Riad Salameh, governor of Lebanon's central bank, speaks to the Financial Times in his office in Beirut, Lebanon, on October 30, 2017. [Sam Tarling for the Financial Times]

In a statement, the governor of the Banque du Liban Riad Salamé, widely criticized locally for the delays taken by the central bank to release the lines of credit necessary for the import of medicines, flour and fuel, strongly attacked the state that he accuses of being at the origin of the current situation by the announcement of the state of default in 2020 and his inability to fight against the black market in fuels.

According to the press release, the BdL places the interests of citizens before anything else and for this reason, it released the credit lines necessary for the import of fuels as a deputy of the delicate economic and monetary situation and of article 91. of the currency and credit code relating to the ban on the use of mandatory monetary reserves and “catastrophic results” according to him following the declaration of a state of default.

Still according to Riad Salamé, the Banque du Liban would have taken all the necessary measures to provide the necessary foreign currency to importers. Thus, for the month of July 2021, the BdL would have approved $ 293 million in new lines of credit requested, $ 415 million in previously presented lines of credit, the 2 in favor of the population and $ 120 million in favor of Electricity of Lebanon, a figure however still far from the needs of the EDL.

Despite these amounts, the population continues to suffer from a shortage, believes Riad Salamé, shortages which have caused the establishment of a black market in this sector.

Recognizing that the circumstances have serious consequences on hospitals or even food security, he therefore accuses people acting on the black market of seeking to be at the origin via sales at prices higher than the official pricing of the situation. and therefore calls on the state to fight against them.

Accusations that appear to be superficial, say some sources

However, these accusations are somewhat questioned by certain sources who stress that the establishment of a black market was precisely allowed following the refusal of the Banque du Liban to grant the lines of credit necessary for the importation of the quantities. sufficient to meet local market demand.

They also believe that the governor of the Banque du Liban is seeking to embellish his balance sheet while he is the subject of investigation in France and Switzerland for embezzlement and money laundering, which could complicate negotiations. come regarding the restructuring of the banking sector with international institutions due to the presence of a now controversial person around the table in the event of the constitution of a new government led by Najib Mikati.

In addition, these same sources recall that the first gasoline shortages occurred in May 2019, even though the Governor of the Banque du Liban that only logistical problems were at the origin of the lack of liquidity in foreign currencies, that is to say almost ” one year before the declaration of a default in April 2020.
It was at this precise moment that a black market concerning foreign currencies also appeared with the beginning of a deterioration of the parity of the Lebanese pound against the dollar, note these same sources before concluding that the factors are numerous, that there is a part of the responsibility of the governmental authorities but that it is also not a question of exonerating the governor of the Bank of Lebanon of his responsibilities vis-a-vis the economic and monetary crisis which the Country of the Cedars is going through.

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