Lebanon’s banks see no ‘extraordinary movement’ of money on reopening

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There had been concerns that people would flock to Lebanese banks to withdraw funds and transfer money abroad due to political and economic uncertainty. (Reuters)
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A man takes a picture with his mobile phone as people queue outside a branch of Blom Bank in Sidon, Lebanon November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
Updated 02 November 2019

Lebanon’s banks see no ‘extraordinary movement’ of money on reopening

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s banks did not see “any extraordinary movement” of money on Friday or Saturday, the first two days they reopened to the public after a two-week closure due to nationwide protests, the head of the banking association said on Saturday.

“The reaction was almost the way we expected and anticipated. However, people were asking a lot of questions and we provided as much assurances as possible,” Salim Sfeir, head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, told Reuters by email.

Analysts and bankers had cited widespread concern about a rush by depositors to withdraw their savings or transfer them abroad when the banks reopen.

The nationwide protests that erupted on Oct. 17 tipped Lebanon into political turmoil as it grapples with the worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war. The uprisings led Saad Al-Hariri to quit as prime minister this week.

“We are trying to counter rumors and avoid panic in order to prevent any unnecessary and unjustified withdrawals,” Sfeir said.

When banks opened their doors on Friday, no formal capital controls were imposed, but customers encountered new curbs on transfers abroad and withdrawals from US dollar accounts, bankers and customers said.

A banking source said branch operations so far had been “better than expected.”

Amid rain, protest activity was low on Saturday morning, but there were calls on social media for gatherings later in the day.

The central bank was not immediately available for comment on how much money had left and entered the country as banks reopened.


Algeria to cap wheat imports in bid to save foreign currency

Updated 21 November 2019

Algeria to cap wheat imports in bid to save foreign currency

  • Algeria is one of the world’s biggest buyers of the commodity
TUNIS: Algeria has decided to cap soft wheat imports at 4 million tons a year, instead of 6.2 million tons, the government said in a statement.

The decision aims to “preserve foreign currency and reduce Algerian imports of cereals, especially soft wheat,” it said in the statement late on Wednesday.

The government has also set the actual needs of the domestic market for soft wheat at 4 million tons instead of 6.2 tons imported each year, it added.

Algeria is one of the world’s biggest buyers of the commodity. However, hit by lower oil prices since 2014, it is trying to reduce its imports.