The Ministry of Finance, in coordination with the Middle East and Central Asia Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), organized a forum entitled "Middle East and North Africa Regional Economic Outlook", which was inaugurated by His Excellency Dr. Hamad Al-Bazie, Vice Minister of Finance, and presented by Dr. Jihad Azour, On the sidelines of his visit to the Kingdom to participate in the Article IV consultation meetings.
The forum was held on Monday, May 14, 2017, at the National Center for Financial and Economic Information at Ministry of Finance’s HQ in Riyadh. It was attended by many government officials, economists, academics, specialists, and a group of students from King Saud University, Imam Mohammed bin Saud and Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University.
This forum is part of the Ministry’s efforts to enhance economic and financial understanding and to view the latest developments in the world economy, including our region amongst relevant local audiences.
The forum began with an opening speech by HE Dr. Al-Bazie welcoming the guests of the forum and the audience, stressing the importance of the reports issued by the IMF, referring to the IMF report on the effectiveness of economic and structural reforms carried out by the Saudi government. HE then gave a brief introduction to the current Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department of the IMF, Dr. Jihad Azour, who was Minister of Finance in Lebanon during 2005-2008. He received his master’s degree in finance in France. a PhD in Economics from Harvard University in USA, as well as a degree in economics from the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, France.
After the presentation, Dr. Azour spoke about the forum, and thanked the Ministry of Finance for their invitation. He also confirmed the good relationship and mutual trust between the Saudi government and the IMF, pointing out the effectiveness of the economic reforms carried out by Saudi. He then began to discuss the outlook of the regional economy, including the Arab region, particularly the Gulf States. He talked about the impact of the global economy on the Arab region, indicating that the world’s economy is recovering for the second year in a row. "The outlook for the global economy will be better for the coming years 2019 and 2020, especially as the global growth is improving world trade and the level of direct investment during 2018”, he stressed that “the recovery of the global economy will be reflected positively in the Arab region, specifically the Gulf countries and non-oil exporting countries of the Gulf. This will enable the economies of the Gulf countries to improve growth accompanied by the increases in the growth of the non-oil sector."
After that, Dr. Jihad pointed out that the level of economic reform distinguished the Gulf States from other countries. However, he mentioned that there are challenges facing the economic recovery in the region, notably the fluctuation in oil prices, although they are now at good levels, as well as interest rates pressure and the political situation in the region. He stressed that the continuation of economic reforms contributes significantly to overcoming these challenges. He pointed out that the role of the private sector is critical in financing this sector as the main engine for economic growth. Especially since this vital sector still suffers from obstacles to improve its business environment, in areas such as finance and human resources. Dr. Jihad stressed that improving trade exchange has a very positive impact on the economy of the Gulf region and the Arab region in general.
The Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department of IMF concluded his speech by assuring that there is a strong opportunity for the Arab region as the global economy improves, which the countries of the region should take full advantage of to act as a catalyst for continued economic and financial reforms.
Dr. Saad Al Shahrani, Director General of Macro &Fiscal Policy Unit at the Ministry, conducted a question and answer session with the guests of the forum. Topics covered included the economic and structural reforms being carried out by the Saudi government; the international perspective on taxes and fiscal measures, The Private sector’s role in the progress of economic reforms, the growth of private sector lending and its dependence on economic growth and other areas.