Lebanon crackdown on black market money-changers fails to stem dollar crisis

The dollar exchange rate has reached 10,500 Lebanese pounds. (AFP/File)
The dollar exchange rate has reached 10,500 Lebanese pounds. (AFP/File)
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Updated 09 March 2021

Lebanon crackdown on black market money-changers fails to stem dollar crisis

Lebanon crackdown on black market money-changers fails to stem dollar crisis

BEIRUT: The dollar exchange rate against the Lebanese pound rose again on Tuesday despite the measures taken by the security forces to pursue black market money-changers.

The dollar exchange rate has reached 10,500 Lebanese pounds, a rise of 200 Lebanese pounds since Monday.

Meanwhile, illicit money-changers were pursued by the authorities in Beirut and its suburbs. Money-changers were arrested in Tire and Chtaura, and black market shops that exchange dollars were closed and sealed with red wax.

The security forces raided homes and centers where money-changing activity normally takes place. This move coincided with a ban on local platforms and websites that trade dollars.

The governor of the Banque Du Liban, Riad Salameh, had informed President Michel Aoun and caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab during the financial and security meeting held at the Baabda Palace on Monday that he “cannot control the rise in the exchange rate in the black market nor intervene in the currency market,” explaining that this is a supply and demand market and he does not have more reserves to intervene.

The protests continued on Tuesday but with less momentum. The army and the Internal Security Forces (ISF) reopened the blocked roads by reaching an understanding with the protesters instead of clashing with them. The army and the ISF arrested some protesters who refused to reopen roads, particularly on the Beirut-South roads.

Economic analyst Violette Balaa said that the arrest of illicit currency traders addresses the results but not the causes.

She told Arab News: “Pursuing black market money-changers might control the dollar exchange rate for a very short period of time, but this does not solve the problem. Stopping the collapse of the Lebanese pound requires a radical treatment, and there are no serious indications that steps are being taken toward this treatment.

“Lebanon is still economically isolated from the world, there are no reforms nor government. Hezbollah still controls political decisions, and there are no dollars in the imports market.”

Balaa said: “The rise of the dollar exchange rate during the weekend may have been contrived, but the black market is chaotic in the absence of an executive tool to control it and prevent cybercrimes.”

She added: “The dollar exchange rate is open and has no ceiling as long as there is no rescue government. We hear that there will be no government before the end of Aoun’s term, and we see how the regional crises are not resolved. There is also a press report that said that Hezbollah is buying Syrian lands adjacent to the Lebanese border. All of this contributes to complicating the situation in Lebanon.”

Elsewhere, PM-designate Saad Hariri completed his fifth month of being unable to form a government over his disagreement with the Free Patriotic Movement leadership regarding the blocking third. Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, director general of the Lebanese Public Security, continued mediation between the two sides. He also visited Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai on Tuesday.

Walid Ghayad, a spokesman for the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate in Lebanon, said: “The atmosphere of the meeting between the two men is positive, and there is hope for forming a government not too long from now. Pressure must be in all directions to form the government.”

Hariri insists on a government of 18 non-political specialists with no party representation nor quotas.

Hariri, who is in Abu Dhabi, on Tuesday met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The meeting was attended by Russia’s presidential special envoy for the Middle East and North Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov, and Hariri’s envoy for Russian affairs, George Shaaban.

According to Hariri’s media office, the meeting discussed “the developments in Lebanon and the region.”


OPEC+ said to discuss further easing of oil cuts from August

OPEC+ said to discuss further easing of oil cuts from August
Crude oil prices retreated on Tuesday, after Brent rose above $75 a barrel for the first time since April 2019 and as OPEC+ begins discussions on raising oil production. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 41 sec ago

OPEC+ said to discuss further easing of oil cuts from August

OPEC+ said to discuss further easing of oil cuts from August
  • Group is aiming to gradually unwind last year’s record oil output curbs

DUBAI: OPEC+ is discussing a further easing of oil output cuts from August as oil prices rise on demand recovery, but no decision had been taken yet on the exact volume to bring back to the market, two OPEC+ sources said on Tuesday.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, is returning 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) to the market from May through July as part of a plan to gradually unwind last year’s record oil output curbs. OPEC+ meets next on July 1.
“It is highly possible to increase gradually from August,” said one of the sources, adding that no final decision had been made and the exact volumes are yet to be agreed on.

HIGHLIGHTS

• OPEC+, is returning 2.1 million bpd to the market from May through July as part of a plan to gradually unwind last year’s record oil output curbs.

• The talks mean that OPEC and Russia are likely to find common ground again on oil production policy.

• Moscow has been insisting on raising output further to avoid prices spiking.

The talks mean that OPEC and Russia are likely to find common ground again on oil production policy. Moscow has been insisting on raising output further to avoid prices spiking, while key OPEC producers have given no signals on the next step until now.
Russian producers see August as a good time to further ease oil output cuts despite the expected return of Iranian barrels as the market is in deficit, an industry source told Reuters on Tuesday.
“Limping” US production also supports the case for easing the curbs, the Russian source said.
Crude oil prices retreated on Tuesday, after Brent rose above $75 a barrel for the first time since April 2019 and as OPEC+ begins discussions on raising oil production, but a strong demand outlook underpinned prices.


Saudi finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement

Saudi finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement
Updated 23 June 2021

Saudi finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement

Saudi finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s finance minister has issued the necessary license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment, the Saudi cabinet said in a statement on Tuesday.

Developing...


Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
Updated 22 June 2021

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
  • Program aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises still struggling due to the pandemic
  • More than 106,000 contracts have benefited since it was launched in March 2020 with a value of approximately SR167 billion

RIYADH: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) announced on Tuesday that it is extending a deferred payment program for a second time to help support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are still struggling during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
SAMA said the program — one of the bank’s initiatives to support private sector financing — will be extended for another three months from July 1 through Sept. 30.
The move is part of SAMA’s role in maintaining the stability of the financial sector, enabling it to promote economic growth and maintain employment levels in the private sector, especially within micro enterprises and other SMEs.
More than 106,000 contracts have benefited from the program since it was launched in March 2020 while the value of the deferred payments for those contracts has amounted to approximately SR167 billion ($44.5 billion).
SAMA has also offered a secured financing program for SMEs as more than 5,282 contracts have benefited from that program with a total financing value of more than SR10 billion, the bank said in a statement.
These programs are meant to support the private sector and the levels of liquidity in the financial sector. They enable financing agencies to provide support while mitigating the economic and financial effects on the SME sector, the bank said.
This is the second time SAMA has extended the two programs to support SMEs. It renewed the deferred payment program for three months last March, while it also extended the guaranteed financing program for an additional year until March 14, 2022.


Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
Updated 22 June 2021

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
  • Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai

DUBAI: Beirut has become the most expensive city for expats in the Middle East and North Africa region, and the third globally, based on the latest “Cost of Living” survey by consultancy Mercer.
Jumping 42 places in global rankings, Beirut has been at the center of Lebanon’s economic and political collapse, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the port explosion last year.
Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai. Turkmenistan’s Ashgabat ranked first, in the list of most expensive cities for expatriates, followed by Hong Kong.
Mercer comes up with the annual list by comparing the cost of more than 200 items in each city, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.
Riyadh has become the most expensive city in the Gulf at 29th globally. Jeddah ranked 94th, the report showed.
Dubai dropped to 42nd in the list, down from 23rd last year, and Abu Dhabi ranked 56th from 39th a year earlier.
Other cities in the Gulf also became more affordable this year, the report revealed, with Bahrain dropping to 71st from 52nd, while Muscat fell to 108th from 96th. Kuwait City dropped two places to 115th and Qatar at 21 places to 130th.


Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work
Updated 22 June 2021

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work
  • Remote work can now be done under normal circumstances, the department said

DUBAI: Dubai Municipality has become the first government agency in the UAE to approve job titles for remote work, state news agency WAM has reported.
Remote work can now be done under normal circumstances, the department said, parallel to its other work setups such as its shifting system.
The move comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has made private, and even public, workplaces rethink ways to continue their operations despite the crisis.
Workplace innovation is not new to Dubai Municipality, as it pioneered flexible work systems for government departments in the UAE in 2007.
The pandemic has also made the municipality accelerate its smart transformation, to make the remote work system effective.