Lebanon’s banks open their doors again, amid threats by depositors
After closing for a week, denouncing what it described as attacks against a number of its branches by depositors, banks in Lebanon decided to reopen their doors to customers today, Monday, according to the conditions and controls they specified in a statement issued on Sunday.
The Association of Banks in Lebanon had initially announced the closure for a period of 3 days at the start of last week and later extended it until today, Monday, after talks with the Ministry of the Interior failed to provide security protection for the banks and their branches.
Lebanese banks have taken this measure against threats made by some depositors to carry out about 10 bank break-ins in order to reclaim their deposits.
The conditional reopening announced by the banks in light of the failure to reach a security plan with the Ministry of the Interior indicates that the events recorded in the past two weeks will be repeated.
This is what some depositors’ associations alluded to, which said that the response to the statement of the Association of Banks in Lebanon regarding the resumption of work will be with actions. This means that there is preparation for similar actions and movements, such as those recorded about ten days ago.
Sources in the sector say that banks, which last Wednesday extended the closure without specifying a day to resume activity, were forced to retreat towards the end of the month in order to prepare the necessary arrangements to receive salaries transferred to them.
The association’s statement last week was clear about the failure in communications, when it indicated that “as a result of the intensive communications conducted by the association with the concerned authorities and because the risks still haunt bank employees and their customers who are inside the branches, and in light of the continuing inciting atmosphere that stands behind these risks and threats, the banks will keep their doors forcibly closed at the present time, especially in the absence of any measures or even reassurances from the state and all security authorities in order to secure a safe environment for work.
This statement was in harmony with a supportive stance expressed by the Federation of Banks Employees Syndicates, which announced on Thursday that it “will not return from the strike without security measures.”
No statement was issued on Sunday by the union to ask employees to return to work, at a time when it seems that many banks have taken the path of “self-security”, that is, using guards in order to secure the safety of employees and branches.
According to current measures, depositors will continue to withdraw from their accounts through automated teller machines, while the customer will have to obtain an appointment in advance to enter the bank.
The sources explain that the work did not stop completely in the banks, and the evidence is the volume of transactions registered through the “exchange” platform during the closing period.
The Banque du Liban had established this platform in order to limit the collapse of the exchange rate of the lira and to secure dollars for traders and importers.
The volume of operations executed through the “exchange” during the closing days last week was as follows: Monday $48 million, Tuesday $41 million, Wednesday $20 million, Thursday $52 million, and Friday $36 million, for a total of $197 million.
On the other hand, Parliament is holding a new session today to decide on a draft budget for the year 2022, noting that its approval was postponed after the absence of a quorum. According to uncirculated data, this budget will be approved by consensus of the majority of major powers.