The official currency of Lebanon is the Lebanese pound. The pound was divided into 100 piastres, but high inflation in the country has eliminated this subdivision. Due to the French occupation of Lebanon, Lebanese coins and bank notes are bilingual in Arabic and French. Banque du Liban has played a critical role in the development of the currency in Lebanon. Its mission is to issue money, ensure transferability, protect its value, and supervise the banking institutions in the country.
Development of the Lebanese Pound
Before the World War I, Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire and therefore the Ottoman lira was the legal tender. Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the Ottoman lira was replaced by the Egyptian pound, which was issued by a private British institution in states under the joint British and French mandate. When Lebanon was taken under French mandate, the French sought to replace the Egyptian pound and granted Banque du Syrie, an affiliate of the French Ottoman Bank, the authority to issue the Syrian pound. The Syrian pound was pegged to the French franc at an exchange rate of one pound to 20 francs. In 1924, Bank Syria and Lebanon (BSL) was granted the right to issue franc-based Lebanese-Syrian currency. Lebanese currency was officially separated from Syrian currency, but could be used interchangeably. The Lebanese currency remained linked to the French franc until 1941, when it became linked to the British pound. Currently, the Lebanese pound is the legal tender in Lebanon.
The first Lebanese coins were issued in 1924 in denominations of 2 and 5 girush, while the French denominations were issued in Syrian piastres. During World War I, the coins issued did not include the word “syriennes” and were in the denominations ranging from ½ to 50 girsha. After the war, the Arabic spelling for “girsha” changed to “qirsh.” Between 1952 and 1986, coins were issued in denominations of qirsh and lira. Banque du Liban did not issue any coin between 1986 and 1994. The current series of coins were introduced in 1994 and come in denominations of 50, 100, 250, and 500.
The first banknotes were issued by the Bank of Syria and Greater Lebanon in 1925. These banknotes ranged from 25 girsha to 100 pounds in denominations. The bank changed its name to Bank of Syria and Lebanon in 1939. The first 250-notes also appeared in the same year. Small change paper money was issued by the BSL between 1942 and 1950 in denominations ranging from 5 to 50 girsha. After 1945, paper money was denominated specifically in Lebanese pounds to distinguish them from the Syrian banknotes. On August 1, 1963, the Bank of Lebanon was granted the sole mandate to print banknotes in the denominations ranging from 1 to 250 pounds. The current banknotes feature Arabic and French script numerals, each on either side with serial numbers in both Arabic and Latin. A bar code is placed below the serial numbers.