Accountability and the new 50K

In the video above, our central bank governor Riad Salameh defends the misprint on our new 50K bill, where the word “Independence” is misspelled in French. The bill is already ugly as fudge, so this makes matters even worse:

The ghastly print has spawned plenty of spoofs, as documented by Najib. And it looks particularly hideous when compared to our old money that was printed decades ago and has since been discontinued:

Source: Naji

But what is most interesting here has been Salameh’s reaction to the misprint. As most Lebanese officials do, he blames someone else for this glaring mistake on his watch. “The printer was English,” he says. “Only 50,000 were printed,” he explains, as this is “only a commemorative bill.”

The reporter then adds with a smile: “this (mistake) will make it more special.” She says it twice for emphasis.

It’s sad to see this issue not taken seriously. But the misprint and the reaction to it is a sort of microcosm for the state of media and politics in Lebanon and the utter lack of accountability for both.

First of all, when items are printed in large quantities, it is my experience as a former managing editor of a magazine, that a blueprint must be approved by the client before printing begins. So was there a blueprint and who approved it at the Central Bank?

Secondly, the idea that “this is only a commemorative bill” means it can be a giant screw-up is pretty pathetic. I mean, isn’t a commemorative bill supposed to honor something? Can you really honor someone or something by misspelling its name? In this case we are honoring “Lebanese independence.” Last I checked Lebanon’s government is largely dependent on decisions made in Damascus, Tehran, Riyadh Washington and Paris. So maybe Salameh is on to something.

Yet Salameh also implies that reprinting the bill would be a waste of money. So where does that money go instead? And how much money are we talking about? If it really was the printer’s mistake, shouldn’t the printer pay for it? Who was the printer exactly?

Thirdly, instead of asking any of these questions, the news anchor makes a joke. “Now its more special.”In fact, our news media typically laughs with politicians instead of at them. So the joke is really on us. Not only are we a nation that cannot hold authority accountable but also one that cannot spell or even “spell check.”