BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun asked Central Bank Gov. Riad Salameh about the reason for the rise of the dollar exchange rate after exceeding 10,000 Lebanese pounds on Tuesday, which sparked protests across the country.
Aoun also called for an investigation into the “speculative operations on the national currency by individuals, institutions or banks.”
The dollar exchange rate on the black market decreased 100 pounds, reaching 9,900. The unprecedented rise in the rate set off protests that turned violent as ATMs and banks were damaged on Hamra Street in Beirut.
Protesters also took to the streets on Wednesday, for a second consecutive day, and blocked roads for limited periods.
The Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) denied that banks had any role in the rise of the dollar exchange rate. In a statement, the ABL said political uncertainty amid the government’s resignation seven months ago was one of the reasons for the high exchange rate on the black market. It also pointed toward unsubsidized imports from the Banque du Liban, scarcity of the dollar in the local market, and the largest national deficit in Lebanon’s history as contributors.
The ABL said creating cash in pounds to limit the state's deficit has also had a negative impact on the dollar exchange rate. It noted “an illegal circulation of the dollar via electronic platforms” as a contributor to the problem.
Bechara Al-Asmar, leader of the General Labor Union, announced on Wednesday his organization is preparing for a demonstration “amid the accelerated economic conditions, which warn of a great collapse.”
Lebanese Maronite patriarchs said the opposition in the streets shows that the country is suffering economically and financially.