JEDDAH: KHALIL HANWARE | ARAB NEWS STAFF
Published — Saturday 21 September 2013
Last update 21 September 2013 6:04 am
Saudi Arabia's banking sector registered a robust and steady growth over the past decade unruffled by the financial crisis elsewhere in the world, says a top official.
Fahd Al-Mubarak, governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), said the assets of commercial banks tripled from SR508 billion in 2003 to SR1.73 trillion in 2012.
The liabilities of the banks grew five fold from SR206 billion to SR999 billion during the same period, Al-Mubarak said.
Al-Mubarak also said the AA- rating given by international credit rating agencies such as Fitch attested to the robust economic performance of the Kingdom.
"The rating shows the strength of the Kingdom's economy and its excellent financial position besides the success of its financial and economic policies," the governor said.
Commenting on the SAMA report, Jarmo T. Kotilaine, a regional analyst, said: "It is clear that efforts to develop a diverse financial sector have borne fruit in Saudi Arabia and this success has in turn served as one of the drivers of economic growth."
He said: "Financial services have a fundamental role to play in pooling savings and channeling them into investments. The performance of the sector has also benefited from cautious regulation and the proactive stance taken by the authorities in stimulating the economy during the global downturn."
Fahad Alturki, head of research at Jadwa Investment, told Arab News: "The real GDP growth in the Kingdom to record 4 percent this year as public and private sector performance picks up in the second half and the oil sector becomes less of a drag on growth."
He said elevated current and capital expenditures will keep growth of retail, construction and transport sectors on the lead despite recent changes in labor market regulations. "The Kingdom is set to post fiscal and current account surpluses of 6.8 and 14.2 percent of GDP, respectively," Alturki added.
He said record high remittances and bigger import bill to weigh on current account balance this year, but higher oil export revenues keep it in the positive territory and supports growth in foreign assets.
Meanwhile, SAMA report said it regulates the insurance sector in line with the best international standards and practices and strives to push up performance standards of its workers with the aim of offering best services to clients.
The governor said the insurance sector registered a four-fold growth in terms of premiums since 2005.
The total value of insurance premium subscriptions reached SR21 billion last year against SR5.2 billion in 2005. He put the number of insurance and reinsurance firms at 33 in addition to 166 companies offering support services in the sector.
The SAMA also promotes legitimate and fair competition between companies in financial sectors and takes the appropriate steps to develop them.
It also stresses the need for nationalizing the jobs and raising performance level of workers.
SAMA also coordinates with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Housing in order to achieve its goal of meticulously implementing all financial regulations, he said.