A tribute to Mohammad Chatah
Long career in economics culminated by Finance Ministry appointment
Born in Tripoli, the 62 year-old economist, Mohammad Chatah, had pursued a long career in finance in Lebanon and abroad, as well as in diplomacy.
Chatah graduated from AUB and the University of Austin, Texas, with a Ph.D. in economics.
He joined the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as Advisor, on and off till 2005. In 1993, he was appointed as Vice Governor of the Central Bank and his tenure lasted for four years.
Chatah was then appointed as Lebanon’s Ambassador to the USA for two years.
He returned to the IMF in 2000, where he became Advisor on External Relations and later on as Alternate Executive Director for the Middle East.
In 2008, Chatah was appointed Minister of Finance. In an interview with Lebanon Opportunities magazine, right after his appointment, he said: “The worst surprise is the large number of open files (in the Ministry) and accumulated problems that have been swept under the carpet because of the circumstances of the last several years. In other words, we’ve always had a sense to be in a transition period, that we had to wait a little bit. We live in the short-term: Something it is either happening, going to change soon, or we have a war, or we are anticipating something. When you’re in a crisis or quasi-crisis mindset, you tend to avoid finding solutions to pending issues, so they pile up and just get worse and worse.” Chatah nevertheless pointed to a good surprise: “I was impressed by the quality of some of the staff in this ministry, because it runs counter to the perception that ministries don’t have the kind of staff that one needs to run a ministry’s business.”
Chatah was a firm believer in the strength of local economy in the face of the international financial crisis and of local political turmoil. He said: “We have convinced the lenders – the Lebanese people, the Lebanese banks and the rest of the world – that the (economic) problem is big, but we have a strategy to deal with it, and that the country is credible. And we need to maintain it.”
Reported by Yassmine Alieh
Date Posted: Dec 27, 2013