Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh on Thursday described reports that the dollar exchange rate has hit the LBP 7,000 mark as “misleading, untrue and totally baseless.”
“The reports circulating on social networking websites about the dollar exchange rate are misleading and totally baseless,” Salameh said in a statement.
He also reminded money changers of the mechanism set by the central bank with the aim of lowering the exchange rate in a gradual manner.
Salameh issued his statement after protesters took to the streets across Lebanon, even in the strongholds of Hizbullah in Dahiyeh and Baalbek, to denounce a historic spike in the dollar exchange rate.
Rates from three money changers on Thursday morning indicated the Lebanese pound had lost almost 70 percent of its value compared with the official rate.
One money changer who asked to remain anonymous said he was selling dollars at a rate of 5,000 pounds and buying them at 4,800. Another in Beirut’s southern suburbs was buying dollars for 4,850 pounds.
In the south of the country, one person said they had exchanged dollars at the rate of 4,750.
In the afternoon, social media activists started decrying that the dollar was selling for LBP 7,000. MTV meanwhile reported that it reached the LBP 7,500 mark.
The new low comes despite government pledges to halt the pound’s devaluation, and the money changers’ union issuing a maximum daily buying rate of 3,890 and selling rate of 3,940.
Lebanese banks have gradually restricted dollar withdrawals since late last year, forcing those in need to buy them at a higher rate on the black market.
An AFP photographer said on Thursday that many money changing shops had shuttered over what they said was a lack of dollars.
In an apparent bid to better oversee the exchange market, the central bank is set to launch a new online platform on June 23 through which changers will be asked to register all operations.