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Syria appoints new central bank governor amid currency crisis

Syria appointed Issam Hazima as governor of its central bank on Tuesday, state media said, a week after his predecessor was sacked following criticism of his handling of a currency crisis that has seen the Syrian pound fall to record lows.

Hazima, who had been one of two deputies of former governor Hazem Karfoul, is a French-educated professor and a member of Syria’s securities commission.

The pound briefly hit 4,700 per dollar last month, its lowest ever level, before strict capital controls and a crackdown on exchange dealers helped stabilize it. Millions of dollars allegedly used in black market speculation were confiscated.

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Syria has also imposed tighter controls on bank withdrawals and internal transfers and restrictions on movement of cash around the country.

The local currency has strengthened in recent days, however, after Syria raised its official exchange rate on Thursday to 2,512 to the dollar from 1,256, bringing it closer to informal market rates, and eased some of Karfoul’s policies.

Complaints by banks and businessmen over central bank actions that had choked liquidity within banks and pushed depositors to hoard cash at home contributed to the abrupt sacking of Karfoul, bankers said.

The collapse of the pound has driven up inflation and aggravated hardship as Syrians struggle to buy food, power and other basics.

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