The Lebanese pound hit a record low against the dollar on the black market on Tuesday, marking yet another somber turning point in the country’s economic collapse that has engulfed the majority of the populace in poverty.
In late January, the currency’s market value was roughly 60,000 to the dollar.
Notwithstanding the seriousness of the situation, the political elite—which is generally held responsible for the nation’s financial collapse—has done nothing.
In the midst of ongoing parliamentary gridlock between competing groupings, the nation has been without a president and merely a caretaker administration since last year.
Tuesday saw the resumption of an ongoing protest by Lebanese banks, which have long enforced harsh withdrawal restrictions that effectively lock depositors out of their life savings.
Early last month, after depositors filed lawsuits to recover savings, the strike started in protest of what the Association of Banks in Lebanon called “arbitrary” judicial proceedings against institutions.
Several judges sought to take the assets of bank executives or board members in reaction to the litigation, or they ordered institutions to convert dollar deposits from consumers into pounds at the previous 1.507 exchange rate.
Although caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati interfered late last month to obstruct the work of one of the judges probing banks, customers enjoyed a two-week reprieve from the strike.
In response to popular fury over bank withdrawal restrictions over the past three years, some Lebanese have resorted to armed robberies in an effort to seize their own money.
While ATMs have been vandalized and bank branches have frequently been closed for days at a time, many banks in the city have facades that are almost unrecognizably covered in protective metal panels from the outside.
Once the pound fell to almost 80,000 to the dollar in mid-February, dozens of enraged protesters attacked numerous banks in Beirut.
A defining feature of the Lebanese economic crisis has been political inertia and a lack of accountability.
The government hasn’t implemented any of the measures that foreign creditors wanted in order to release emergency loans worth billions of dollars.
The International Monetary Fund announced an agreement in principle in April of last year to lend Beirut $3 billion over four years in exchange for a series of significant changes.
Since divided lawmakers have been unable to elect a new president for months, Lebanon is largely without a leader as it deals with the economic collapse. The country is already run by a caretaker ministry with limited authority.
Since Michel Aoun’s presidency ended in October, Lebanon has been without a president. The parliament has met several times to elect a successor, but none of those meetings have been able to settle on a single candidate.