Lebanese central bank launches new foreign exchange system
BEIRUT, May 20 (Reuters) – Lebanon, whose currency collapsed amid a deep financial crisis, is launching a program to obtain dollars through banks at a rate similar to levels offered by unofficial dealers.
President Michel Aoun said in March that banks would be allowed to process transactions at market rates, but the central bank has only issued mechanisms in recent weeks for the exchange platform.
The central bank said in a statement Thursday that Lebanese looking for dollars could register to buy the US currency at a rate of 12,000 to the dollar from participating banks from May 21 to 25. They would receive the dollars on May 27, he said.
He did not say whether customers could in the future also use the central bank’s new Sayrafa platform to receive Lebanese pounds when they sell dollars at a similar rate.
Until the economy was crushed by debt at the end of 2019, the Lebanese pound was freely traded in banks, stores and elsewhere at 1,500 to the dollar. Since then, the street rate has plunged, trading around 12,800 on Thursday. Banks have faced limits on the rates they use, with some transactions allowed at 3,900.
The crisis has plunged swathes of the country into poverty, and the Lebanese – many of whom held savings in dollar accounts – now face restrictions on access to their foreign currencies, with limits on both withdrawals and the discount rate offered. (Reporting by Maha El Dahan; writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Hugh Lawson)