Bifani summoned for questioning as Lebanon's problems pile on

Bifani’s resignation was the second a member of Lebanon’s negotiating team with the IMF, following in the footsteps of Henri Chaoul who resigned days earlier.
by Georgi Azar

14 July 2020 | 20:50

Source: by Annahar

  • by Georgi Azar
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 14 July 2020 | 20:50

Alain Bifani, the director general of Lebanon’s Finance Ministry and a member of the country’s team negotiating with the International... (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

BEIRUT: Lebanon's Financial Prosecutor summoned Tuesday former finance chief Alain Bifani to clarify accusations he made in the Financial Times while the government held off on accepting his resignation.

Bifani, who served as director-general at the finance ministry for two decades, told the Financial Times that Lebanese bankers "smuggled" some to $6 billion outside Lebanon since protests broke out in October 2019. 

He resigned two weeks ago in protest to the way Lebanese officials were dealing with the dual monetary and financial crisis gripping the small Mediterranean country.

Bifani’s resignation was the second a member of Lebanon’s negotiating team with the IMF, following in the footsteps of Henri Chaoul who resigned days earlier. 

On Tuesday, Bifani met with Prime Minister Hassan Diab and President Michel Aoun at the Baaba Presidential Palace, taking the opportunity to explain the reasons behind his resignation.

Cabinet now has a two month period to make a decision on Bifani's resignation, after which it is considered in effect by law. 

Speaking on Monday, Athanasios Arvanitis, deputy director of the IMF in the Middle East urged Lebanese officials to unite behind the government's recovery plan which has been opposed by both the banking sector and parliament's budget committee. 

“For productive discussions to continue it is very important that the authorities unite around the government plan,” Arvanitis said, adding that the IMF is ready to work “together with the authorities to improve the plan where this is necessary.”

Lebanon is currently reeling under the worst economic crisis in its 100-year-old history with negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a multi-billion dollar bailout hitting rock bottom.

Despite momentarily rallying against the dollar over the weekend, the Lebanese pound slipped up again Tuesday, trading at around LBP 8,800 on the black market.

The official rate remains at LBP 1507.5 to subsidize fuel, wheat and medicine. 

To add insult to injury, Lebanon is also staring at another trash crisis, with foreign workers employed by trash collection company RMACO demanding to be paid in dollars. 

Over 280 migrant workers went on strike for the third day, screeching the company's operation to a halt. 

To make matters worse, another 130 employees tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday, which marked the highest number of infections in a day for Lebanon since the outbreak began.  

Heaps of uncollected trash bags could be seen scattered in certain areas, including the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahieh in southern Beirut. 

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