May 2, 2019 / 9:21 AM / 23 days ago

UPDATE 1-Lebanese pound is and will remain stable, central bank head says

(Adds Salameh quote, background)

BEIRUT, May 2 (Reuters) - The Lebanese pound is stable and will remain so, central bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Thursday after meeting President Michel Aoun, according to a statement sent by the Lebanese Presidency.

“The Lebanese lira (pound) is stable and will remain stable and the central bank will support housing loans and (loans) for the productive sectors,” Salameh said at the presidential palace in Baabda.

The Lebanese pound has been pegged against the U.S. dollar at its current level for more than two decades.

Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens, and its finance minister has said he will introduce “wide reductions” in spending.

“We hope the budget will be at the level which the market hopes for,” the statement quoted Salameh as saying.

He said he had confirmed to Aoun that the pound was sound and stable, and that the bank had all the capacity needed to keep it so.

Lebanon’s net foreign assets stand at $38.56 billion. It has public debt equivalent to about 150 percent of gross domestic product.

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, whose coalition government is preparing a state budget expected to include spending cuts, last month said he wanted “to protect the pound”.

Writing by Tom Perry and Angus McDowall Editing by Gareth Jones

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