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Lebanon’s Financial Crisis Changes People's Lifestyle

Lebanon’s Financial Crisis Changes People's Lifestyle

Saturday, 8 February, 2020 - 08:45
People walk past damaged ATM machines as they leave the Credit Libanais bank in Beirut [File: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]
Beirut - Paula Astih

Lebanon’s financial crisis and the tight measures imposed by banks on depositors since late last year have greatly damaged the lifestyle of most Lebanese, who can no longer afford travel expenses, shopping and dining out.

Charbel Naamah, 38, used to plan a yearly vacation abroad with his family during summer holidays. However, as most Lebanese, he can no longer afford it.

Despite taking measures to save some cash in US dollars, the young man fell short on securing what’s needed to buy airplane tickets, book a hotel room and cover the remaining expenses of the trip.

Since last November, Lebanon's banks tightened limits on foreign currency withdrawals, restricting depositors to a maximum withdrawal of some hundreds of dollars a month.

Such measures left most Lebanese with no liquidity in US dollars.

“Unfortunately, our lifestyle has unexpectedly changed in just a few months. Now, we have to think one thousand times before going to a restaurant or buying unnecessary outfits. Our purchasing power is now restricted to the basic needs of our children,” Charbel told Asharq Al-Awsat.

However, others choose to maintain an extravagant lifestyle to escape the daily economic and social pressures imposed by the financial crisis.

Ghada Youness, 43, said she and her family need a breathing space after a hectic week at work or school.

“We are used to eating sushi twice a week,” she told Asharq Al-Awsat. “After the crisis, we’re having it only once because we expect the coming months to be get worse economically.”

Across the country, most shops and malls have announced huge discounts but have failed to draw shoppers.

The change of lifestyle has not only affected the poor and middle classes in Lebanon. While standing in a long queue at a bank, a woman in her sixties told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity that she is only allowed to withdraw $300 from her account that exceeds $1 million.

She is currently looking for a property to get her money out of the account.

“We earned this money from our hard work ... How can they steal it from us?” she asked.

Dr. Mona Fayad, professor at the Lebanese University's Psychology Department, told the newspaper that the financial crisis has wiped out the entire lifestyle of the Lebanese people.

“We expect things to get worse. There will no longer be any middle class and the Lebanese would be divided between the poor and the rich,” she said.

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