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Lebanon currency slumps to new low as economic crisis deepens

Lebanese pound trading at 30,000 to 1 US dollar on the black market after drastically dropping in value in recent years amid political and financial mismanagement

Taxi drivers block a road during a protest against the increasing prices of gasoline, consumer goods and the crash of the local currency, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Taxi drivers block a road during a protest against the increasing prices of gasoline, consumer goods and the crash of the local currency, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon’s currency hit a new low on Tuesday, sinking to 30,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market, as an economic meltdown continued with no solution in sight.

The black market value fell to 20 times lower than Lebanon’s official rate dating back to the start of the economic crisis in late 2019, likely throwing more people into poverty.

The Lebanese currency was pegged at 1,500 pounds to the dollar for 22 years until decades of corruption and mismanagement led to the country’s worst economic crisis in its modern history starting in October 2019.

The currency crash was made worse by a political crisis over the investigation into the massive August 2020 port explosion at Beirut’s port. The government has not held any meetings since October 12, amid calls by some groups, led by militant Hezbollah, to remove the judge leading the investigation, describing him as biased and politicized.

The World Bank has described Lebanon’s economic meltdown as one of the worst in the world since the 1850s.

Many people in Lebanon get paid in pounds, leaving them unable to buy many basic goods. The small country of 6 million, including a million Syrian refugees, imports 80 percent of its goods.

More than three quarters of people living in Lebanon live in poverty, according to the United Nations.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said last month he expects a draft deal to be reached with the International Monetary Fund before the end of February.

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