Banque du Liban governor: State spenders must be held accountable 

Banque du Liban governor: State spenders must be held accountable 
Central Bank chief Riad Salameh gave a televised speech in Beirut Wednesday. (AFP)
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Updated 30 April 2020

Banque du Liban governor: State spenders must be held accountable 

Banque du Liban governor: State spenders must be held accountable 
  • Arab, Western concern that Lebanon could slide into further chaos
  • Syria accuses Lebanese parliament speaker of corruption

BEIRUT: Riad Salameh, governor of the Lebanese central bank, on Wednesday defended his record, rejecting criticism that he was to blame for a financial crisis and assured savers there was no need to panic about their deposits.

“The central bank financed the state but was not the one that spent the money. We must know who spent this money. There are constitutional and administrative institutions that have a mission to reveal their spending,” said the Banque du Liban chief.

Salameh added: “We had to conduct the financial engineering to buy Lebanon time as there were promises of reform, but these promises were not translated due to political reasons.”

Salameh was targeted by a political campaign that amounted to a proposal in the cabinet to dismiss him against the backdrop of the financial collapse in Lebanon.

In his first televised speech, he said: “The Banque du Liban did not cost the state a lira but was making profits and transferring them to the state. The bank also contributed to reducing the state debt in the Paris 2 conference, and we used the gold differences in certain stages to reduce the debt.”

Salameh defended his financing of the state based on the Code of Currency and Credit. He said: “The code states that when the government insists, the central bank provides finances. We respect the law.”

He stressed that “there is no concealed information in the Banque du Liban nor unilateral information in spending decisions that the governor of the Banque du Liban can enjoy, and saying otherwise is a slander aimed at misleading the public opinion to strengthen the campaign against the governor.”

Salameh added: “Had the central bank not financed the state, how would it have provided salaries and electric power? We were not the only ones to finance the state — the banking sector, international institutions and Paris conferences also financed it.”

He reassured the Lebanese people that “their deposits are in place and are being used.”

 

He emphasized that “financing the import of wheat, medicine and fuel will continue, which leads to price stability in the Lebanese people’s interest.”

Salameh said: “We did not and will not let the banks go bankrupt, and this is for the sake of depositors. We have asked them to increase the capital, and all banks have committed and are trying to implement this in a speedy manner.”

The governor added that “there is no need for a haircut (on deposits),” explaining that: “Speaking of it terrifies depositors and delays the reboot of the banking sector.”

The central bank is still providing dollars at the official rate for imports of wheat, medicine and fuel. Salameh said this helped purchasing power.

He said $21 billion remained in usable liquidity.

Salameh’s speech came on the eve of the government’s endorsement of the final reform plan, which it promised since its formation less than three months ago, and in light of an unprecedented attack from Syria on Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, an ally of Damascus.

The news manager of the official Damascus Radio station, Ahmed Refaat Youssef, wrote on social media: “Berri is one of the lords of the corruption alliance. He is a partner of the political Harirism and its corruption syndrome, which destroyed Lebanon and affected Syria.”

He added: “Anyone who thinks that Berri is part of the resistance alliance is wrong. He is a burden on it despite that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah is trying to invest in him and use him as a political facade.”

Economist Kamal Hamdan said: “Without a peaceful transfer of power, the state is destined to collapse.”

He told Arab News: “The prevailing system is responsible for the succession of crises in Lebanon. It has to leave or else the matter will be limited to band-aid solutions when we require a serious solution that is based on reaching a consensus on the size of the black hole, a fair economic and political distribution of losses, and identifying reforms. 

“After doing our homework, we can go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and have a peer-to-peer negotiation. I am pessimistic as long as there is no change in the political power. We have to rebuild the country.”

Economist Issam Jurdi told Arab News: “The governor of the central bank should not have financed a bankrupt state. No law forces him to do that except in emergencies and disasters. The state has been bankrupt for 30 years, and he is still providing it with funds. This has led to triple bankruptcy: The state, banks, and the central bank.”

Jurdi said the solution lies in recovering the money that banks have smuggled abroad.

He added: “I believe what is happening is a struggle for the presidency of Lebanon and the governance of the central bank, but no one thinks they can avoid US sanctions.

“What is required are early parliamentary elections and a fair judiciary to be able to hold the corrupt accountable.”

In response to what is happening, the Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League Hossam Zaki expressed the league’s concern over “the rapid developments on the Lebanese scene and the dangerous escalation on the ground between the protestors and the Lebanese Army, especially in Tripoli.”

Zaki warned of a rapid slide into unbearable consequences. He said: “Our hopes are chiefly in the wisdom of the army and the security forces, who we believe will act with the usual professionalism and responsibility to prevent the country from slipping into the unknown.

“The Lebanese government is urged to quickly take practical and speedy steps for economic reform and to meet the legitimate demands of the Lebanese people.”

US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker urged Lebanon to “prove its commitment to reform in order to secure international assistance.” He told Al-Arabiya TV channel: “An accumulation of bad financial decisions, inaction and entrenched corruption and cronyism were the cause of Lebanon’s crisis.”

Washington’s Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea expressed her dissatisfaction with the non-peaceful nature of the protesters, who have justified demands. She reiterated the necessity of cooperating with the IMF.

Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni received a phone call from French Minister of the Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire, who affirmed “France’s support for Lebanon in its financial and economic plan.” He stressed “the need to implement the required reform steps.”

Prime Minister Hassan Diab received a call from French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who expressed France’s support for the government’s reform plan and its willingness to help Lebanon with the IMF.

Le Drian said that France intends to hold a meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG) as soon as the coronavirus curfew measures end.

British Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling said after meeting with President Michel Aoun that the current circumstance necessitates the cooperation of all political forces to achieve Lebanon’s supreme interest.


Emirati, Greek firms launch joint venture to tackle maritime waste

Emirati, Greek firms launch joint venture to tackle maritime waste
Updated 31 min 46 sec ago

Emirati, Greek firms launch joint venture to tackle maritime waste

Emirati, Greek firms launch joint venture to tackle maritime waste
  • The joint venture, EvoGreen, will provide advanced maritime waste management services to preserve the region’s oceans

DUBAI: UAE waste management company Bee’ah and Greek sustainability firm Polygreen has launched a new company that will offer marine and environmental management solutions.

The joint venture, EvoGreen, will provide advanced maritime waste management services to preserve the region’s oceans, the UAE state news agency has reported.

“Evogreen will take the lead in promoting best practices in the maritime waste management industry and achieve remarkable outcomes for the UAE and wider region,” Salim bin Mohamed Al-Owais, Bee’ah chairman, said.

The new company has already established an alternative raw material facility in Bee’ah’s Sharjah complex. It processes maritime waste and marine-related hazardous waste to produce alternative materials for industrial use.

EvoGreen is currently building another facility that can process waste streams and convert materials into alternative fuel.

Both facilities will collect, recycle and recover hazardous and non-hazardous waste from ships visiting ports in the UAE.

“The launch of Evogreen is a milestone regarding the global effort to protect the environment and address the challenge of climate change,” Polygreen chief, Athanasios Polychronopoulos, said.

The company will also offer oil spill response services and management of distressed vessels, as well as recycling and recovery solutions.


Abu Dhabi to invest nearly $100m in projects in Turkmenistan

Abu Dhabi to invest nearly $100m in projects in Turkmenistan
Updated 12 June 2021

Abu Dhabi to invest nearly $100m in projects in Turkmenistan

Abu Dhabi to invest nearly $100m in projects in Turkmenistan
  • The deal allocates 275 million dirhams ($74.9 million) for the construction of an airport in Jebel in the Balkan region
  • About 92 million dirhams will be used to build a 10-megawatts hybrid power plant

DUBAI: The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) has signed deals worth $99.91 million to build an airport and a power plant in Turkmenistan.
The deal allocates 275 million dirhams ($74.9 million) for the construction of an airport in Jebel in the Balkan region of the country.
It aims to improve airport infrastructure in the area and enhance air connectivity in central Asia.
The project includes building Jebel airport terminal with a capacity of 100 passengers per hour.
About 92 million dirhams will be used to build a 10-megawatts hybrid power plant that will provide clean energy for the people in Altyn Asyr.
Earlier this year, the ADFD signed agreements with the government of Turkmenistan for projects including including an investment company.


G7 to counter China’s clout with big infrastructure project: senior US official

G7 to counter China’s clout with big infrastructure project: senior US official
Updated 12 June 2021

G7 to counter China’s clout with big infrastructure project: senior US official

G7 to counter China’s clout with big infrastructure project: senior US official
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure scheme that Xi launched in 2013
  • More than 100 countries have signed agreements with China to cooperate in BRI projects like railways, ports, highways and other infrastructure

CARBIS BAY: The Group of Seven will seek to rival China’s multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative on Saturday by announcing a global infrastructure plan to help developing nations, a senior official in US President Joe Biden’s administration said.
The G7 is trying to find a coherent response to the growing assertiveness of President Xi Jinping after China’s spectacular economic and military rise over the past 40 years.
The US official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the United States would also push the other G7 leaders for “concrete action on forced labor” in China, and to include criticism of Beijing in their final communique from a three-day summit in southwest England.
“This is not just about confronting or taking on China,” the official said. “But until now we haven’t offered a positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards and our way of doing business.”
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure scheme that Xi launched in 2013, involving development and investment initiatives that would stretch from Asia to Europe and beyond.
More than 100 countries have signed agreements with China to cooperate in BRI projects like railways, ports, highways and other infrastructure.
Critics say Xi’s plan to create a modern version of the ancient Silk Road trade route to link China with Asia, Europe and beyond is a vehicle for the expansion of Communist China. Beijing says such doubts betray the “imperial hangover” of many Western powers that humiliated China for centuries.

China’s rise
The re-emergence of China as a leading global power is considered to be one of the most significant geopolitical events of recent times, alongside the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War.
China in 1979 had an economy that was smaller than Italy’s, but after opening to foreign investment and introducing market reforms, it has become the world’s second-largest economy and is a global leader in a range of new technologies.
Leaders of the G7 — the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Japan — want to use their gathering in the seaside resort of Carbis Bay to show the world that the richest democracies can offer an alternative to China’s growing clout.
The US official said until now, the West had failed to offer a positive alternative to the “lack of transparency, poor environmental and labor standards, and coercive approach” of the Chinese government that had left many countries worse off.
“So tomorrow we’ll be announcing ‘build back better for the world,’ an ambitious new global infrastructure initiative with our G7 partners that won’t just be an alternative to the BRI,” the official said.
According to a Refinitiv database, as of mid-last year, more than 2,600 projects at a cost of $3.7 trillion were linked to the Belt and Road Initiative, although the Chinese foreign ministry said last June that about 20 percent of projects had been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March, Biden said he had suggested to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, hosting the G7 summit, that democratic countries should develop their own rival scheme.

Forced labor
In talks, Biden will also press the other leaders to make clear that they believe forced labor practices are an affront to human dignity and “an egregious example of China’s unfair economic competition.”
“We’re pushing on being specific on areas like Xinjiang where forced labor is taking place and where we have to express our values as a G7,” the official said of the final communique to be issued at the end of the summit on Sunday.
China denies all accusations of abuse in the Xinjiang region.
There were no specifics on how the global infrastructure scheme would be funded. The plan would involve raising hundreds of billions in public and private money to help close a $40 trillion infrastructure gap in needy countries by 2035, the official said.
The aim was to work with the US Congress to supplement existing development financing “with the hope that, together with G7 partners, the private sector and other stakeholders, we soon be collectively catalyzing hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment for low and middle income countries that need it.” (Reporting by Steve Holland and Michael Holden Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Frances Kerry)


Germany buys Dubai data to track possible tax evasion

Germany buys Dubai data to track possible tax evasion
Updated 12 June 2021

Germany buys Dubai data to track possible tax evasion

Germany buys Dubai data to track possible tax evasion
  • Der Spiegel Magazine first reported the purchase of a CD containing details of assets in Dubai

BERLIN: Germany has bought a trove of data that could help treasury officials track down possible tax evasion by wealthy German citizens, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Friday.
“The data will now be evaluated by the regional tax authorities,” Scholz said in Berlin. “Tax evasion is not a minor offense it is a crime.”
Der Spiegel Magazine first reported the purchase of a CD containing details of assets in Dubai such as tracts of land and real estate owned by German nationals.
It said an anonymous informant approached German officials and offered to pass on the data, for which the Federal Tax Office paid about 2 million euros ($2.42 million), Spiegel said.
Scholz did not confirm or deny the details reported by Spiegel about how the CD was purchased or the price.
Tax authorities in Germany’s 16 states had in the past sought information from countries like Switzerland to unearth possible tax evasion by wealthy Germans.
Scholz, who leads the Social Democratic Party (SPD), has made fair taxation a major election pledge before an election in September forecast to deal his center-left party its worst-ever result.


US university completes funding round led by UAE’s Global Ventures

US university completes funding round led by UAE’s Global Ventures
Updated 12 June 2021

US university completes funding round led by UAE’s Global Ventures

US university completes funding round led by UAE’s Global Ventures
  • Nexford is a tech-enabled online university, which focuses on making education accessible
  • The university will use the proceeds for its expansion plans in Asia, and to improve its offerings

DUBAI: Washington DC-based Nexford University has completed a $10.8 million Pre-Series A funding round, led by UAE-based venture capital (VC) firm Global Ventures.
Nexford is a tech-enabled online university, which focuses on making education accessible despite the students’ physical location.
Other participating investors included Future Africa’s education fund, as well as angel investors, family offices and other VC firms from the US, UK, France, Dubai, Switzerland, Qatar, Nigeria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
The university will use the proceeds for its expansion plans in Asia, and to improve its offerings.
“Learners want high-quality, yet affordable education relevant to today’s business environment, whilst retaining the flexibility remote learning provides,” the university CEO Fadl Al-Tarzi said.
He added: “Now, with additional funding, we can invest in the technology and teams required to address these challenges.”
Nextford recorded a 300 percent increase in revenue in 2020 with learners enrolling from over 65 countries. It has formed partnerships with tech giants Microsoft, LinkedIn and IBM.