Lebanon needs $12-15 bn to kickstart recovery: Central bank

AFP , Tuesday 21 Dec 2021

Lebanon's mandatory reserves are down to $12.5 billion, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said Tuesday, adding that this was only enough to finance subsidies on basic goods for another six months.

Riad Salameh
Lebanon s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh gives an interview with AFP at his office in the capital Beirut on December 20, 2021. AFP

"The mandatory reserves are down to 12.5 billion dollars," he told AFP in an interview.

The mandatory reserves stood at $32 billion before the start of the economic crisis in 2019.

Lebanon's official exchange rate pegged at 1,500 pounds to the US dollar is obsolete, Salameh admitted Tuesday.

The lebanese pound is sold for nearly 30,000 pounds to the US dollar on the black market, which made banks use parallel rates as the black market rate is 20 times the official rate.

The fixed rate that guaranteed Lebanese a strong purchasing power for the best part of three decades went into a tailspin when the state defaulted on its debt last year and is "no longer realistic", Salameh said.

Lebanon defaulted on its debt for the first time last year but political leaders have continued to resist key reforms demanded by donors to unlock necessary funds.

Lebanon is grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the planet's worst in modern times.

More than 80 percent of the population lives in poverty and the currency has lost more than 90 percent of its black market value amid political squabbling that has delayed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Lebanon last year started IMF talks that have relaunched in recent weeks during which Lebanese officials have agreed that financial sector losses amount to around $69 billion.

"Lebanon is still in the stage of crushing numbers," Salameh said. "The Lebanese side hasn't yet presented a plan to the IMF for discussion."

*This story was compiled by Ahram Online

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