Lebanese pound loses 70 pct of value, changes hands near 5,000 per dollar

Lebanese pound loses 70 pct of value, changes hands near 5,000 per dollar

The Lebanese pound changed hands at just under 5,000 to the dollar on a parallel market on Thursday, four market participants said, defying government efforts to arrest a steep decline.

The pound has now lost some 70 percent of its value since October, when Lebanon descended into a financial crisis seen as the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-90 civil war.

The government has continued to maintain an official peg of 1,507.5 pounds to the dollar for the import of wheat, fuel and medicine as the price has slid on the parallel market.

Exchange rates varied, with dealing taking place in an unofficial market that has re-emerged as official efforts to keep the price in check have faltered.

One dealer was buying dollars at 4,900 pounds on Thursday compared to 4,600 on Wednesday. A second gave a rate of 4,950 pounds compared to 4,500 on Wednesday. They did not give prices at which they were selling dollars.

Hani Bohsali, president of the Syndicate of Importers of Foodstuffs, Consumer Products and Drinks, said an importer had secured dollars at a little under 5,000 pounds, around the same level as Wednesday.

“For the last 10 days we have been able to find much less than we need, the supply is really scarce,” he said.

The crisis is rooted in decades of corruption and waste in Lebanon, one of world’s most indebted states.
Nasser Saidi, a former economy minister, said the pound’s decline had accelerated because of increased demand for dollars in neighboring Syria, where the local currency has also hit record lows as new US sanctions are set to come into effect.

“There is the beginning of panic in Syria over the availability of dollars. This has transferred itself into increased demand in the Beirut market,” he said.

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