Friday, December 05, 2008

Lebanon's banks fine shocker!

Apparently the fact that Lebanon's banks are in fine financial order is some kind of shock.

I was not born in the Lebanon, nor am I Lebanese, but I grew up there, and I can tell you I am not surprised.

There are various articles in the media, like this in the Financial Times, and this on the BBC and Robert Fisk here, who asks this:
But someone needs to explain to me how this little Middle Eastern cabbage patch is bouncing along so happily amid the cyclones ripping through the world's economy.
The answer is of course simple. The Lebanese have been engaged in the business of banking, both national and international, contracting, both national though more frequently international and trade for something like 4,000 years. After a while you get the hand of it, and avoid tulips, radio shares, the dot com bubble and so on.

The Lebanese banking sector has been both strong, and trusted in western markets for as long as western markets have existed, even in times of war. I was there when people tried to rob banks of there cash and gold reserves. It didn't work.

Yet the Lebanese banking system works on few rules, like adequate liquidity and not buying into risky investments.

In fact the reality is that the Lebanese banking rules are so short that anyone could understand them, to the point where they can't be got around.

Crucially also Lebanon's banks are regulated by their central bank, like ours were until Gordon Brown became Chancellor of the exchequer. With 0 years experience at banking as against 4,000 years he handed over the regulation of our banks to the Financial Services Authority who look after insurance and assurance, and came up with 8,000 pages of regulation.


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