Lebanon needs political action to avoid economic collapse -finance minister

Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil made the remarks following a meeting with the government’s economic and social council. (Reuters)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Lebanon needs political action to avoid economic collapse -finance minister

BEIRUT: Politicians in Lebanon, still lacking a government four months after national elections, need to take action to stop the country’s economic crisis becoming an economic collapse, its finance minister said on Wednesday.
Infighting has hampered efforts by Prime Minister-designate Saad Al-Hariri to form a national unity administration, leaving a political vacuum that has increased concerns for the highly-indebted economy.
“We are not concealing this crisis, but will this crisis inevitably lead us to a collapse? ... I say that with strong political commitment, political will and cooperation between all sectors we can avoid it,” caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said.
His comments, which followed a meeting with the government’s economic and social council, were televised. Asked by Reuters what he meant by collapse, he replied “the economic situation.”
Leaders from across the political spectrum agree a government urgently needs to be formed, but a deal remains elusive.
Its formation would be likely to help raise investor confidence in the country, unlock billions of dollars in donor funding and enable parliament to embark on long-overdue reforms.
In April, international donors meeting in Paris pledged more than $11 billion of investment, but they want evidence of economic reforms first. At that meeting Hariri promised to reduce the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP by 5 percent over five years.
Lebanon had the world’s third highest debt-to-GDP ratio, at over 150 percent, at the end of 2017. The International Monetary Fund wants to see immediate and substantial fiscal adjustment to improve debt sustainability.
On Wednesday, parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri said Lebanon did not have the luxury of time when it came to forming a government “especially when it comes to the economic situation.”
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has said the Lebanese pound, which is pegged to the dollar, will remain stable and that the central bank has high foreign reserves.
He reiterated those comments to broadcaster CNBC on Tuesday.
Lebanon’s foreign assets excluding gold were $43.56 billion at the end of August, according to central bank data.


VW to stop doing business in Iran: Bloomberg

Updated 20 September 2018
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VW to stop doing business in Iran: Bloomberg

  • VW will still be able to do some business in Iran under a humanitarian exception
  • VW has scrapped plans it announced in July last year to sell cars in Iran for the first time in 17 years

WASHINGTON: Volkswagen has bowed to American pressure stemming from the US rejection of the multi-party nuclear deal and will end almost all business in Iran, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.
The accord was reached Tuesday after weeks of talks between the German auto giant and the administration of President Donald Trump, said Richard Grenell, the US Ambassador to Germany, according to Bloomberg.
VW will still be able to do some business in Iran under a humanitarian exception, Bloomberg added.
In May, Trump pulled the US out of the deal it reached with Iran and five other countries in 2015. That accord lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
Now, the US is reimposing those sanctions.
Bloomberg said VW has scrapped plans it announced in July last year to sell cars in Iran for the first time in 17 years.