Lebanon’s bankers should bow to the inevitable
As Lebanon’s dollar reserves disappear, time is running out. Central bank governor Riad Salamé’s tweaks to the banking sector will have little effect and commercial bankers’ attempts to resurrect dollar inflows sound deluded. Is recovery possible without a change in financial leadership?
In July 2009, Raymond Audi, then chairman of Lebanon’s biggest bank, invited Euromoney to a huge suite at the Four Seasons in Qatar, one of the Gulf’s most luxurious hotels. There to attend the magazine’s Middle East awards dinner, he was in ebullient mood.
Adding to the chairman’s good mood was the graph he handed to us, showing rapidly rising international deposits. This was despite – or perhaps because of – the previous year’s global financial crisis.
However, after a decade of trying to maintain those flows, Lebanese institutions such as Bank Audi are today anything but safe havens.