Salameh to Disclose ‘Facts’ to Lebanese on Wednesday

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Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh on Monday confirmed that he will address the Lebanese on Wednesday about the country’s dire financial crisis.

In remarks to the Mustaqbal Web news portal, Salameh said he will release a video statement in which he will be frank about “the reasons behind the current financial situation, through facts and numbers.”

“The statement will include numbers about the growth of the public debt and the expenses that were registered without revenues, topped by the new wage scale,” Salameh told Mustaqbal Web.

The Lebanese pound has been pegged to the dollar since 1997, but in recent months it has lost more than half its value on the parallel exchange market.

On Friday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab criticized the central bank and called on Salameh to “come forward to announce the honest truth to Lebanese.”

He urged the governor, who has held the post since 1993, to explain his plans and when the exchange rate would stop rising.

Central bank losses from the start of the year to mid-April have reached $7 billion, including $3 billion in the past four weeks alone, Diab said.

The premier said a “neutral international company” had been tasked to audit the central bank’s books, without giving a name.

Salameh’s supporters credit him for stabilizing the Lebanese pound for more than two decades, in the wake of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.

But his detractors accuse him of having contributed to Lebanon’s endless borrowing and ballooning sovereign debt, leading to the country’s first ever default in March.

SourceNaharnet

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