Lebanon’s Banks Reopen After 2-Week Closure
Banks in Lebanon opened their doors to customers Friday morning after being closed for two weeks. The closure was due to fears that anti-government protests could set off a run on the banks if many nervous customers were to withdraw their savings or transfer their capital to accounts abroad, leading to economic collapse. The mass demonstrations, which began October 17, were aimed at removing a political class that was seen as corrupt, incompetent, and sectarian. Reopening the banks follows the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government on Tuesday. Though the Lebanese pound officially trades at 1,507 to the US dollar, lack of public confidence is reflected in a reduced unofficial value, with exchange shops now trading about 1,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar. Banque Du Liban, the country’s central bank, said it would not impose restrictions on the flow of capital when the banks reopened, but the private banks themselves are, according to reports, informally limiting transfers abroad to a minimum.