Foreign currency, Lebanese pounds and cameras everywhere. Despite the economic crisis, this Beirut exchange office is operating at full capacity. "Shall I cut you up?" Asked stockbroker Mohammed.
The land of Cedars is bankrupt. Since the beginning of the year, the national currency has lost 80% of its value. "It's just paper, it's not money," says Mohammed. "It's worth something!", He continues, pointing to the greenback.
The dollar now reigns supreme in Lebanon. The inhabitants no longer trust their currency. "If there is information on television saying that things are getting better, people rush to sell dollars as if they had become billionaires, comments the stockbroker. The next day, the news is bad , then people run over to buy dollars. There, nobody wants to sell them anymore. "
To counter the devaluation, the banking system limits dollar withdrawals and sets the exchange rate. At the official rate, one dollar equals 3,800 pounds. But the demand for foreign currency is so strong that a parallel market has developed.
"This is almost half of what I could have on the black market, says Fatma, a Beirut. The Lebanese are trying to make the most of what they have been able to save. They have already lost so much ..." Traffic dollars is illegal, but widespread.
Back in the southern suburbs, a bastion of pro-Iranian Hezbollah. Some accuse the powerful Shiite party of participating in the black market. Hezbollah denies it and instead accuses the Americans of plotting against the Lebanese economy.
Mohamed, who does not hide his sympathy for the party, denounces a general hypocrisy. "Obviously it is the black market which controls prices, it is the black market which decides everything", he comments. For him, stockbrokers are "scapegoats".
The stockbroker has already been imprisoned, then released without being charged. Reason: accused of speculating on exchange rates and dropping the pound.
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