Central bank governor of the year 2006: Riad Salamé, Banque du Liban
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Central bank governor of the year 2006: Riad Salamé, Banque du Liban

Riad Salamé faces yet another test of his skills following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hizbullah. He has dealt with previous challenges with flying colours. There’s little to suggest it will be different this time. Sudip Roy reports.

Lebanon’s financial firefighter

Central bank governor of the year:
Riad Salamé, Banque du Liban

Riad Salamé is no stranger to crises. As head of Lebanon’s central bank for the past 13 years, the former Merrill Lynch banker has experienced several, both financial and political. Throughout, he has withstood every challenge that has been thrown at him. As Lebanon enters yet another period of uncertainty, Salamé is the reassuring presence in the country’s fight to keep its financial system afloat.

The central bank governor has fought hard to achieve financial stability in recent years. Now, of course, that stability is being barely sustained by a narrow thread as the financial cost of the conflict between Hizbullah and Israel mounts up. The war might well push back Lebanon’s economic development several years. Up to now, though, the economic situation has not become as bad as it could have. There has been no financial markets meltdown, for example, or a run on the banks or a massive sell-off in the currency. That’s largely attributable to the foundations laid by the battle-hardened central bank.

The bank has, for example, built up its foreign currency reserves to $13 billion, equivalent to more than 18 months-worth of imports.

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