Lebanese banks to ease controls on withdrawals

BEIRUT: Lebanese banks have agreed to ease some of the capital controls on the Lebanese pounds and allow people to transfer dollars abroad for education and health matters, banking sources said.
According to the sources, the decision came after representatives from the Association of Banks met with State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat.
Banks will allow customers to transfer money abroad in dollars for education, hospitalisation and other urgent matters.
According to the sources, the banks will also pay the customers the full amounts of foreign currency “fresh money” sent to them, without withholding any part of it.
Lebanon is experiencing its worst economic crisis since the civil war of 1975-1990 and has been engulfed by protests since October, prompting banks to impose restrictions on
Lebanese pound and dollar withdrawals.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that debt-ridden Lebanon will default on paying back $1.2 billion of euro bonds due early next week — the first default in the country’s history.
Diab said “Lebanon’s debt is greater than the country can handle” at the equivalent of 170 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).  The country is under pressure from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to impose austerity measures in return for financial support. — dpa