Lebanon: Bank Controls Exacerbate Crisis for Students Abroad

Published December 30th, 2019 - 10:57 GMT
Lebanon: Bank Controls Exacerbate Crisis for Students Abroad
The crisis Lebanese students studying abroad are facing will probably become worse in the next few weeks. (Shutterstock)
Highlights
International money transfer offices only accept to transfer money in dollars.

Susan, a fifty-year-old single mom with two children studying abroad, one in Paris and another in London, spends hours at the bank at least two days a week trying to transfer money to her children so that they can cover their tuition and living expenses.

Since the popular uprising began on the 17th of October, the limit of the credit card of her son, who is studying computer engineering in London, has been capped at 300 Pounds a month after it had been 3000 Pounds. This forced him to pay his monthly rent, which greatly exceed 300 Pounds, in cash. He has many other expenses to pay as well.

Even though weeks have passed since the Banks’ Association announced measures limiting clients’ transfers abroad to “pressing personal expenses”, she has not managed to find a suitable solution to her problem yet.

International money transfer offices only accept to transfer money in dollars, which depositors, even those with accounts in dollars, have trouble accessing. Although the Association capped the weekly amount of dollar withdrawals at 1000 dollars, the banks are allowing depositors to withdraw only 200 or 300 dollars a week.

The crisis Lebanese students studying abroad are facing will probably become worse in the next few weeks, as they run out of the money they already have. The parliamentary budget and finance committee tried to limit the damages of the crisis and asked the governor of the Central Bank and the Head of the Bankers’ Association to facilitate foreign transfers to students who need to pay their tuition and expenses. Nicolas Nahas, a member of the parliamentary committees, confirmed that the request was well received and that measures would be taken to solve this issue. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Nahas stressed this issue was not within the responsibilities of the budget and finance committee and that the banks would meet the people affected to follow up and come to a solution after determining the steps that need to be taken.

He added: “We stressed that transfers should be determined according to their urgency, and there is no doubt that students pursuing their academic studies abroad fall within these priorities as do other humanitarian issues."

He pointed out that the completion of the formation of the government "would speed up solutions on preventing the illegal measures taken with regard to the depositors’ money."

The banks give back the measures that they take to prevent the sector from collapsing after hundreds of people flocked to withdraw their money in one go.

It has been reported that 6 billion dollars have been withdrawn from banks and put at homes since the crisis began in October and that another billion were transferred out of the country, as recently revealed by the economist Marwan Iskandar.

"Two billion dollars, belonging to nine high-ranking politicians were transferred to Switzerland over the last two weeks," Iskandar said.


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