The term, Lollar, was coined by Harvard economic fellow Dan Azzi following the severe economic crisis that hit Lebanon. The symbol of this new currency is lol. The new currency is an urgent statement against a corrupted system and its failures, incompetence and mismanagement.
Lebanon is in the middle of a crippling economic crisis. The Lebanese lira has lost more than 90% of its value since 2019. The mock currency raises awareness of the fact that millions of American dollars deposited with Lebanese banks can now only be withdrawn in local currency, making them as worthless as “lollars” (Lebanese dollars).
The Lebanese Transparency Association – No Corruption and Leo Burnett have produced six paper bills, which can be withdrawn from custom-made ATMs located across Beirut or printed directly via The Currency of Corruption microsite. Each Lollar bill represents one of the crises that have impacted Lebanese citizens over the past three years with corruption impacting transportation, environment, electricity, port and fire management. The 100 Lollar bill depicts the devastating Beirut blast of August 2020; the 50 Lollar bill depicts an energy management crisis that is keeping lights off across Lebanon; the 10 Lollar bill depicts an environmental disaster caused by mountains of landfill and toxic waste.
“This could not have come to life the way it has without our Power of One strategy and our creativity without borders philosophy that Publicis Groupe established long ago,” says Mohammed Bahmishan, Chief Creative Officer at Publicis Communications.
On May 13, the Lebanese Transparency Association – No called on citizens to pay government bills using the Lollar – Currency of Corruption in the lead up to the Lebanese general elections on 15 May, 2022.
Leo Burnett partnered with British artist, Tom Young, to design the Lollar bills. Based between London and Beirut, Young often depicts challenging events in his artworks to show resilience in the face of adversity.
Mohamed Sehly, executive creative director at Leo Burnett, explained, “‘We made sure to collaborate and partner with the right artist to ensure the best representation of such an insightful subject when designing and crafting each Lollar bill.”
“The Lollar isn’t a real currency, it’s the currency of corruption,” added Nada Abisaleh, Leo Burnett Beirut managing director. “It symbolizes the negligence, deals, bribes and corruption that have contributed to creating the biggest Ponzi scheme of modern times. By advocating for a Pay with Lollar Day, we wanted to send a powerful message that we, the people of Lebanon, are #NotPayingthePrice of their corruption.”
Get behind the scenes:
The Lebanese Transparency Association Transparency – No Corruption was established in 1999. It aims to promote the principles of transparency and accountability, establishing the rule of law and respecting the fundamental rights inaugurated in international laws and the Lebanese Constitution.
About the 6 Lollar bills
- The Train Station – 1 Lollar: A train station was founded in 1911 in Tripoli’s Mina and was later managed by the French mandate. It returned to the Lebanese government following Independence. It was officially deemed inoperational in 1989, but the Lebanese government to this day still allocates a budget of millions to cover its expenses.
- Fuel Cartels – 5 Lollars: After wreaking havoc to the Lebanese economy through and through, the government lifted subsidies on fuel and the central bank stopped allowing credits, forcing importing companies to ration fuel distribution, which led to gas stations increasing prices exponentially.
- Garbage Crisis – 10 Lollar: In 1994, the Lebanese government decided to hold deals with private companies to handle issues regarding garbage landfills, backfilling the ocean several times to create a landfill. However, these solutions were temporary like the dumps of Nour Mandy, Costa Brava, Bourj Hammoud, and Nehme, and they drained the government’s budget. Today, the dumps failed, the dollar has depleted, and the companies have quit, leaving no solution to the ongoing crisis.
- Civil Services – 20 Lollar: Our green Lebanon was always a source of inspiration due to its breathtaking scenery and its exceptional natural landscape, but this image has sadly changed as a consequence of the disastrous fires (more than 100 fires in Lebanon’s forests annually), to an extent that #Lebanon_is_Burning was trending on social media due to the negligence and unpreparedness even though 14 million dollars were spent in the year of 2009 on firefighting equipment in case of emergencies. Neighboring countries such as Jordan, Cyprus, and Greece, stepped in to help the Lebanese army put out the fires.
- Energy Management – 50 Lollar: This sector was created in the year of 1909 under Ottoman ruling, and several energy factories were built such as the Zouk, Jiyye, Sour, Baalbek, and other factories which have died out sadly due to the scarcity of dollars. Inverters were put in 2017 in the Jiyye and Zouk factories which were closed for several reasons, most importantly due to corruption. Lebanon – formerly the Middle East’s Switzerland – has turned into a ghost town, with its citizens becoming hostages of generator cartels, tampering with the quality of fuel and suspicious import quality. Despite that, public debt in the state treasury originates from this sector (43 million dollars almost), the energy management crisis is ongoing and the country’s lights are still out.
- Port Management – 100 Lollar: In 2013, a timed bomb arrived to Lebanon on a Russian ship carrying ammonium nitrate and was stored in Beirut’s port. It exploded in August 2020, devastated Lebanon and shook the entire world. 218 killed. 7,000 injured, and over 300,000 left homeless, apart from massive damages to the port and the city’s suburbs (approximately 8 billion and 100 million dollars and the entire administrative corruption in the port was revealed (negligence, deals, bribes, etc.)
Client: Lebanese Transparency Association – No Corruption
Agency: Leo Burnett, Publicis Communications Middle East
Chief Creative Officer, Publicis Communications: Mohammed Bahmishan
Executive Creative Director, Leo Burnett: Mohammed Sehly
Creative Directors: Rana Khoury & Manal Naji
Associate Creative Director: Lama Bawadi
Senior Art Director: Farah Abou Chakra
Artist: Tom Young
Photography & Video Production: DAZL Production