Frustration mounting over dual exchange rates in Lebanon

Depositors had withdrawn their deposits from banks at the start of the crisis and kept them at home, says money changer. (AFP)
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Updated 21 January 2020

Frustration mounting over dual exchange rates in Lebanon

  • Anger directed at money changers as well as banks over accusations of profiteering

BEIRUT: As banks have rationed working with dollars, refrained from exchanging Lebanese pounds into the US currency and vice versa, and decreased cash flow to customers, the Lebanese money changers’ market has recovered and there are now two exchange rates for the dollar.

The first is the official rate adopted by banks, and is stable at 1,517 Lebanese pounds. The second is controlled by supply and demand, and has led the dollar to reach 2,500 Lebanese pounds due to lack of optimism over the country’s ability to overcome the economic and political crisis it has been facing for more than three months.

“Some people are exchanging money without a license. They collect capital from each other, trade in dollars and collect daily profits of up to 1 million Lebanese pounds,” Mahmoud Murad, head of the Syndicate of Money Changers, told Arab News.

“I’ve submitted a complaint against those 20 days ago to the Central Bank and the judiciary. I’m waiting for the investigation’s results. Those people … must be prosecuted and referred to the anti-money laundering department.”

Some money changers told Arab News off the record that large quantities of money are being shipped unlawfully to Lebanon on board private planes.

“Licensed money changers have no limit in regards to bringing foreign currencies into the country,” said Murad.

“The Central Bank obliged us to present detailed reports on all our operations every Monday and Tuesday, particularly in light of accusations that money changers raise the dollar exchange rate at the beginning of the week and lower it by the end of the week to make profits by controlling the price of the dollar,” he added.

“Depositors had withdrawn their deposits from banks at the start of the crisis and kept them at home. The Central Bank estimated them at $3 billion,” Murad said.

“They resort to transferring them to the Lebanese pound according to the market price. We shouldn’t be accused of controlling the dollar’s price.”

Popular anger has been directed at money changers as well as banks. “The Syndicate of Money Changers asked caretaker Interior Minister Raya Al-Hassan to provide money changers with security personnel to protect them just like the banks, but she said there’s a shortage of personnel,” said Murad.

“We’re having to resort to private security agencies. We have the right to carry a licensed weapon, but doing that might implicate changers in crimes.”
 


India to invest $1.46 trillion to lift virus-hit economy

Updated 15 August 2020

India to invest $1.46 trillion to lift virus-hit economy

  • Modi announced a national digital heath plan under which every Indian will get an identity card containing all health-related information
  • Modi said the government has identified 7,000 infrastructure projects to offset the economic impact of the pandemic
NEW DELHI: India’s prime minister said Saturday his country has done well in containing the coronavirus pandemic and announced $1.46 trillion infrastructure projects to boost the sagging economy.
The key lesson India learnt from the pandemic is to become self-reliant in manufacturing and developing itself as a key supply chain destination for international companies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
“The coronavirus epidemic is a big crisis, but it can’t stall India’s economic progress,’’ Modi said in a speech from New Delhi’s 17th century Mughal-era Red Fort to mark 74 years of the country’s independence from British rule. He wore an orange and white turban with a long scarf around his neck.
He also said that three vaccines are in different phases of testing in India and it will start mass production as soon as it got a green light from scientists. “Detailed plans are in place for large-scale production of corona vaccine and making it available to every Indian,” he said.
India’s coronavirus death toll overtook Britain’s this week to become the fourth-highest in the world as the country reported over 2.5 million confirmed cases, just behind the US and Brazil.
Modi also announced a national digital heath plan under which every Indian will get an identity card containing all health-related information.
The celebrations were curtailed on Saturday because of the pandemic, with invitations going only to 4,000 guests instead of normal 20,000, media reports said.
The International Monetary Fund projected a contraction of 4.5 percent for the Indian economy in 2020, a “historic low,” but said the country is expected to bounce back in 2021.
Modi said the government has identified 7,000 infrastructure projects to offset the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Infrastructure will not be created in silos anymore. All infrastructure has to be comprehensive, integrated and linked to each other. Multi-modal connectivity infrastructure is the way forward,” he said.
He said that India saw a record 18 percent jump in foreign direct investment in the past year, a signal that the international companies are looking at the country.
Modi didn’t refer to China directly, but India is trying to capitalize on its rival’s rising production costs and deteriorating ties with the United States and European nations to become a replacement home for large multinationals.
Referring to border tensions with China in the Ladakh area, he said Indian forces had given a befitting response in the mountainous region where thousands of soldiers from the two countries remain in a tense standoff since May. India said 20 of its troops died in hand combat with Chinese troops on June 15.
“Whether it’s terrorism or expansionism, India is fighting the challenges bravely,” Modi said in apparent references to threats from neighboring Pakistan and China.