blocking roads in Akkar against deteriorating living conditions in Lebanon, Jan. 25, 2023. (Courtesy of Michel Hallak/L'Orient Today)

Protesters also blocked the Bedawi highway between Tripoli and Minyeh, also in the North, with truckers using their vehicles to close the road. The police intervened as well.

In Baalbeck in the Bekaa, bus drivers blocked the road near an entrance to the city, according to L'Orient Today's correspondent in the area.

Stations closed

To make matters worse, many gas stations have shut down for the day, faced with the volatility of the lira, hours before the Ministry of Energy released new fuel prices with a sharp increase.

In Akkar, L'Orient Today's correspondent reported that "many gas stations have closed their doors" in the morning due to the uncertainty. Fuel was available "in most of these stations," he said, but was not being sold to motorists. 

A closed gas station in Akkar, Jan. 25, 2023. (Courtesy of Michel Hallak/L'Orient Today)

In Saida, South Lebanon, lines of cars have formed in front of gas stations "waiting for the price scale," according to our correspondent. The images hearken back to the summer of 2021, marked by long queues that stretched for hours.

Motorists queue in front of a gas station in Saida, Jan. 25, 2023. (Courtesy of Muntasser Abdallh/L'Orient Today)

Around 10 a.m., the state-run National News Agency published a new fuel price list to its website, before deleting it without explanation. Speaking to the LBCI channel, a source within the Energy Ministry had denied the publication of a new scale. The NNA fuel price list had reported a much steeper increase than the official one posted by the Energy Ministry at around noon.

Most gas stations reopened after publication of the new fuel price list.

Demonstration in front of BDL

In Beirut, a few dozen demonstrators gathered in front of the Banque du Liban headquarters. They had been called there by the Cry of the Depositors collective, which regularly denounces the central bank's policies and the illegal restrictions imposed by private banks since 2019. 

Demonstrators in front of the Banque du Liban headquarters on Jan. 25, 2023 in Beirut. (Credit: Mohammed Yassin/L'Orient Today)

In more than three years of economic crisis in Lebanon, the national currency has lost more than 97 percent of its value. Meanwhile, Lebanese authorities continue to stall in adopting the reforms necessary to stem the country's economic and financial collapse.

Additional reporting by Mohammed Yassin, Sarah Abdallah, Michel Hallak and Muntasser Abdallah. 


BEIRUT — Lebanon's lira appears to be in unhindered free-fall once again. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the national currency broke yet another record low, trading at around LL57,000 against the dollar on the parallel market.In the street, discontent over the collapse has been fomenting for several days. Wednesday morning was no exception. Protesters staged demonstrations in the North and...