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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Syria names new central bank chief

Syria's national currency has witnessed massive devaluation [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 April, 2021

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Syria's Assad has announced a new central bank chief amid a collapsing economy.

President Bashar Al-Assad appointed a new central bank chief on Tuesday, a week after the former governor was sacked amid Syria's spiralling economic crisis.

"President Assad issues decree Number 126 for the year 2021 which appoints Mohammad Issam Hazimeh as the new governor of Syria's central bank," the presidency said in a statement.

A lawyer by training, Hazimeh has served as deputy central bank governor since 2018, according to pro-government daily Al-Watan.

It said he earlier held posts at the justice ministry, the Damascus Securities Exchange and the state-owned company responsible for online payments.

He replaces Hazem Karfoul who was dismissed in a decree last Tuesday after three years in the post.

Karfoul oversaw an accelerating economic crisis sparked by civil war and compounded by sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic and a financial crunch in neighbouring Lebanon.

Al-Watan last week said he was fired because of his "shortcomings" in dealing with the crisis.

"He lacked the courage and responsibility to take technical measures to curb" the devaluation of the Syrian pound, it said, citing sources.

Hazimeh will inherit the daunting task of stabilising the local currency which has lost more than 98 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market. 

Officially valued at 1,256 to the greenback, the dollar now costs nearly 3,000 pounds on the black market.

Read more: Exclusive: How Russia swooped Syria's hydrocarbon share in the Eastern Mediterranean

The government last month started enforcing a series of measures to stem a further drop in the pound's value. 

They include new import bans and a state crackdown on unofficial money exchangers, Al-Watan said.

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