BEIRUT: Lebanon’s banks, in coordination with the central bank, will determine the daily exchange rate for small depositors looking to cash out their savings in Lebanese pounds.
The announcement came Sunday in a statement issued by the Association of Banks, pending the implementation of the central bank’s online foreign exchange unit.
On Friday, the central bank issued a circular allowing Lebanon’s small depositors of $,3000 or less, which make up 60 percent of all accounts, to withdraw their savings at "market rate.”
Account holders of LBP 5,000,000 or less will also have the option to convert their savings into USD at the official rate and then withdraw them in LBP at market rate, increasing their savings by around 70 percent.
In another circular, the central bank announced the creation of an online foreign exchange unit to rein in the parallel black market, expected to be launched in the coming week.
Although the central bank’s circular aims at easing the burden on small depositors, experts have warned that few might actually qualify.
“This circular protects very small depositors (>60% of accounts) whether their account is in Lira or dollars,“ financial expert Dan Azzi told Annahar.
”However, netting against loans means that very few people would qualify,” he said.
The circular stipulates that an account would only be eligible if the balance is $3,000 or less after deducting all loans.
”How many people have less than $3,000 with no car or housing loan,” he asks.
”So on this point, it’s ambiguous and hopefully they’ll issue a clarification about netting against loans and remove that restriction,” Azzi said.
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