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UN chief says 'Ponzi scheme' crashed Lebanon's finances -video

EconomyDec 22, 2021 12:41PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gestures as he attends a news conference at the end of his visit to Lebanon, in Beirut, Lebanon December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

(Clarifies to show financial expert heard Guterres express similar view at a separate meeting)

BEIRUT (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Lebanon's financial collapse was caused by "something similar to a Ponzi scheme", according to a video of comments he made while visiting Beirut this week.

Lebanon is in the third year of an economic meltdown that began in 2019 when the financial system collapsed under the weight of huge state debt - the result of decades of corruption and mismanagement and the unsustainable way it was financed.

Critics of the Lebanese authorities have compared the financial system to a Ponzi scheme, depending on fresh borrowing to pay back existing debt.

The central bank has denied this.

"As far as I understand what has happened in Lebanon is that Lebanon was using something similar to a Ponzi scheme..., which means that together with of course corruption and other, probably, forms of stealing, the financial system has collapsed," Guterres said in the video circulated on social media.

The crash has caused the Lebanese pound to lose more than 90% of its value and savers to be frozen out of their deposits in the paralysed banking system.

Mike Azar, an expert on the Lebanese financial system, said Guterres had expressed similar views at another closed-door gathering between the U.N. chief and members of Lebanese civil society on Tuesday.

Asked by Reuters about the remarks, a U.N. spokesperson said the secretary-general's views on the financial crisis were "more fully expressed" at a news conference at the end of his visit.

At that news conference, Guterres said Lebanese leaders need to convince the international community to support Lebanon by implementing reforms "in relation to the economic, the social and the political life of the country," and by adopting a "credible economic recovery plan" for talks for an IMF support programme.

(This story clarifies to show financial expert heard Guterres express similar view at a separate meeting)

UN chief says 'Ponzi scheme' crashed Lebanon's finances -video
 

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