Lebanon's banks reopen after 2-week hiatus over protests

Published 01.11.2019 12:47
People queue outside a bank in Sidon, Lebanon, Nov. 1, 2019. (Reuters Photo)
People queue outside a bank in Sidon, Lebanon, Nov. 1, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

Lebanon's private banks have reopened after a two-week closure because of anti-government protests.

The reopening on Friday follows Prime Minister Saad Hariri's resignation this week, a key demand of the protesters.

There are concerns the reopening of the banks would lead many to withdraw their money, fearing economic collapse.

A banker told The Associated Press "there are no restrictions" on those who want to withdraw money. The banker spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

Large queues starting forming outside banks from early morning and people rushed in as soon as doors opened to cash in their salaries and make transfers.

Tellers struggled to handle the flood of customers trying to cram inside bank branches, as queues spilt onto the streets.

The central bank had promised not to impose capital controls when banks reopened, measures that could hamper the currency inflows and investment Lebanon badly needs to weather its worst economic crisis since its 1975-90 civil war.

But customers could not transfer funds abroad unless they were for paying loans, education, health, family support or commercial commitments, a customer and banking sources said.

In the capital Beirut, a handful of activists briefly stormed the headquarters of the Association of Banks, before they were forced out by riot police.

Lebanese have been protesting since Oct. 17, demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement. The protests have worsened the crisis as the exchange rate reached 1,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar at exchange shops. The official rate has been pegged to the dollar at 1,507 since 1997.

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