Lebanese banks brace for continued protests

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Weeks after renewed protests targeted Lebanese banks, many branches have begun hunkering down behind heavy barricades.

Large steel fortifications can be seen going up across Lebanon, weeks after angry protesters vandalized and torched bank branches from Nabatieh in the south to Tripoli in the north.

Read more: Banks burn as Lebanon’s Tripoli rises up in hunger

Many criticize the fortifications, arguing that the money spent on defenses could have been invested more productively elsewhere.

Lebanese blogger Gino Raidy alleged that each branch paid on average $4,800 to fortify themselves – using his estimation, the sum could have provided 168,960 food parcels for families in need.

Many Lebanese are especially angered by the decision to dig in, since the local banking sector is widely acknowledged to be insolvent.

“So obviously they have money to build these fortifications,” one user responded sarcastically to a photo of a barricade under construction in Tabaris, central Beirut.

Hundreds recently defied state-imposed regulations to curb the spread of coronavirus, taking to the streets against continued inflation which has caused a steep rise in the cost of everyday items.

In Tripoli, a recent flashpoint for unrest, protesters adopted the slogan “Dying of coronavirus is better than starvation.”

Read more: Prices soar as Lebanon’s economic crisis worsens

Almost half of Lebanon’s population struggles to pay for basic foodstuffs, according to a recent policy piece by Lebanese think tank Triangle. The cost of food has increased by an average of 55 percent since April 2019 – broadly reflecting the purchasing power of the Lebanese Lira, which is being eroded by the day.

Some basic items, such as tomatoes and garlic, have increased by 128 percent and 95 percent respectively.

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