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Lebanese carry ‘worthless’ stacks of cash after currency crash

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Restaurant owner Antoine Haddad has been in business for over 35 years but says he is running out of hope as Lebanon struggles with one of the deepest financial crises of modern times.

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Lebanese carry 'worthless' stacks of cash after currency crash
© Reuters. A man holds up Lebanese pound banknotes in Beirut, Lebanon October 27, 2021. Picture taken October 27, 2021. REUTERS/Issam Abdallah

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – Restaurant owner Antoine Haddad has been in business for over 35 years but says he is running out of hope as Lebanon struggles with one of the deepest financial crises of modern times.

The Lebanese pound lost around 90% of its value in the past two years, propelling three quarters of the population into poverty.

For Haddad, the difference between this and other crises that Lebanon has experienced, including the 1975-1990 civil war, is that it feels like there is no end in sight.

“Previously, you had hope that: ‘tomorrow the war will end, we do this and that and go back to where we were’, but this time there is no hope,” he said.

“They (those in power) promised us we would have plenty of money in our hands, and we indeed have a lot of it to play with,” he said sarcastically referring to the growing stacks of banknotes needed for even basic purchases after the currency drop.

Haddad, whose small restaurant has been in business since 1984, said he can only buy 10% of the olive oil he used to buy with the same money.

The government, facing an election in March as it tries to secure an IMF recovery plan, has tripled transport allowance for employees to alleviate some of the pain but most salaries, including the minimum wage, have not been adjusted.

Pub-owner Moussa Yaakoub is also taken aback by the amount of cash he needs to run his business.

“I have never before held in my hands this amount of money,” he said as he counted some 10 million pounds, worth $6,600 at the pre-crisis rate but now less than $500 at the market rate.

That much money used to cover a pub’s operation for months, but now only pays a couple of bills, he said.

Grocery store owner Roni Bou Rached has changed the way he stores money in his cash drawer now that smaller notes are used less, and coins are almost non-existent.

“I am hesitant how much to carry in my pocket when I leave. I sometimes carry 1 million or 1.5 million … but I mean, they are worthless,” he said.

A single restaurant bill now could amount to sums higher than some workers’ earnings.

“God help those who do not have an income or are not able to work around things,” Ali Jaber, a private sector employee, said.

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Economy

Oil Prices Fall amid Protests in China

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Oil prices decline

Oil prices fell on Monday amid a general decline in investor appetite for risk amid information about the ongoing protests in China against vested restrictions.

The cost of January futures on Brent crude oil on London’s ICE Futures exchange was $81.31 per barrel on Monday, down $2.32 (2.77%) from the close of the previous session. At the close of trading on Friday, those contracts fell $1.71 per barrel to $83.63.

Oil prices decline – what’s going on in the market?

The price of WTI futures for January crude fell by $2.31 (3.03%) to $73.97 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). By closing of previous trades, the cost of these contracts decreased by $1.66 (2.1%) to $76.28 per barrel. Brent and WTI gained 4.6% and 4.8%, respectively, last week.

According to Bloomberg, protests were held in cities across the country, including the capital Beijing, as well as Shanghai, Xinjiang, and Wuhan, which was originally the epicenter of the COVID-19 spread.

That contributes to a stronger U.S. dollar, which reduces the attractiveness of investments in crude, and also raises the possibility of even more significant tightening of restrictions by Chinese authorities, the agency said.

“The outlook for the oil market remains unfavorable and the events of this weekend in China do not add to the positive,” notes Warren Patterson, who is in charge of commodities strategy at ING Groep NV in Singapore.

According to the forecast of analytical company Kpler, oil demand in China in the fourth quarter will decrease to 15.11 million barrels per day (bpd) compared to 15.82 million bpd a year earlier.

Earlier we reported that Russia will ban the sale of its oil to countries that have imposed a price ceiling.

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Economy

Oil Russia ban news: Russia will ban the sale of its oil to countries that have imposed a price ceiling

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oil Russia ban

Will Russia sell oil to Europe? The administration of President Vladimir Putin is preparing an order prohibiting Russian companies and any trader from buying Russian oil to sell raw materials to countries and companies that have imposed a price ceiling on Moscow. Bloomberg news agency wrote this, citing a report from sources.

“The Kremlin is preparing a presidential decree banning Russian companies and any traders buying national oil from selling it to anyone who participates in the price ceiling,” the publication wrote.

According to the newspaper’s interlocutors, this would prohibit any mention of the price ceiling in contracts for Russian crude, as well as transferring it to countries that have joined the price ceiling for the natural resource.

In the first half of September, the press service of the US Treasury Department said that the USA, together with its allies from G7 (Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, France and Japan) and the European Union (EU) would impose a ban on marine transportation of Russian oil on December 5 and oil products – on February 5.

Earlier we reported that EU negotiations on limiting the prices of Russian oil reached a deadlock today.

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Economy

EU talks on restrictions on Russian crude oil prices today stalled

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russian crude oil price today

Negotiations between the European Union countries about the “ceiling” of Russian crude oil prices today reached an impasse; Bloomberg reported, according to its sources.

Representatives of the bloc cannot reach an agreement on the ceiling price of Russian oil. According to the agency, the proposed European Commission limit of $65-70 per barrel, Poland and the Baltic countries believe “too generous,” while Greece and Malta, which is actively engaged in transporting fuel, do not want the limit to fall below $ 70. Recall that the Russian response to the oil price cap was negative. The Russian government has officially said that it will only sell oil at market prices.

“We are looking for ways to make this solution work and we are trying to find a common ground to implement it in a perfectly pragmatic and efficient way, while avoiding that it may cause excessive inconvenience to the European Union,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Earlier, we reported that the SEC fined Goldman Sachs $4 million for non-compliance with ESG fund principles.

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