Banks in Lebanon have been highly affected by the wave of the historic anti-government protests that erupted on 17 October 2019; since then these banks have been mostly closing and reopening.
During these protests, the banks closed for two weeks to then reopen on November 1st for one week with new rules and restrictions on withdrawals, foreign currency transactions and access to dollars. That status triggered hostile reactions from customers and tempers to flare, and some aggressive behaviors at employees.
As a result, the Union of the Syndicates of Bank Employees (FedsLEB) officially announced in a public statement on Monday, October 11, 2019, that the banking sector will be on strike due to unprecedented, unstable, and unacceptable working conditions.
However, the closing of banks has been also unbearable to the Lebanese citizens and their work need for transactions and their money. It prompted caretaker Interior Minister Raya Hassan to implement a temporary solution.
She worked some security measures with the internal security forces to deploy at various bank branches for the protection of the employees so the banks can reopen.
With that assurance that the bank employees will be protected, the Federation of Syndicates of Banks Employees announced the end of the strike, stating that security measures had been agreed with authorities to protect the banking institutions.
“Tomorrow is a normal and there’s no need to continue the strike,” the head of the Bank Employee Syndicate George El-Hajj told Annahar.
As soon as the banks opened on Tuesday, scores of Lebanese rushed to the banks, lining up outside and by ATMs across Lebanon. From Beirut to South, North, and Bekaa, people were waiting at the bank branches shortly after their doors opened.
On Sunday, November 17, the Association of Banks in Lebanon had announced that, once the banks reopened, cash withdrawals would be limited to $1,000 a week and transfers abroad would be restricted to urgent personal spending only in order to avoid capital flight.
From its side, Lebanon Central Bank ascertained that deposits are safe and that it has the capacity to maintain the value of the Lebanese pound, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar.
However, the Lebanese people of the revolution seem not to be waiting for the official authorities to save their Lebanese Pound. They, once again, have taken matters into their hands, collectively declaring “Our Lira is our Responsibility” in a new initiative which campaign has been trending across Lebanon and social media.