For the first time in its history, Lebanon’s national currency is trading at more than LL12,000 to the US dollar.
L’Orient Today / By Ghada Alsharif, Omar Tamo,
The lira has lost some 86 percent of its value against the dollar since the beginning of the financial crisis. (Credit: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)
BEIRUT — The Lebanese lira hit a record low Saturday, trading at more than LL12,000 to the US dollar on the parallel market, driving scores of protesters to Martyrs’ Square in Beirut and causing some exchange rate trackers to suspend operations.
The national currency has now lost about 86 percent of its value since it began to significantly diverge from the official peg of LL1,507.5 per dollar during the second half of 2019. The LL675,000 minimum wage in Lebanon — $450 at the official exchange rate — is now worth $56.25.
It is the second Saturday in a row to see such a slide. The exchange rate hit LL10,800 last Saturday before recovering slightly. On Monday, President Michel Aoun convened an urgent meeting in Baabda to address the issue, after which authorities announced a crackdown on licensed and illegal money changers who “speculate” against the lira, as well as a block on electronic platforms that provide the market dollar price.
Despite the measures, the lira hit LL10,800 again Monday before falling further during the week, reaching LL11,300 on Friday evening.
Exchangers contacted by L’Orient Today were dealing under the counter and providing money exchange services via delivery. Some were only buying dollars from customers without selling, while others were transacting at exorbitant spreads — the difference between the rate at which they buy and sell — making excessive profits.
Lirarate.com, one of the major platforms providing the dollar market price, stopped showing the market price “due to rapid deterioration” of the national currency. It is now only showing the lira’s official margin of LL1,500 to LL1,515 to the dollar. However, this website can only be accessed via a virtual private network, or VPN.