Banque du Liban chief slams criticisms over ending fuel subsidies

The chief of the Lebanese central bank hit back at government criticisms over ending fuel subsidies, as the Lebanese army deploys gas pumps to curb hoarding.

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The governor of Lebanon’s central bank indicated that nobody is governing the country, striking back after government criticisms towards his decision to cease fuel subsidies.

In an interview broadcast, Riad Salameh said the government could resolve the problem quickly by passing the necessary legislation.

He underlined that he had acted alone in stating an end to the subsidies on Wednesday, and said it was widely known that the decision was coming. “So far you have nobody running the country,” Salameh told Radio Free Lebanon.

Lebanon’s army on Saturday seized fuel from gas stations to curb hoarding amid crippling shortages. The worsening fuel crisis is part of Lebanon’s wider financial meltdown. Hospitals, bakeries, and many businesses are scaling back operations or shutting down as fuel runs dry.

Deadly violence flared in fuel lines, protesters blocked roads, and fuel tankers were hijacked within the past week.

The American University of Beirut Medical Center said it was threatened with a forced shutdown as early as Monday because of shortages of fuel used to generate electricity.

“This means that ventilators and other lifesaving medical devices will cease to operate. Forty adult patients and 15 children living on respirators will die immediately,” the hospital announced.

The central bank’s move to end subsidies will mean sharp price increases. The decision is the latest turn in a crisis that has crippled the value of the Lebanese pound by 90 percent in less than two years and pushed more than half the population into poverty.

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