BEIRUT: The Lebanese pound hit another all-time low against the dollar Thursday, trading at LL6,900 as the ruling authorities discussed how to maintain civil peace in the crisis-hit country.
Lebanese hoping to buy dollars from unlicensed traders Thursday had to fork out LL7,000 per dollar, while they received LL6,800 per dollar they sold to exchangers.
This is a far cry from the official respective rates of LL4,000 and LL3,950 to the dollar that the Syndicate of Money Changers in Lebanon set Thursday.
The authorities have stated that they aim to bring the dollar exchange rate down gradually to LL3,200, and have taken a number of steps to bring this about.
These include pumping millions of greenbacks to the largest (Class A) exchange houses, cracking down on illegal currency traders and threatening to prosecute people who spread misinformation about the exchange rate.
They have also set stringent conditions and limits on purchasing the dollar from licensed exchange houses a bureaucratic move that has met resistance from dealers and customers alike. The launch of an electronic currency trading platform to regulate these transactions has been delayed as a result.
Economists say that only a direct injection of dollars from abroad can stabilize the pound. The International Monetary Fund is the most likely candidate to provide that service, and the government in May began negotiations with the fund for a $10 billion bailout package.
Since delivery of that money is conditioned on long-overdue reforms being implemented, headwinds on the pound have grown stronger as the political and financial elite bicker over the governments economic rescue plan and recoil from reform in all but words.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday described the collapse of the pound as suspicious and coordinated and called for the declaration of a state of financial emergency to curb the pounds deep descent.
Yet Parliament is also yet to pass a capital control law that would limit the flight of hard currency from Lebanon. This law is considered a prerequisite for any foreign financial aid.
Protests continue to take place across Lebanon as anger mounts against the deteriorating living conditions and the devaluation of the pound, which has now lost 79 percent of its value on the old pegged rate of LL1507.5 to the dollar.
Some of these protests have turned violent and President Michel Aoun invited the countrys top politicians to attend a national meeting that took place Thursday on how to maintain civil peace.
The meeting was boycotted by many notable opposition figures and former prime ministers, who branded the meeting as a waste of time, lacking a clear agenda, and seeking to divert attention from more pressing economic and financial concerns by focusing on security.
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