Assad blames Lebanese banking controls for Syria’s economic crisis
On a tour of a trade fair, broadcast by Syrian regime media, the dictator said that between $20 billion and $42 billion in Syrian deposits could have been lost during the Lebanese banking system.
"This figure for an economy like Syria is terrifying," he said.
Lebanese banks have imposed strict controls on the withdrawal of assets and transfers abroad since last year, in response to Lebanon's own economic and financial crisis.
This has caused great anger among Lebanese and foreign savers and investors, and banks have frequently been targeted by Lebanese anti-corruption protesters.
"It's the money they put in Lebanese banks and we paid the price this is the core of the problem that no one talks about," Assad added.
The Syrian dictator added that US sanctions imposed under the Caesar Act did not cause the current Syrian economic crisis.
"The crisis began before the Caesar Act and years after long-imposed Western sanctions ... It's the money (in Lebanese banks) that has been lost," he said.
Syria is ravaged by nine years of a devastating conflict, which broke out after the Assad regime brutally suppressed peaceful protests.
An estimated 80 percent of Syrians live in poverty and there are frequent and severe shortages of basic commodities such as fuel and oil.
Last month stocks of wheat began to decrease, leading to a rise in bread prices and long queues outside bakeries. Bread recently doubled in price after the government lifted subsidies.
The regime has previously blamed Western sanctions for economic hardships in the country and the dramatic decline in the value of the Syrian lira.
However, the US says that its sanctions target key regime figures and do not apply to essential commodities needed by the Syrian population.
Analysts have pointed out that the Syrian economy is dominated by a system of corrupt patronage, with Assad's relatives and close aides controlling key sectors of the economy and amassing billion-dollar fortunes in the process.