An embattled Riad Salameh appeared in a rare televised interview Wednesday night to defend his record. In the interview with Saudi TV station Al-Hadath, the central bank governor denied allegations that he was partisan or had taken part in or covered up for corruption. Salameh said a recent Wall Street Journal article that implied the U.S. was pushing for a forensic audit to “uncover evidence of money laundering, corruption and links to Hezbollah by top Lebanese officials, including at the central bank” and suggested that Salameh could be a target of sanctions was “not accurate.” With regard to the proposed forensic audit, Salameh maintained, as he has in the past, that a change in the law would be needed to allow him to provide the requested documents.
Nabih Berri will preside over a special joint committee session in Parliament today to discuss whether and how to maintain subsidies for essential imports. Currently, Banque du Liban sells dollars to importers of fuel, wheat and medicine at the cheaper, official rate; however, this is gradually depleting the central bank’s reserves. A number of players have proposed moving from across-the-board to targeted subsidies to support the most vulnerable populations. In his interview last night, Salameh said BDL has the capacity to maintain subsidies for two more months.
In a new report on Lebanon’s economy, the World Bank described the country’s financial crisis as a “deliberate depression.” The bank predicted that the country's economic crisis will be “deeper and longer” than most, due to a “deliberate lack of effective policy action by authorities.” The report projected that real GDP will contract by 19.2 percent in 2020 and 13.2 percent in 2021. The report calculated a 72 percent average inflation rate for 2020 — rising as high as 120 percent in August — which was projected to decrease to an average of 38 percent in 2021 if the currency depreciation stabilizes in early 2021 or 53 percent if the market value of the lira continues to decline throughout the year.
A senior judge will question caretaker Interior Minister Mohamed Fehmi this morning over his accusation that 95 percent of judges are corrupt. The legal field has taken great umbrage at the minister’s comments, made during an interview on MTV last week. For the second day in a row, lawyers with the Beirut and Tripoli bar associations are set to stage a walkout this morning.
Nearly four months after the Beirut port explosion, France and the United Nations will co-chair a videoconference this evening to raise more international support for rebuilding efforts. In a first conference convened by France in the immediate aftermath of the blast, international donors pledged 253 million euros. Since then, attempts by French President Emmanuel Macron to push a political rescue plan for Lebanon have faltered. Macron's office said this second conference aims to “take stock of the aid provided by the international community and its distribution methods since the conference of Aug. 9” — there has been no formal reporting on status of the pledged funds to date — and “to take stock of new needs and work to meet them.” Separately, the United Nations has been attempting to raise $354.9 million for the explosion response, of which about 42 percent has been funded.
An embattled Riad Salameh appeared in a rare televised interview Wednesday night to defend his record. In the interview with Saudi TV station Al-Hadath, the central bank governor denied allegations that he was partisan or had taken part in or covered up for corruption. Salameh said a recent Wall Street Journal article that implied the U.S. was pushing for a forensic audit to “uncover evidence...