Lebanon’s central bank seeks extra powers

A Lebanese protester carries a child as he takes part in a rally in front of a bank in the southern city of Sidon on December 30, 2019 to protest against nationwide imposed restrictions on dollar withdrawals and transfers abroad. (AFP)
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Updated 12 January 2020

Lebanon’s central bank seeks extra powers

  • Measures imposed by Lebanese commercial banks needed to be regulated and unified, a central bank letter said

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s central bank is seeking extra powers to regulate and standardise controls which commercial banks are imposing on depositors, the governor said on Sunday, saying his intention was to ensure “fair relationships” between banks and customers.

Seeking to prevent capital flight, commercial banks have been tightly controlling access to deposits and blocking most transfers abroad since October, when anti-government protests brought a long-brewing Lebanese economic crisis to a head.

The Lebanese authorities have not, however, introduced formal capital controls regulating these measures.

Central bank governor Riad Salameh, in a text message to Reuters, confirmed sending a letter to Lebanon’s finance minister on Jan. 9 seeking “exceptional powers necessary to issue regulations pertaining” to conditions in the sector.

He said no new measures were planned.

The letter, reported by Lebanese media late on Saturday, said the measures imposed by commercial banks needed to be regulated and unified “with the aim of implementing them fairly and equally on all depositors and clients.”

Lebanon’s caretaker government has not issued any statement on Salameh’s request, which was set out in a letter to caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil.

In the letter, Salameh said implementation of the controls by commercial banks had “on several occasions led to prejudicing the rights of some clients, particularly with respect to the unequal approach with other clients.”

He urged Khalil to work with the government “to take appropriate legal measures ... to entrust (the central bank)” with the necessary extra powers.

In justifying this, he cited the need to “secure the public good, to protect banking and monetary stability ... and to protect the legitimate interests of depositors and clients.”

Reflecting a hard currency shortage, commercial banks have gradually reduced the amount of dollars customers can withdraw since October. For most, the cap is now a few hundred dollars a week.

Lebanon is facing the worst economic crisis since its 1975-90 civil war, rooted in decades of state corruption and bad governance that have landed the country with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.


Iran: Oil product exports hit record high despite US sanctions

Updated 22 January 2021

Iran: Oil product exports hit record high despite US sanctions

  • ‘The enemy and Trump wanted us to perish and die, our exports to reach zero’
  • ‘We set the highest record of exports in the history of the oil industry during the embargo period’

DUBAI: Iran has achieved record high exports of petroleum products despite US sanctions, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said in televised remarks on Friday.
Zanganeh said former US President Donald Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, had “joined the dustbin of history, but we are alive and working with more hope to build the country.”
“The enemy and Trump wanted us to perish and die, our exports to reach zero,” he said.
“We set the highest record of exports in the history of the oil industry during the embargo period.”
Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed sanctions on the Iranian energy and banking sector.
It is estimated that Iran exports less than 300,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), compared with a peak of 2.8 million bpd in 2018.
US President Joe Biden has said that if Iran resumed strict compliance with the nuclear agreement — under which it restrained its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions — the United States would too.
However, two of Biden’s top national security nominees said on Tuesday that the United States was a long way from making a decision to rejoin the deal.
Iran has significantly increased exports of petroleum products in recent years although oil products, like crude, fall under US sanctions.
Unlike crude oil, where the ultimate buyer is a refinery, other products can find their way to potentially thousands of small-scale industrial or residential buyers, making them difficult to trace.