Lebanese finance official in IMF talks resigns post

A senior member of Lebanon’s negotiating team with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has quit his post as finance ministry director general, telling al-Jadeed TV he had resigned over the way leaders are handling a financial crisis.

Alain Bifani is the second member of Lebanon’s team at the IMF talks to resign this month. The finance ministry confirmed his resignation in a statement.

Bifani told al-Jadeed the path being taken by Lebanese leaders was reckless and would hurt the people. Reuters could not immediately reach him for comment.

Lebanon is grappling with a financial crisis seen as the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-90 civil war.

Talks with the IMF which began in May have been bogged down by a row between the government and the central bank over the scale of losses in the financial system and how they should be shared.

Bifani told al-Jadeed that “our approach and our numbers are correct”, in an apparent reference to a government financial recovery plan submitted to the IMF. The IMF has said the government’s figures appear to be roughly the correct order of magnitude but that Beirut needed to reach a common understanding to move forward.

Earlier this month, financial adviser Henri Chaoul quit Lebanon’s IMF team, saying politicians, monetary authorities, and the financial sector were ‘opting to dismiss the magnitude’ of losses and embark on a ‘populist agenda’. The numbers have met opposition from the central bank, the banking sector and a parliamentary fact-finding committee that has challenged the losses and assumptions.

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