Update: State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat has suspended a ruling by Financial Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim on freezing the assets of 20 banks, TV networks said.

Financial Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim has put a “prevention of disposal” signal today on the assets of twenty Lebanese banks and imposed a freeze on the assets of these banks’ heads. According to LBCI, the list contains all the major banks like: Bank Audi, BLOM, Fransbank, Byblos, Societe Generale, Bank of Beirut, BankMed, Banque Libano-Française, Credit Libanais, Al-Mawarid Bank, Intercontinental Bank of Lebanon, FNB, Lebanon and Gulf Bank, BBAC, MEAB, Federal Bank of Lebanon, BSL Bank, Lebanese Swiss Bank, BML, Saradar Bank and Cedrus Bank. The prosecutor had recently questioned 14 bankers on $2.3 billion in transfers.

Just to clarify one thing, this decision has nothing to do with customers’ assets and is only related to the heads of the banks. Also, this appears to be a temporary decision that is taken prior to completing an ongoing investigation.

The question remains though: We’ve had an ongoing crisis with the banks since day1. What changed now that led to the prosecutor to take such a decision? And why isn’t he going after the Central Bank as well? What happened to revising the relationship between banks and customers?

Back when Hariri announced banks will pitch in 5 billion dollars as part of his so-called rescue plan, the money was there or at least there was still a margin for banks to play with, but we all know that’s not the case now.

What now?

We need to make a decision on whether to repay or not the $1.2 billion in Eurobonds due on March 9, and PM Diab is expected to announce strict & crucial measures as part of its rescue plan. I don’t know if they’re playing this card as a bargaining chip to get something back from the banks, but again they’re 4 months late.

More importantly, the source of all our problems is the budget deficit which hasn’t been tackled to date. Here’s a glimpse of the 2019 budget

2019 revenues: $12bn
Expenses: $12bn ( $8bn salaries, $2bn electricity)
Debt interest: $5bn
Total Expenses: $17bn

Why aren’t we cutting down on salaries? What happened to the illegal hiring investigation in the public sector? Why aren’t we dissolving useless committees? Why are ministers & MPs still getting paid?

They keep telling us to give this government some time, but again, and as mentioned since day1, we don’t have time.