President Assad dismisses Syria’s central bank chief, says state news agency

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President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed Syria’s Central Bank Governor Hazem Karfoul, the state news agency reported on Tuesday.

It did not immediately say whether Assad had appointed a replacement. Syria’s decade-long conflict has decimated the economy, and the country also faces Western sanctions.

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Assad removed Imad Khamis as prime minister in June following weeks of economic hardship and a rare outbreak of anti-Assad protests in government-held areas, replacing him with Hussein Arnous.

The Syrian pound has been tumbling, driving up inflation and aggravating the hardship faced by Syrians as they struggle to afford food, power and other basics.

The currency has rebounded somewhat in recent weeks since hitting a low of 4,000 to the US dollar in March after authorities tightened controls on bank withdrawals and internal transfers and restricted movement of cash around the country to stop hoarding of dollars.

Bankers and business people had told Reuters the Central Bank of Syria instructed banks to cap withdrawals at 2 million pounds ($572) from an earlier limit of 15 million pounds and acted to curb movement of cash within provinces to up to 5 million pounds. It also imposed a ceiling of up to one million pounds on transfers within government-held areas to reduce the demand for dollars.

Karfoul was widely criticized by the business community for the measures taken to halt the decline of the currency which they say were counterproductive and brought only temporary relief.

The pound had traded at 47 to the dollar before protests against Assad’s rule erupted in March 2011.

In a video published by the president’s office on March 30, Assad spoke about the currency tumble in his first appearance after recovering from COVID-19 saying that traders who were profiting from the crash would be punished.

“The failure of the Central Bank governor to take the policy measures to at least stabilize the pound in recent months were the main cause for his dismissal,” a businessman familiar with the situation said.

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