Lebanese banking chief pledges services ‘will soon return to normal’

Lebanese banking chief pledges services ‘will soon return to normal’
Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square has been sealed-off by graffiti-covered concrete barriers placed by Lebanese security forces to separate it from the nearby government palace. (AFP / JOSEPH EID)
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Updated 31 January 2020

Lebanese banking chief pledges services ‘will soon return to normal’

Lebanese banking chief pledges services ‘will soon return to normal’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s banking chief has reassured customers that their deposits are safe and that financial services in the country “will soon return to normal.”

Salim Sfeir, head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, moved to calm fears as Prime Minister Hassan Diab drew up final plans to start the job of tackling the severe economic crisis gripping Lebanon.

“There is no fear regarding the deposits in Lebanese banks,” said Sfeir. “The restrictions taken by banks on transfers last November were temporary and exceptional measures to manage the crisis. Things will soon return to normal with the emergence of the new government.”

The premier’s government is still holding meetings with a view to completing its ministerial statement by next week, which will include an action plan to deal with the dire economic situation and its vision for the future.

The statement will then go before the Lebanese Parliament in a bid to gain the confidence of deputies so that Diab’s government can start its official work.

Sfeir, who has participated in talks held by the PM, said he felt “the seriousness” of Diab “in giving priority to reforms that are a mandatory path to save the country.”

Lebanon has been in turmoil since Oct. 17 last year when protests began throughout the country against government corruption, tax rises and the political elite.

The demonstrations resulted in the collapse of former premier Saad Hariri’s government, a further downturn in the economy, and a shortage of liquidity in dollars.

When Lebanese banks reacted by imposing restrictions on financial transfers it led to crises in various sectors of the economy and sparked fears among small depositors about access to their funds.

In a statement on the economic situation, Diab said: “The dark image that is being talked about is not accurate, but this does not mean that the solutions are easy.

“The economic issue is the dominant part of the ministerial statement due to the stage’s delicacy and the multiple facets of the financial crisis and its repercussions.

“The repercussions in the country have led to a loss of confidence in the state, the central bank (of Lebanon), and the entire banking sector.

“Therefore, I requested that a plan be prepared, in cooperation between the government, the central bank, and the Association of Banks in Lebanon, with the aim to restore the minimum confidence which is the basis in dealing with the crisis, especially since the numbers that I have seen allow a wide margin of serious measures that will help cool the crisis’ heat, in preparation to extinguishing it.”