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Salamé’s stability strategy underpins Lebanon’s hopes

Through crisis after crisis, Riad Salamé has managed Lebanon’s finances. A new government with big plans will benefit from his prudent policies and his continued firm hand on the tiller. But even the veteran central bank governor is excited by what’s happening in his country. Clive Horwood reports from Beirut.

The veteran Lebanese central bank governor, Riad Salamé

The veteran Lebanese central bank governor, Riad Salamé

ON THE RECLAIMED waterfront at the end of Beirut’s famous Corniche, with views stretching far across the Mediterranean, two gleaming new steel-and-glass towers now dominate the skyline. One of them houses a Four Seasons hotel, the epitome of luxury for the discerning international traveller. For those familiar with Lebanon’s troubled recent history, such a development seems both extraordinary and uplifting. International interest has returned to Lebanon in real substance, especially among the large and wealthy Lebanese diaspora and from rich investors based in the GCC. It’s almost two years since the last outbreak of violence hit Beirut. A national unity government, led by Saad Hariri, is promising meaningful reform and the maintenance of stability.

These shining towers – and the other waterfront properties in Beirut that are fetching as much as $12,000 per square metre from residential buyers – ought to be regarded as confirmation by those who have seen Lebanon through its darkest days that a bright new future awaits the country.

They ought to. But neither financiers nor average citizens like them.