BEIRUT - The Lebanese central bank's first vice governor Wassim Mansouri urged the government to undertake long-delayed reforms as he confirmed he would take over as its acting head from Tuesday, replacing longtime chief Riad Salameh.
Mansouri is due to take over as interim chief after ruling factions failed to appoint a successor to Salameh despite a four-year-long financial crisis.
Salameh, 73, leaves office after a 30-year tenure, tarnished by the meltdown that impoverished many Lebanese and paralysed a once sprawling banking system, as well as corruption charges against him at home and abroad - which he denies.
Mansouri, speaking at a news conference, said the new central bank leadership planned to impose severe restrictions on when the central bank could lend to the government and that such funding should be gradually stopped in its entirety
He said the authorities should also phase out a controversial exchange platform known as Sayrafa and lift the peg on the local currency.
"We are facing a crossroads," Mansouri said, adding he would not sign off on any government financing that he was not convinced by and which was "outside the legal framework".
The failure to appoint a new governor reflects wider dysfunction that has left Lebanon with neither a fully empowered government nor a president, further hollowing out a state paralysed by the four-year-old financial collapse.
Ruling politicians have taken scant action to begin addressing the financial collapse, widely blamed on decades of profligate spending and corruption overseen by long-dominant sectarian factions.
The International Monetary Fund said in June the crisis had been aggravated by vested interests resisting crucial reforms.
Mansouri, 51, called on the government to implement reforms including a capital control law, a financial restructuring law and a 2023 state budget within six months, saying this was Lebanon's "last chance" to enact the changes.
Mansouri, a Shi'ite Muslim, was appointed along with three other vice governors in June 2020. The central bank leadership is selected via the sectarian power-sharing system that governs other top posts in Lebanon.
Under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system, the governor should be a Maronite Catholic.
Mansouri was nominated in 2020 by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who heads the Shi'ite Amal Movement. Mansouri is a distant cousin of Berri.
He was trained as a lawyer and worked as a legal consultant to the finance ministry and to parliament in recent years, according to his biography on the central bank's website.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Maya Gebeily and Tom Perry; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Philippa Fletcher)