Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Saudi Arabia’s Finance Minister for twenty years, has been
Al-Assaf will be replaced by Mohammed Al-Jadaan, who previously served as chief of the country’s Capital Markets Authority.
Earlier this year, the Saudi king, or rather Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was put in charge of reforms, removed Saudi Arabia’s long-serving Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi from his position, replacing him with Khalid al-Falih. The prince also appointed HSBC’s former head of Middle East and North Africa operations
Last week, both Al-Tuwaijri and Al-Assaf took part in a popular talk show on Saudi TV to defend a set of austerity measures aimed at propping up the kingdom’s finances. The country last year booked a budget deficit of over 15 percent of GDP, and this year the IMF expects another deficit, albeit a bit smaller, at 13 percent of GDP.
The two ministers discussed – and defended – the steps taken to mitigate the effects of this deficit, such as canceling fuel subsidies and cutting the public administration wages by as much as 20 percent – things that did boost their popularity in the eyes of Saudi citizens, especially public servants, who complained loudly about the cuts.
Al-Tuwaijri, for his part, accused public employees of being lazy and inefficient, and stressed that this would need to change to bring an economic recovery to Saudi Arabia after being punched by lingering low oil prices that they had hoped would have already recovered.
As Bloomberg notes in a
The Finance Minister defended himself over those investment decisions, but apparently not convincingly enough. His removal signals that the kingdom’s new rulers are set on doing whatever they can to reverse its failing fortunes.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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