Spotlight on Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor, Riad Salameh

Since the end of the civil war, Lebanon has continued to suffer from political, social, and economic instability. The country has been through stints of war, both internal and external, and most recently has been without a president for over two years. In this tumultuous situation, figures of stability have emerged, one of whom is Riad Salameh, who has been the Lebanese Central Bank Governor since 1993.

Riad Salameh, born on July 17th, 1950, completed his schooling at the Jesuits’ College of Notre Dame de Jamhour, before enrolling at the American University of Beirut, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. In 1973, Riad Salameh joined the ranks of the world-renowned wealth management firm Merrill Lynch, spending time between the Beirut and Paris offices. He climbed through the ranks of this organization, gaining experience and building a name for himself, until in 1985 he was named Vice-President and Financial Advisor for the firm. He held that position until 1993, when he was appointed Governor of the Lebanese Central Bank.

For over two decades now, the country has placed its trust in Riad Salameh to steer the Central Bank ship, as he has been reappointed for three successive terms (in 1999, 2005, and 2011). During his tenure at the head of the Central Bank, Riad Salameh has had to face national and international adversity to maintain the stability of Lebanon’s currency, the lira. Through internal conflicts, political paralysis, regional instability, all the way up to international market crises, he has somehow managed to maintain and increase investor confidence in the Lebanese Central Bank. This is reflected in a steady increase in the Central Bank’s foreign reserves over the years, and the continued stability of the national currency. Additionally, under his tenure as Central Bank Governor, the banking system in the country has thrived to become, as Riad Salameh puts it, “the cornerstone of stability in the country.”

Beyond his role as Central Bank Governor, Riad Salameh occupies several key positions, with his influence extending to the regional and international level. He has chaired the Special Investigation Commission fighting money laundering since its establishment in 2001, and the Capital Markets Authority aimed at boosting investments and nurturing economic growth in the country. He has served as the Governor for Lebanon at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF). He has chaired the IMF and World Bank Boards of Governors held in Tokyo in 2012, and the AMF Board of Governors in 2013. From July 2013, Mr. Salame also co-chaired the Financial Stability Board Regional Consultative Group for the Middle East and North Africa for a period of two years.

Riad Salameh’s work has not gone unnoticed, both at the national and international levels. He has received many awards and accolades for his achievements as the Governor of the Central Bank, some of which include: the Euromoney Award for Best Central Bank Governor in the Arab world for 1996; the Euromoney Award for Best Central Bank Governor for 2003 the Euromoney Award for Emerging Markets for Best Central Bank Governor in the Middle East for 2005 and 2013; the Euromoney award for best Central Bank Governor in the world for 2006; the Banker Magazine award for best Central Bank Governor in the Middle-East for 2008, 2009, and 2012; the award of the Arab Bankers Association of North America to the Lebanese banking system in tribute to Governor Riad Salameh’s achievements for 2007; the Banking Leadership award from the World Union of Arab Bankers for 2008; the best Arab Central Bank Governor for 2012-2013; and the Global Finance Magazine Award as One of the World’s Top 6 Central Bankers for 2011. He has also received symbolic awards on the international scene, becoming the first Arab Central Bank Governor to ring the New York Stock Exchange opening bell in March 2009, and participating in the opening of the London Stock Exchange on the occasion of Lebanon Capital Markets Day in 2012.

Altogether, Riad Salameh has had great success and many achievements as the Central Bank Governor, and has provided an image of much-needed stability in a country that continues to face turmoil at all levels.

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