In October the financial banking system in Lebanon suddenly turned from provider to with-holder. A transformation from the good Dr Henry Jekyll, to the evil Edward Hyde. It happened so fast that people did not see it coming. No one understood what happened, and people still do not get it!
By Hiba Kilany
Unfortunately, I experienced it first hand. I had to beg, I had to cry for weeks and months to all kinds and colors of Abdallahs, Nisreens, and the likes, repeating the same story over and over again for anyone willing to hear me. I was hoping to find that one good Samaritan that would be able to perform a magical act of empathy towards me.
Not being able to resolve it through international calls, I had to write a letter, a cry of despair, that I eventually published on my Facebook page. Below is the letter that made things move.
The letter I had to remove -mind you- so that things could finally move.
Dear BLOM bank,
I have been your loyal client for over 20 years. I left the country, but kept my trust in both Lebanon and your bank. I kept my money – the money that I have gathered through years of hard labor and sweat- in your branch, despite moving abroad.
I am sorry to say that, but you are acting like thieves! I want to have access – I need to have access- to my money: I cannot live with 600 euros a month! My rent is already 500 euros! Not even a dog can survive with 100 euros a month!
I live in an area where Point-of-Sale (POS) usage is not wide-spread and most of my payments are done with cash! You decreased the international card limits, and refuse to transfer even the slightest amount to my empty Italian bank account!
I have my monthly obligations. I have dues to pay, and payments to do that exceed $1k a month by far: if you don’t solve my problem ASAP, I will not be able to pay the minimum needs of a decent human being!
With your actions you have forced your Diaspora to live below any acceptable social level, while you claim to be Bank of Lebanon and that of Expats?! What expats!
I am not asking for alms or charity! I am asking you for my right as a lawful customer in your not so respectable bank. This is awfully sad. I am raising my case to the global network of friends and connections.
Please help me, in any way you can!
A couple of hours and a thousand of views on my Facebook page later, I received a call from a newbie of the bank’s social media department. He asked me to remove the post, I refused. He got nervous, and transferred me to his boss, who, with little hidden threatening tone, explained to me that, if I wanted any kind of help, I had to delete the post.
So I did. Not because I was afraid, but because the purpose of the post was to get hold of my money. I decided to share my story again, to tell everyone how sad things have become. Yes, I got hold of a very small amount of my savings thanks to the help of that person: am I grateful? He said that it was a miracle they accepted to do the transfer: somehow, to me, it still felt totally unfair, unjustified, that I should be grateful because I was able to get hold on a stupid silly sum of my own damn money. A relatively sad amount that would only save me for a while from living on the streets in a foreign country.
It is not over yet. The tragedy remains. Now discussions are being held about the rate the banks force us Lebanese with US dollars account to transfer the amount into Lebanese Lira. The discussion is at what rate will the system screw us, and for much they will rip us off.
Can we ever trust the Lebanese banking system again? Can we ever trust any system: the political system, the health system, the financial system, and the banking system. Seen the recent global developments the political system proved to be a failure, the health system proved to be unreliable, the financial guarantees you thought you had proved to be another source of our insecurities.
A system full of liars, unworthy of our trust, failing us all… In Lebanon even the revolution failed. Unfortunately, le temps des révolutions est mort, ‘the time of revolution is long gone…’
Yet, and although it frustrates me, I can assure you that after all of this is gone: post-Covid-19, after the biggest economic depression of the century that is yet to come, after the revolutionaries burned all the tires in Lebanon, after we get ripped off of all our savings, we the people, we will get back. We’ll be eating things we shouldn’t eat, placing money in banks we don’t trust, and we be voting for politicians we don’t really trust
Unfortunately, that is the irony and predictability of men.
Hiba Kilany is a concerned freelance communication specialist