By Moutaz Ali.
Libya’s currency chaos deepened today as furious demonstrators took to Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square on a rumour that the Tripoli . . .[restrict]Central Bank of Libya (CBL) had refused to accept any of the four billion of new “Russian” Libya dinars commissioned by the Beida-based CBL.
However, it was reported that LD 112.5 million of bank notes printed by the UK’s De La Rue had arrived at Mitiga airport from Beida today. This was confirmed by Mitiga Airport’s Facebook page.
Reports that the bank would be spurning the new eastern notes were completely untrue, a Tripoli CBL official told the Libya Herald. He blamed journalists for rumour-mongering and said that the bank had posted its plans clearly on its website and on its Twitter and Facebook page. The bank, he insisted, was still considering the “Russian” notes.
These are LD 20 and LD 50 bills. Those that arrived in Tripoli are said to be for LD 5.
Two days ago, the Presidency Council went against the warnings of US diplomats that the new currency would stoke inflation and, after an initial refusal, decided to accept the new bank notes. The clincher was an agreement with Ali Habri, the governor of the Beida CBL, that the Russian-printed currency would be distributed evenly throughout Libya.
An initial consignment of LD 200 million arrived from Moscow at Labraq airport on Monday. As planned, the first new notes were handed out today in Benghazi banks which stayed open an extra two hours. The official daily withdrawal limit is LD200 but at least one customer appeared to have managed to take out more than that.
The “Russian” notes are due to be released by banks in the south on Sunday.
Tripoli CBL governor Saddek Elkaber has called a press conference for tomorrow.
The anger of demonstrators in Martyrs’ Square today was not simply over the shortage of currency in the run-up to Ramadan. They were also complaining at frequent power cuts that are striking the capital and at the apparent inability of the PC to do anything about them.
On Sunday PC member and deputy prime minister-designate Ahmed Maetig called in senior managers of GECOL, the state power company, and demanded they work out how to fix the lack of power.
Note: An earlier version of this article stated that the “Russian” notes had been flown to Tripoli. This was the result of wrong information and was not the case. We apologise for the mistake. [/restrict]