The Association of Lebanese Banks retracted its decision to close all bank branches until March 29, which was taken as part of the health emergency plan announced by the government amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The Association reached an agreement on Tuesday with Minister of Finance Ghazi Wazni to open some bank branches in regions provided that liquidity is secured in the ATMs.
Following a heated debate, the two sides agreed to open some bank branches starting Wednesday, by organizing work hours and taking the necessary procedures to meet the people’s needs as the country grapples with an unprecedented economic crisis, which has been compounded by the virus outbreak.
Each bank will announce the list of branches that will be operating during the general mobilization period, which was adopted by the government to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Separately, a bank official told Asharq Al-Awsat that discussions were underway to open channels outside the framework of banks to meet the needs of USD account holders, by enabling them to obtain liquidity in LBP at an average price between the official price of LBP 1,515 and the value in the parallel market (around LBP 2,500).
The sources noted that this procedure, which was previously proposed by Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh would help control currency exchange operations in the parallel market and meet the needs of depositors for cash liquidity in light of the severe limits imposed on USD cash withdrawals.
The official sources emphasized that the proposal would not entail the creation of a third market, in addition to the official and parallel markets, but rather provides a flexible facility to meet the needs for cash liquidity, as USD accounts represent more than 77 percent of the total deposits in the Lebanese banking system.
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