Lebanon central bank reassures foreign investors about deposits

Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh speaks during a news conference at Central Bank in Beirut, Lebanon, November 11, 2019. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 25 January 2020

Lebanon central bank reassures foreign investors about deposits

  • Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor asked if there was any risk to dollar deposits
  • The heavily indebted country’s crisis has shaken confidence in banks

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s central bank said on Saturday there would be no “haircut” on deposits at banks due to the country’s financial crisis, responding to concerns voiced by a UAE businessman about risks to foreign investments there.

Emirati Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor, founder of the Al-Habtoor Group that has two hotels in Beirut, posted a video of himself on his official Twitter account asking Lebanon’s central bank governor if there was any risk to dollar deposits of foreign investors and whether there could be any such haircut.

“The declared policy of the Central Bank of Lebanon is not to bankrupt any bank thus preserving the depositors. Also the law in Lebanon doesn’t allow haircut,” the Banque Du Liban (BDL) said in a Twitter post addressed to Al-Habtoor, from Governor Riad Salameh.

“BDL is providing the liquidity needed by banks in both Lebanese pound and dollars, but under one condition that the dollars lent by BDL won’t be transferred abroad.”

“All funds received by Lebanese banks from abroad after November 17th are free to be transferred out,” it added on its official Twitter account.

The heavily indebted country’s crisis has shaken confidence in banks and raised concerns over its ability to repay one of the world’s highest levels of public debt.

Seeking to prevent capital flight as hard currency inflows slowed and anti-government protests erupted, banks have been imposing informal controls on access to cash and transfers abroad since last October.

A new government was formed this week, and its main task is to tackle the dire financial crisis that has seen the Lebanese pound weaken against the dollar.

Al-Habtoor had asked Salameh for clarity for Arab investors concerned about the crisis and those thinking of transferring funds to Lebanon to try to “help the brotherly Lebanese.”


Lebanon removes banking secrecy rules to fight corruption

Updated 53 min 39 sec ago

Lebanon removes banking secrecy rules to fight corruption

  • The move opens the way for investigations into bank accounts of current and former officials such as Cabinet ministers

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament approved on Thursday a law to remove decades-old banking secrecy rules in order to better fight rampant corruption that has pushed the country to the edge of economic collapse.
The move opens the way for investigations into bank accounts of current and former officials such as Cabinet ministers, legislators and civil servants, state-run National News Agency reported.
The restoration of stolen public money in the corruption-plagued nation has been a key demand of protesters who have been demonstrating since mid-October against Lebanon’s ruling elite, which they blame for widespread corruption and mismanagement.
The approval of the law came two months after the Cabinet approved a draft resolution to abolish the country’s banking secrecy laws, which have turned tiny Lebanon into the region’s Switzerland, attracting clients from around the Arab world who prized the anonymity its banks offered.
The new law gives powers to National Anti-corruption Commission and a Special Investigative Committee at the central bank to investigate bank account of officials, the report said.
For Thursday’s session, Lebanese lawmakers convened inside a Beirut theater so that they could observe social distancing measures imposed during the pandemic. Dozens of anti-government demonstrators briefly clashed with riot police outside as legislators met.
As lawmakers in face masks arrived at the theater, known as the UNESCO palace, paramedics sprayed them with disinfectant before they entered, one at a time.
Lebanon has been facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with unemployment figures soaring and the local currency losing more than half of its value against the dollar.
After the banking secrecy measure was passed, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri suspended the session until later in the afternoon when the legislators were to discuss a draft general amnesty law.
The amnesty issue has deeply divided parliamentary blocs, with Christian groups calling for pardoning Lebanese who fled to Israel after it ended its occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, while former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and others want the release of hundreds of Islamists held as terror suspects.
Lebanon and Israel are at a state of war and some Lebanese who fled to Israel now hold Israeli citizenship. Scores of protesters demonstrated in Beirut and southern Lebanon on Thursday against pardoning those living in Israel.