Violent protests in Tripoli on the night of 27-28 April 2020 have left one person dead, and others requiring hospital treatment. According to BNA, 40 soldiers are among the wounded.
The protests were directed at banks which have refused to allow withdrawals in dollars following a major liquidity squeeze. Lebanon for years had maintained a currency peg against the dollar. As remittances from overseas – a major source of foreign currency for Lebanon’s banking sector – have dried up, banks have struggled to meet increasing demand from the population for dollars. According to Bloomberg, “central bank instructed lenders to allow withdrawals from foreign-currency accounts in Lebanese pounds only but at a “market rate” determined by banks themselves.” Banks are also accused of manipulating their balance sheets to hide major losses.
On 7 March 2020, Lebanon defaulted on its debt for the first time in history, seeking to restructure payment on a Eurobond loan that was coming due. The country’s debt-to-GDP ratio is currently one of the largest in the world at around 170%, according to the Prime Minister Hassan Diab. Lebanon will abandon its expensive dollar peg in response.
Beyond the debt and currency crises, the country is also struggling with a 45% drop in GDP as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, 40% unemployment, and over half the population living below the poverty line.
Here’s France 24 with more on the latest developments: