Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday urged the government to ” halt the dramatic collapse of the Lebanese lira exchange rate.”

“The government should not remain idle in the face of the ongoing financial chaos while claiming that it is keen on people’s food security,” Berri added.

The Speaker’s stance comes after the dollar exchange rate crossed the LBP 3,700 mark at a number of money exchange shops on Thursday.

Tensions have surged since Wednesday between Berri, Prime Minister Hassan Diab and several ministers after quorum was lost during parliament’s debate of a draft law that grants the government LBP 1,200 billion for its coronavirus economic aid plan. 

Berri dismissed a request by Diab to hold an evening session to pass the draft law, telling him: “Neither you nor anyone else can set the session’s time or impose on parliament what it can or should do.” 

Separately, Berri called for a joint session for several parliamentary committees on Wednesday to discuss the general amnesty draft laws.

Lebanon’s mounting national debt spilled over into a full-blown banking crisis even before the coronavirus outbreak added a fresh blow.

Lebanon’s fixed exchange rate has been a major casualty. The Lebanese pound has been pegged at 1,500 to the dollar since 1997, a guarantee that meant pounds and dollars were both widely used. It gave Lebanon’s diaspora the confidence to repatriate capital, building deposits that helped finance the state.

But the  pound has already halved in value in the open market, and continues to slide. In exchange houses, which would once freely convert at rates close to 1,500, the pound had slipped to 3450/3750 on Thursday.

Former Finance Ministry adviser Toufic Gaspard said the recent measures were “helping the indebtedness of the central bank and the banks in dollars at the expense of the depositor.”

“This is plain robbery and it is anti-constitutional,” he said.

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