BEIRUT – Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Wednesday held the Central Bank responsible for the financial collapse and blocking an audit, which is a key condition for much-needed foreign aid.
In a nationwide speech, Aoun accused Lebanese banks of squandering citizens’ savings and the central bank governor of apologizing for refusing to answer 73 of the 133 questions the Alvarez & Marsal consultancy sent for. the audit.
“At the central bank, I say: the primary responsibility lies with you,” he said, in his sharpest criticisms to date. “You should have taken steps to protect people’s money in the banks.”
Central bank governor Riad Salameh did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The crippled banking sector is at the heart of Lebanon’s financial collapse, which peaked in 2019 when dollar inflows dried up and protests swept across the country.
The heavily indebted state and the banking sector, its biggest creditor, have since traded responsibility for the crisis, Lebanon’s worst in decades.
Banks froze savers from their dollar deposits as the Lebanese currency lost most of its value, plunging deep into poverty.
The leaders failed to launch a bailout, instead arguing over the composition of a new government, with Aoun and seasoned politician Saad Al-Hariri, who was appointed prime minister in October, stuck in a stalemate.
Foreign donors have warned that they will not give any aid without reforms to tackle the debt crush and entrenched graft, which are the root causes of the crisis. A central bank audit is a key requirement.
Aoun said in Wednesday’s speech that politicians share the blame for providing cover to the central bank, without naming individuals.
Riad Salameh: In Lebanon, depositors’ money is still available Aoun turns to diplomats to try to break the political deadlock in Lebanon.