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IMF Set to Help Lebanon Once New Government in Place

Sep 12

IMF Set to Help Lebanon Once New Government in Place

The IMF is ready to 'redouble its efforts' to help Lebanon once a new government is in place as the country reels following a massive explosion at Beirut's port, a fund official said Thursday.

The country is facing a severe economic crisis after a neglected warehouse full of fertilizer ignited in a cataclysmic blast that devastated the capital on August 4.

'We stand ready to engage with the new government,' IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters. 'After its formation is completed... we're ready to redouble our efforts to help Lebanon and the people of Lebanon overcome the social and economic crisis.'

The Washington-based crisis lender is providing technical assistance as the country struggles to recover 'following that terrible event at the port,' Rice said.

The tragedy devastated entire districts of Beirut and left at least 190 people dead and more than 6,500 injured.

Rice welcomed caretaker Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni's announcement on Wednesday that he had launched an audit of the central bank's finances, which the fund had called for. Rice said the move was 'an important part of assessing past losses that are part of the central bank's balance sheet.'

'The audit will also help assess the impact of the central bank's financing of government operations, and the central bank's financial engineering on its own.'

Lebanon's worst economic crunch since the 1975-1990 war has seen the local currency plummet against the U.S. dollar and poverty double to more than half of the population. The government has blamed Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh for the crisis, though the latter has rejected all charges.

The country for the first time defaulted on its sovereign debt in March before launching into talks with the IMF towards unlocking billions of dollars in aid, but the negotiations have stalled.

naharnet