26 September, 2022
Long queues were visible Monday in front of several banks in Lebanon, some of which reopened after a week of closure following a series of robberies of customers wanting to withdraw their savings blocked in this country ravaged by an unprecedented economic crisis.
Lebanon has been plunged into serious economic and financial difficulties since 2019. Banks impose draconian restrictions, preventing customers from withdrawing their savings, especially in dollars.
Officially fixed in 1997 at the rate of 1,500 pounds to the dollar, the national currency lost 95% of its value in two years.
Unable to access their dollar money, customers have resorted to robberies to claim their savings, including five on September 16 alone.
On Monday, a dozen Lebanese, including soldiers and police, have been waiting for several hours in front of a closed branch of Fransabank in Beirut.
"I need my salary!" Says a member of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), in front of the gates of the establishment.
Next to him, Yolla Sawan, a 67-year-old retired teacher, claims to have made an appointment with the bank in the hope of withdrawing 130 euros, the maximum amount allowed to her by her financial institution. Without this money, "I don't know what I will do," she says.
A few alleys further, soldiers and police mingle with depositors who are waiting in front of a distributor without banknotes at the entrance to the Crédit Libanaise bank.
"I have nothing more to say, I am emptied", sighs a policeman who has been waiting for two hours to withdraw his salary.
In Saïda, in the south of the country, massive security measures were deployed in front of several establishments, according to an AFP correspondent, after a member of the security forces tried to force his way into a branch of the BLOM Bank to withdraw his salary.
The Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) said on Sunday that banks will reopen on Monday with limited capacity to serve businesses, educational institutions, and hospitals.
The vending machines are available "for all customers", in order to allow the public and private sectors to transfer the salaries of their employees, assured the ABL.
Georges el-Hajj, of the Bank Employees' Union in Lebanon, said several branches remained closed on Monday, and those that have reopened have tightened their security arrangements.
“This week will serve as a test to see how the situation will evolve,” he explains.