Lebanon's c. bank governor not solely responsible for crisis: Hezbollah deputy

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Hezbollah’s deputy leader has said Lebanon’s central bank governor Riad Salameh is responsible for the country’s predicament, but he is not the only guilty party, according to local media on Tuesday.

The Lebanese government, which is supported by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization, has recently sought to blame others, including the central bank governor Riad Salameh, for the worsening currency crisis that has added to Lebanon’s economic woes. The comments from Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem are the latest example.

The government should be given an opportunity to bring Lebanon through the current situation, as it is addressing the issues in various ways, the National News Agency quoted Qassem as saying.

The government and central bank need to work together to come up with solutions, rather than go at each other in the media, he added.

The plummeting exchange rate is the result of accumulated errors and the negative performance of the central government, Qassem said.

Read more: More than 10 currency exchange dealers arrested in Lebanon: Security forces

Blame game for currency crisis

Since late 2019, Lebanon has suffered from a dollar crunch that has spurred an economic ancd currency crises, and inflation is on the rise. The country is dependent on imports – around 80 percent of its food is imported – and dollars are needed to pay for the goods.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab last week said Salameh was responsible for the currency crisis. Diab said the crisis-hit country had suffered $7 billion in additional losses since the start of the year and that liquidity in the banking system was running out, with $5.7 billion in Lebanese deposits exiting in January and February, Reuters reported.

But Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri on Sunday came to Salameh’s defense, saying the currency would continue to tumble and threaten deposits if Salameh was removed.

Lebanon cannot afford to remove Salameh as the country enters negotiations with foreign bondholders after defaulting on its debt obligations, Berri said in the local An-Nahar newspaper.

Read more: Lebanese banks dollar withdrawal rate at 3,000 pounds, half official peg: Sources

Influential Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai also backed Salameh, saying criticism of Salameh would only hurt the country.

While politicians continue to play the blame game, the Lebanese lira has now lost more than half its value on the parallel, or black market. The peg officially remains in place at 1507 to $1, but in reality the exchange rate has inched toward 4,000 to $1.

As hunger and unemployment continue to rise, protesters have returned to the streets in the country’s north. On Monday night, one protester was killed by security forces.

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