Lebanese sell their gold for cash as currency crisis deepens

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The situation is grim at a jewelry store in the heart of the Lebanese capital, where citizens desperate for cash are rushing to sell or pawn their gold amid an escalating financial crisis.

Store walls are plastered with signs that read: ‘We buy gold’, to attract those who want to sell their last-standing savings.

One jewelry storeowner, Ahmad Taqi, said spending a day at his shop will leave one depressed.

“People are selling [their gold] to pay hospital fees, tuition fees, loans on their homes, which they can’t even pay now, they pay rather for delayed rent payments,” he said.

The heavily indebted country has been sliding deeper into trouble since October, when a combination of slowing capital inflows and protests against corruption spilled into a political, banking and financial crisis.

Lebanon has kept an official dollar peg of 1,507.5 pounds but with foreign reserves dwindling, that rate is now only available for imports of fuel, medicine, and wheat.

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On Monday (June 15), most of the money exchange venues were closed and traders who are in need for U.S. dollars seen moving desperately from one exchange shop to the other.

Zuhair Ahmadieh, a Lebanese sports equipment company owner, said he came to exchange Lebanese pounds with U.S. dollars to pay for goods he recently imported and was advised to resort to the black market.

As the crisis has worsened, nearly a quarter of a million people have lost their jobs, the labor federation says, the Lebanese currency has lost more than 60 percent of its value and savers have been locked out of their deposits.

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