(Releads with government appointments, new detail, quotes)
BEIRUT, June 10 (Reuters) – Lebanon’s government appointed four central bank vice governors on Wednesday to posts left vacant for more than a year as the country slid into dire financial crisis.
The process, which filled a package of top state jobs on Wednesday, drew criticism from opponents of the government and some of its allies who say the choices were determined by a political carve-up.
Lebanon has grappled since October with a financial crisis on a scale it has never seen before. The currency has lost more than half its value and banks have frozen savers out of their deposits as the financial system suffered a liquidity crisis.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government took office in January with backing from the powerful Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah movement and its allies, the Christian head of state President Michel Aoun and the Shi’ite Amal Movement of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
Social Affairs Minister Ramzi Moucharafieh denied that the appointments cabinet made during Wednesday’s session stemmed from political pie-sharing.
“Political back-and-forths are normal in the country,” he said. “But in the end, all the people were chosen based on competence, expertise and several interviews.”
Nasser Saidi, a former economy minister, said the government lost credibility by approving the proposed nominations for the central bank, the banking control commission and the capital markets authority.
“We missed a historical opportunity…The banking sector is at the heart of any rescue plan for Lebanon,” he said. “You need a restructuring of the debt, of the financial sector, and you need people who are not political appointees to oversee that.”
The new picks will be deputies to Riad Salameh, who remains the central bank governor, a job he has held since 1993.
“There is a general disappointment even from supporters of the government,” said Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center. “They are voicing concern about how this is being handled, and that promises of independence are being breached and broken in a systematic way.” (Reporting by Ellen Francis and Tom Perry Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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