Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said that “it is clear that behind the demonization of which I am a victim, is hiding the real responsibilities of this multifaceted Lebanese crisis. Even before the complaints were filed against me, five major daily newspapers, mainly in Paris, had part of the case and were publishing articles against me on the same day. There is clearly a premeditated campaign and I am ignoring those who are responsible of it. I hope France will support me, but I can’t believe it.”
In an interview published by MondAfrica, he said: “I never thought of resigning, I love my country and I want Lebanon to restore its stability. One must persevere. During the past fifty years, when we experienced civil war, political assassinations, and foreign occupation, we survived.”
Salameh pointed out that the origins of the current crisis are financial and political, saying: “Our main problem in the past ten years was the double deficit in the state’s general budget and the balance of payments. The public sector, fueled by nepotism, is bloated. However, we lack a strong government to implement the reforms. When Rafik Hariri, who appointed me to my position as Prime Minister between 1992 and 2004, both of us succeeded in reviving the Lebanese economy after the terrible years of the civil war.”
He continued: “The reconstruction of Beirut was financed with heavy debts, but at very low interest rates, and there was great confidence that the Lebanese expatriates and the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, would not hesitate to return the dollars, not to mention the international assistance to restructure the debts liberated in the so-called Paris 1 conferences, and Paris 2 and Paris 3, with the support of Jacques Chirac, a loyal friend of Lebanon.”
“Despite the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005, the flow to Lebanon continued, even during the 2008-2009 mortgage crisis, when the balance of payments was in surplus and the exchange rate was fixed in dollars. And you can use the US currency or the Lebanese pound in a careless way. This explains why the population has access to savings in dollars, which amounted to nearly a hundred billion two years ago, which banks have locked up since the end of 2019 and imposed capital controls. As governor of the Central Bank, I have never played any political role. I am not the one who sets the state budget”, he added.
“I warned the political authority” Salameh said. “I called myself to a cabinet meeting and explained that the deficit was a huge time bomb. But as governor of the Central Bank, I have never played a political role. I am not the one who sets the state budget.”
Salameh considered that the way out of the crisis is possible, but it is political, and we need a strong government that is able to embark on reforms and that the rest will follow.