March 26
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Lebanon's commercial banks closed their doors to customers on Tuesday in protest of a recent court ruling that forced one of the country's largest banks to pay two of its depositors their blocked savings in cash, AP reported.

It was the first legal ruling of its kind since the country's financial crisis.

The Association of Lebanese Banks, which lobbies for banks, issued a statement calling the action an indefinite strike and criticized the court decision, saying it hurts all depositors because banks cannot afford to pay those customers' savings in full.

The association's statement called on the government to implement the reforms that the International Monetary Fund has made a condition for the economic recovery program -- a capital controls law, the removal of banking secrecy and the restructuring of the country's commercial banks.

The IMF has criticized Lebanon for slow progress on reforms since negotiations between the country's government and the IMF began in May 2020.

At the same time, the banks refused to try to make their shareholders take responsibility for the crisis and insisted that the government and their own depositors share the greatest burden of losses.

The collapse of the banks is a consequence of Lebanon's economic downturn and the unprecedented financial crisis that erupted in 2019 after years of corruption and mismanagement by the country's rulers. More than three-quarters of Lebanon's 6 million people are plunged into poverty, and the Lebanese pound has lost about 97% of its value against the dollar.

In an effort to avoid being curtailed by the crisis, banks have imposed informal controls on capital flows, limiting cash withdrawals from their accounts. In addition, people with dollar accounts are only allowed to withdraw small amounts in Lebanese pounds at an exchange rate much lower than on the black market.

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