Lebanon’s PM demands 5 years’ worth of salary from university in dollar wire transfer

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab asked the American University of Beirut (AUB) in January to pay him what he considered his “dues”, equivalent to the total salary of five and a half years of employment as per his contract which ends in 2025, despite the fact that he will not be able to fulfill his duties during that time period, Lebanese online newspaper Al-Modon reported on Saturday.

Diab has taught computer engineering at the American University of Beirut since 1985. In 2006, he was appointed AUB’s vice-president of Regional External Programs (REP), the university’s consulting and professional development arm.

The 61-year-old academic and former education minister was appointed in December 2019 as prime minister and was tasked with forming a government to pull the country out of the worst economic crisis it has seen since the 1975-90 civil war.

Diab appointed a lawyer who sent a letter to the Chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, Philip Khoury, asking for full “wages and benefits,” threatening otherwise to resort to judicial authorities in Lebanon and abroad to receive what he considers he is “owed,” Al-Modon reported.

Diab is also asking for the money to be wired to an account abroad and in dollars only.

His university annual salary is $200,000, i.e. he is asking AUB to pay him a million dollars.

“How can the university pay for services that were not provided? The Prime Minister wants to receive money he did not earn. He is asking for the salary of five years during which he will not be doing his job… He can return to teaching as a professor after a year, but his work as vice-president responsible for networking is over, because he left it for another position,” sources told Al-Modon.

Meanwhile, the country’s economic situation continues to worsen. The Lebanese pound, which has lost more than half its value since October, slid to record lows on a parallel market last week, nearing 4,000 to the dollar before currency dealers on Friday went on strike. The official pegged pound rate of 1,507.5 to the dollar is available only for certain vital imports.

The pound’s rapid fall has triggered small protests and raised the prospect of price hikes and broader unrest at a time when unemployment has soared and a coronavirus lockdown has dealt an additional blow.

Diab sharply criticized on Friday the central bank governor Riad Salameh for the pound’s downslide and the mounting losses in the banking system.

In a televised address Diab painted a grim picture of the central bank’s finances, pointing to data that indicated “accelerating” losses, with $7 billion gone since the start of the year and $3 billion of that in the past four weeks alone.

Diab warned that liquidity at cash-strapped banks was “beginning to run out,” with $5.7 billion in Lebanese deposits exiting the system in January and February.

“There are major gaps in the central bank: a gap in the performance, a gap in the strategy, a gap in the clarity and openness, a gap in the monetary policy, and a gap in the accounts,” said Diab.

“Let the central bank governor come out and honestly announce to Lebanese the facts, on why what’s happening is happening, what steps are on the horizon, and what the ceiling for the dollar’s rise is,” said Diab.

“Can the central bank governor still continue to assure (Lebanese) of the pound exchange rate as he did months ago, when suddenly these reassurances have evaporated?” said Diab.

– With Reuters

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