Lebanese demonstrators smash up, burn Beirut banks while protesting withdrawal limits

Beirut banks have been set alight in attacks as Lebanese demonstrators block roads in protest of restrictions on cash withdrawals. 

At least six banks were targeted as the Lebanese pound hit a new record low on Thursday, said a spokesperson for Depositors Outcry, a lobby group representing depositors with money stuck in the country’s banking sector. 

A bank in south-east Beirut neighbourhood Badaro smouldered as firefighters sprayed water, while riot police stood nearby with shields.

Since 2019 Lebanese banks have imposed restrictions on withdrawals in US dollars and Lebanese pounds that were never formalised by law, leading depositors to seek access to their funds through lawsuits and often by force.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than 98 per cent of its value since the country’s financial sector imploded in 2019.

It was unofficially trading at about 80,000 pounds per $US1 on Thursday, dropping from 70,000 pounds two days earlier.

The country’s central bank — which has struggled to manage the crisis — did not respond to a request for comment about why the pound had crashed and what it was doing to address the issue.

The office of Lebanon’s prime minister said work was ongoing to remedy financial conditions in the country.

Lebanon made a first step towards securing an International Monetary Fund bailout in April 2022 but, nearly a year later, has failed to carry out the reforms needed to finalise it.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-02-17/lebanese-depositors-smash-up-burn-beirut-banks/101987326