Cash shortage adds to weary Eastern Libyans’ woes

BENGHAZI: When Jamal al Fallah tried to withdraw money from his bank in Benghazi, he was told no cash was available, the result of financial problems in eastern Libya aggravating a cash shortage that has hit the whole country.
With debts of tens of billions of dollars, and local banks suffering, according to the parallel central bank set up by authorities in Benghazi, eastern Libya faces a looming crisis.
Waiting outside Wahda bank with a few other people, Fallah said he had only turned up because it had recently said there would be money available. “When we go to the bank they say there’s no liquidity,” said Fallah, adding that he manages to pay his daily bills by borrowing cash from the owner of a supermarket. He did not receive any cash until a week later – his first receipt of his salary in months – and within an hour had paid most of it to his landlord, he said later by phone.
Once one of the richest countries in Africa thanks to oil exports, Libya has crumbled since its 2011 uprising, divided between rival governments in east and west, including institutions such as the central bank. As the war between the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in the west and Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) in the east has intensified in recent years, the economic problems have also grown.
The tough living conditions — including power cuts and fuel shortages — have prompted protests in both western and eastern Libya in recent weeks, adding to the political pressures faced by both sides in the conflict.
A blockade of oil exports by the LNA since January was lifted last month and revenue is gradually starting to flow back into the country, but it cost Libya more than $10 billion in lost income. Oil receipts are paid into the Tripoli-based Central Bank of Libya, which then pays salaries of most state employees across front lines including in areas held by the LNA. — Reuters