BDL suspends strike pending further negotiations

Employees initiated the strike over concerns that changes in the relationship between Banque Du Liban and the Finance Ministry were imminent.
by Georgi Azar

7 May 2019 | 13:39

Source: by Annahar

  • by Georgi Azar
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 7 May 2019 | 13:39

This Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019 file photo, a man heads to the Lebanese central bank, in Beirut, Lebanon. The Beirut Stock Exchange said Monday, May 6, 2019, that it is suspending trading due to the open strike declared by the employees of Lebanon's central bank. (AP)

BEIRUT: Lebanese Central Bank employees have suspended their strike until Friday following a grueling General Assembly meeting, a day after protests paralyzed the Beirut Stock exchange and the activities of commercial banks. 

The decision was taken to suspend the open-ended walkout pending further negotiations with officials over the proposed austerity budget.

Normal commercial bank operations were up and running again sources told Annahar, and a cash withdrawal limit varying between $1500 and $2000 was lifted.

Employees initiated the strike over concerns that changes in the relationship between Banque Du Liban and the Finance Ministry were imminent, coupled with rumored salary reductions. 

Sources told Annahar that BDL Governor Riad Salameh urged his employees to return to work and carry out the Central Bank's normal operations which had been limited Monday. 

This led to cheques being blocked and interbank transfers being affected while the Beirut Stock Exchange was closed and commercial banks limiting cash withdrawals. 

BSE trading was suspended due to clearance and settlement of transactions being handicapped, a statement on its website said.

Salameh assured employees "that their rights would be preserved," sources said, vowing to continue "discussions with concerned officials."

On Monday, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil issued a statement asserting that BDL isn't subjected to the same rules and regulations as other public institutions.

"The Central Bank is governed by the code of money and credit," he said.

Lebanon's Cabinet is currently discussing an austerity budget aimed at tackling the country's severe budget deficit, now equal to around 11 percent of GDP.

Meanwhile, its debt has soared to $85 billion — equivalent to about 150 percent of GDP. This has raised concerns that the small Mediterranean country could cave in economically. 

Among other spending cuts, the budget caps public workers' salaries and reduces benefits in an attempt to slash the budget deficit by one percent each year over the next five years.

Reducing the deficit is the first step in officials securing the much coveted CEDRE IV soft loans to kickstart Lebanon's ailing economy and infrastructure.

The $11 billion lifeline secured in Paris last year is also conditional on the implementation of other hard-hitting reforms to the country's electricity grid and cracking down on corruption and the squandering of public funds. 

Protests from across the board have gripped Lebanon, stifling state institutions and as a result a number of businesses. 

As of Tuesday, the Beirut Port was still shut down, while professors and instructors of the state-owned Lebanese University also announced an open strike starting today. 

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