Lebanon’s Banks Strike Back Hard Against Lebanese Officials

It seems that Lebanese banks are fed up with receiving all the blame for the financial crisis.

A source of Lebanese banks recently spoke out and redirected the heat towards the politicians and partisans who constantly criticize the banks’ policies.

Al-Markazia media reported that, in their closed meetings, Lebanese banks have been discussing clearing things up in regards to their place in the ongoing crisis and the real portion of the responsibility that they ought to bear.

Lebanon’s banks refuse to take responsibility for “hiding and manipulating numbers” and, instead, say that it’s on the Lebanese officials in general and the Finance Ministry specifically.

“Is it fair,” the source asked in a conversation with Al-Markazia, “for the [immune] government and parliament to point fingers at the banks that publish their annual budgets and pay taxes based on the Lebanese state?”

That is not to mention that banks are “subject to the scrutiny of official bodies as well as shareholders and public assemblies,” the source added and continued to sharply criticize Lebanese politicians for their evasion tactics and attitude towards banks.

He argued that politicians should be ashamed of the “dubious questions” they ask about the “real numbers” of the banking sector.

How can they ask such questions, the source implied, “when they still can’t calculate the cost of the series of ranks and salaries that they approved two years ago with recklessness and populism as a bribe to the electorate?”

Even after 2 years of approving it, he argues, they haven’t been able to give a “correct and consistent number” regarding the costs of this series and the annual expenses it entails.

The same can be said in response to the questioning that banks are subjected to concerning depositors’ money when the questioners themselves have been openly considering defaulting on the bonds they owe to internal and external payees, he explained.

The source also addressed the claim that banks are “conspiring with the central bank” to secure Lebanon’s due debts by deducting them from the savings of the Lebanese to earn profit through the interest rates.

“If that is true,” he said, “then what do the banks have to do with the treasury bonds that the National Social Security Fund purchased to finance the treasury deficit? And are the custodians of the Fund and their political references in this case exempt from the charge banks are falsely accused of?”

And in that context, he asked, “Are banks the only party that benefited from the taxes on these interests?”

He then elaborated: “Doesn’t the government also benefit from them? Given that the government has earned more than $800 million from financial engineering alone, how much did it make from the interest taxes?”

The source also assured that the money of local and international depositors is safe and secure, contrary to what “some politicians and partisans” have been alleging that banks are wasting this money.

Moreover, he asserted that this money is being invested in private and public domains that are “accurately known” to the public.

The source proceeded to formulate a new question based on this assertion and asked: “Can [the accusers] explain to us and the Lebanese where they invested and how they spent the money of the treasury bonds and the income of the taxes, fees, and revenues that they collected in billions from the Lebanese people?”

Additionally, he criticized the recurring declarations by politicians that banks should bring in the money of their owners and the Lebanese, Arab, and foreign investors in Lebanon and abroad to secure liquidity while protecting the depositors’ savings.

He maintained that the savings are “reserved and guaranteed” as far as banks are concerned.

“However,” the source exclaimed, “can any of the political officials in the state answer us as to where they will get the money to pay for end of service compensations, the rights of hospitals, contractors, and Social Security beneficiaries?”

He added: “In what sense does the government want to default the payment of treasury bonds by force and before negotiating and organizing scheduling with creditors, knowing that 80% of the Lebanese state’s debt is internal debt, and at the same time accuses banks of withholding funds from depositors?”

And in this context, he implied, in what sense are banks held responsible for the government’s inability to pay its dues? “Since when, and in what rationale or law, did the defaulter’s victim become accountable and the defaulter discharged?”

“The Lebanese state is bankrupt, not the banks, and not the Lebanese people!” he declared.

“Thus,” the source concluded, “a wasteful bankrupt who has disposed of the banks’ and peoples’ money is the one who should be questioned, held accountable, and trialed, not [the bankrupt’s] victims.”

“Nevertheless, banks are ready to assume their full responsibilities, but will the government and politicians bear their moral and ethical responsibilities before the legal ones?”

“[Enough] of the lying, forgery, fraud, and slander! From now on, we will not be silent on these campaigns… Let them wait to see what [we have in store] for them when we clear everything up,” the source ended.

From that last statement, it seems that this was only the first arrow in the Lebanese banks’ quiver. What do they have in store?

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