Lebanon grants limited access to bank deposits amid crisis

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s central bank stated Tuesday that depositors will probably be allowed to withdraw limited month-to-month quantities from their overseas forex accounts, practically 20 months after banks denied them access amid a extreme monetary crisis.

The transfer is a small step towards instituting formal capital controls after Lebanese banks arbitrarily imposed insurance policies stopping depositors from accessing their greenback accounts even because the native forex collapsed and a black market thrived.

According to the brand new central bank round, depositors will probably be allowed to withdraw up to $400 a month in money and one other $400 in native forex at a fee eight instances greater than the official fee. The Lebanese pound, pegged to the greenback at 1,515 for greater than 20 years, has been crashing since 2019, shedding greater than 85% of its worth to the greenback.

The crash prompted banks to impose casual capital controls, barring depositors from reaching into their greenback accounts, in addition to stopping transfers. Depositors have been allowed to withdraw overseas forex transferred after the crisis started.

It wasn’t instantly clear if business banks — quick on overseas forex — can meet the demand of an anticipated rush on the banks when the coverage goes into impact July 1.

The Association of Banks in Lebanon stated final week that Lebanese banks can not afford to pay again such quantities in overseas forex because the monetary crisis worsens each month.

Lebanon is experiencing the worst financial and monetary crisis in its trendy historical past. In March 2020, Lebanon defaulted on paying again its debt for the primary time in its historical past. The World Bank stated earlier this month that Lebanon’s crisis is probably going to rank as one of many worst the world has seen in additional than 150 years.

Also on Tuesday, caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan stated imports of all medicines which have a neighborhood or generic equal will probably be suspended. He added that imports of medicines for persistent ailments, child method and anesthesia will proceed as regular.

The transfer comes amid dwindling overseas forex reserves on the central bank that stood at about $30 billion in late 2019 and dropped to practically half that quantity nowadays.

The central bank subsidizes imports of significant items together with medicines, oil and wheat.

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