According to a media report, the people of Lebanon, who are living in deep turmoil, have turned to cryptocurrency. To earn income from mining, work and to store wealth, cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin and tether has begun to overtake the highly inflated Lebanese pounds and the difficult-to-get-hold of U.S. dollars.
Lebanese who try to make ends meet in Meltdown find cryptocurrency invaluable.
With its capital Beirut once called the “Paris of the Middle East,” before the civil war broke out in 1975, and known as an offshore banking destination rivaling Switzerland, after the conflict ended in 1990, in the past few years, Lebanon has been struggling to cope with a looming economic and financial crisis — among the planet’s worst, according to the World Bank.
It plunged into financial crisis in 2019, and in 2020 its government declared bankruptcy on its sovereign debt. The collapsed country happened at the same time as Covid was spreading across the globe. CNBC reported that with losses up to $70 Billion at local banks and inflation forecast to rise to 178% by this year according to Fitch. Nearly 80% of the population below the UN’s poverty line, CNBC noted in a report.
A number of people in the area have used decentralized digital currencies as their lifeline. While crypto adoption took different forms in each case — from mining dogecoin and earning bitcoin, to spending tether — all these Lebanese citizens praised access to a type of money that makes sense for them in the current circumstances. Georgio Abbou Gebrael (a 27-year old architect hailing from Beirut) describes their experiences best. He now earns half his income via crypto-paid, freelance work.
Bitcoin really has given me hope. I was born in my village, I’ve lived here my whole life, and bitcoin has helped me to stay here.
Ahmad Abu Daher, 22-years-old, is one of many who recognized crypto mining’s potential as a viable venture. Two years ago, he started minting ether. At the time, the coin still relied on proof-of work. He was using electricity produced by a hydropower facility on the Litani River in south Lebanon.
Daher, his friend, and three other mining devices were their first investment. Since then, they’ve established their own crypto farm, and now host rigs to help others. One of them is Rawad El Hajj, a 27-year-old with a marketing degree, who has a dozen machines minting litecoin and dogecoin at Daher’s facility, making over $400 a month for him.
The use of Bitcoin, Tether, and other cryptocurrency in Lebanon for store of value, payment means
For Gebrael who believes that Bitcoin is replacing fiat for payments abroad, he says accepting U.S. Dollars would result in receiving less than the amount originally sent in pounds. The traditional remittances that Lebanon relied upon in the past were over 25% of its gross national product in 2004. Marcel Younes is a pharmacist who uses cryptocurrency primarily as a store-of-value. In 2019, the man took all his money out of his bank and converted 70% into bitcoin.
Asked how reliable it is to keep wealth in an asset that lost 70% in the past year, Younes told CNBC he isn’t too concerned about the price of BTC as he bought his coins when it was around $20,000 and reminded that the leading coin was selling for just $3,500 three years ago.
Some Lebanese trust tether (USDT), a stablecoin tied to US dollars. “We started by selling and buying USDT because the amount of demand on USDT is very high,” admitted Abu Daher, the miner who is also offering crypto exchange services.
Although crypto is not allowed as a payment method, increasing numbers of companies are accepting payments in tether or other currencies. “There’s a lot of coffee shops, restaurants, and electronics stores that accept USDT as a payment, so that’s convenient if I need to spend not in fiat, but from my bitcoin savings,” said Gebrael, the young architect who relies on crypto to patch the budget every month.
Are you optimistic that cryptocurrencies will attract more Lebanese users as the country’s crisis worsens? Please leave your comments below.
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