Salameh Says Syrian Developments ‘Slightly’ Affected Lebanese Banking Sector

Central Bank Governor Riyad Salameh said on Wednesday that Lebanon’s economy was affected by the turmoil in neighboring Syria.

“The Lebanese banking sector has 6 banks in Syria and they’re affected because of the deteriorating … amount of transactions there,” Salameh said in an interview with Russia Today news television channel.

However, he said that the “damage” is limited since the economic growth in Lebanon reached 2 percent in 2011.

“It hasn’t reached a crisis level,” Salameh added.

He said that reports about Syrian money being transferred into Lebanese banks aren’t “accurate,” noting that the growth of deposits is less than last year.

Salameh ruled out any freeze of Syrian bank accounts in Lebanon, because the central bank didn’t order the banks to freeze such accounts that need biding resolutions from the United Nations Security Council.

Lebanon staggers under a public debt of more than 53 billion dollars, equivalent to around 135 percent of the country's GDP.

Tourism witnessed a 15.5 percent drop in the number of arrivals for the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010.

Property transactions also fell 21 percent quarter on quarter while customs revenues dropped some 20 percent compared to the same period last year.

The decline was widely attributed to the uprisings gripping the region coupled with domestic troubles that left Beirut without a government for five months.

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