BEIRUT — Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Tuesday night he expects the Lebanese lira to rise to LL30,000 against the dollar on the parallel market if Parliament succeeds in electing a new president, thereby ending the country's executive vacuum.
The country has had no president since former head of state Michel Aoun's six-year term ended on Oct. 31.
The lira on Wednesday morning stood at around LL81,000 to the dollar on the parallel market, while the new official rate has been set, since Feb. 1, at LL15,000 to the greenback.
"The dollar crisis is political. So if a president is elected, if things get stable and a new government [is formed], yes the dollar will drop by tens of thousands. I expect [the dollar] will not exceed LL30,000," Mikati said in an interview with Al Jadeed TV.
Mikati also linked the dollar fluctuation to an ongoing strike by banks that started Feb. 6.
He said that he expects the strike to end "within 48 hours."
"After the strike that is happening in the country, I am in communication with the Association of Banks in Lebanon, and the judiciary, hopefully, I think things are being relieved and that in 48 hours the banks would end their strike."
He however underlined that he's not "interfering" in judicial procedures.
"In order to prevent any misinterpretation of the letter sent by Mikati to [caretaker] Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, we want to assure that the [caretaker] Prime Minister has never interfered and will never interfere with the work of justice. He relies on the data provided to him, which includes a detailed account of the offenses attributable to some judges,” said a statement from Mikati's press office.
The statement also noted the work of the judges "must remain linked to a practice that complies with the law and does not undermine the legal bases ... "[it is] the responsibility of everyone to preserve the banking sector without this meaning that every bank is spared from prosecution.”
On Monday, Mikati spokesperson Fares Gemayel told L’Orient-Le Jour that the caretaker PM had “urged the banks to calm things down, given the danger the country is facing,” and that he met recently with the Higher Judicial Council president Souheil Abboud and caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury, asking them to “find solutions at the legal and judicial levels" to the bank strike.
The caretaker Prime Minister also criticized the judicial proceedings by prosecutor Ghada Aoun against the banks, which fueled the sector's anger: "Talking of money laundering is unacceptable and it damages Lebanon's reputation," he said during the interview on Al Jadeed.
Banks announced a strike on Feb. 6 and listed many demands, including approving a capital control law after a judge ruled in favor of two depositors against Fransabank.
They also pointed blame at the proceedings for money laundering started by Judge Aoun against several banking institutions.
Last Thursday, demonstrators set fire to banks across Lebanon to protest their deposits stuck inside the banks and the ongoing strike. With the absence of a capital control law, since the beginning of the economic crisis banks have imposed illegal controls on most people's deposits while allowing billions of dollars to be transferred abroad.
Depositor groups have rejected the current version of Parliament's capital control law and considered it to favor the banks.
The financial situation of the country will be the object of a future cabinet meeting, also announced Tuesday night by Mikati.
Commenting on the possibility of renewing Banque Du Liban governor Riad Salameh's term, Mikati said he "will not suggest" an extension and that "none of the ministers will accept this."
Salameh is currently being investigated by several European countries for money laundering and embezzlement. He has been the head of BDL since 1993. Earlier this week, he said that he will not seek a new term.
Mikati also answered a question regarding the extension of the current General Security head Abbas Ibrahim. "This decision must be taken by the Parliament," he said. He however asked that he has been "asked to look for a legal solution to a possible extension" in view of the difficulty faced by Parliament in holding a legislative session. Such a session is opposed by many MPs, who maintain that the body can only meet to elect a new president.
For the first time in its history, Lebanon has no president and no fully empowered cabinet.
Mikati is currently both the caretaker and designated prime minister.
BEIRUT — Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Tuesday night he expects the Lebanese lira to rise to LL30,000 against the dollar on the parallel market if Parliament succeeds in electing a new president, thereby ending the country's executive vacuum. The country has had no president since former head of state Michel Aoun's six-year term ended on Oct. 31. The lira on Wednesday...