Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Al-Jasser’s Boldness | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Officials involved with a state’s economic and financial portfolio are not the most popular, due to their connection to such bleak terms as inflation, taxes, financial crisis, and so on. However their statements and actions significantly influence a state’s economy and the lives of the public in a way that cannot be overlooked.

The memory of the impact that the statements, decisions, resolutions and legislation put forward by Fouad al-Siniora during his time as Lebanese Minister of Finance remain vivid. The same can be said of Abdul-Karim al-Kabariti, who held the finance portfolio in Jordan, and Egyptian Minister of Finance Mohamed al-Razzaz, who took charge during a difficult time [in Egypt’s history] and whose decisions tormented the Egyptian public.

As for Saudi Arabia, it is not customary for officials involved in the financial portfolio to operate in a transparent and open manner with regards to the general public, the business sector, and the media. Therefore general observers of economic affairs in Saudi Arabia, and particularly observers of the Saudi Arabian financial sector, were taken by surprise at the actions of Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency [SAMA] Governor Mohamed al-Jasser since taking up this position. Al-Jasser has participated in international forums, and been selective in terms of the timing and location that he discusses a topic, however more importantly than this is what he has actually been saying, and how he has been saying this.

Saudi Arabia’s financial strength is well-known and supported by Saudi leadership in the production and exporting of oil, as well as the record high oil prices that resulted in Saudi Arabia being included among the G20 countries. Therefore any statements issued [by al-Jasser] must be taken into consideration, unlike in the past when [statements] were limited to being issued by the Saudi Oil Minister.

Mohamed al-Jasser spoke boldly on issues that were previously considered to be an economic taboo, and has put forward his viewpoint with regards the importance of continuing the links between the Saudi riyal and the US dollar. Al-Jasser also spoke about the openness of his administration in dealing in a different manner with Islamic banks, and defended and justified SAMA’s “conservative” policy. The SAMA Governor also did not fear to criticize Western credit rating policies, and the chaos that afflicted Western credit lending institutes. Al-Jasser strongly defended his reasons for selecting Saudi Arabia as headquarters for the proposed Gulf Central Bank, and also attempted to clarify the extent that Saudi banks failed to settle their debts, which is an issue that has raised much talk and controversy, especially due to the talk of huge failures in Kuwait, Dubai and Bahrain.

This kind of “responsible leadership” in such a sensitive and serious position is needed during ordinary circumstances, let alone during the volatile conditions that have affected all global financial markets without exception, and can best be described as an “economic swine flu.” This leadership sends a message of reassurance and confidence to the fragile economic market that is desperately in need of this. Saudi Arabia’s strong financial position does not allow for any other kind of behavior and it is hoped that this leadership, as well as more communication and reassurance, will become a comprehensive administrative approach. Central banks are not merely governmental agencies or administrative bodies, in some cases they are the spinal cord of the entire economic system.