Who is Saudi Arabia's new finance minister?

Updated 02 November 2016
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Who is Saudi Arabia's new finance minister?

JEDDAH: Mohammed Al-Jadaan, Saudi Arabia’s new minister of finance, is widely seen as a reformer within the government and a close ally of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to analysts.

Al-Jadaan, a top lawyer appointed to the Capital Market Authority in early 2015, oversaw the Saudi bourse opening to more foreign investments last year as well as several more recent changes intended to ease barriers to attraction of overseas capital.
Commenting on the latest developments, Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist at Capital Economics, told Arab News: “Prior to his appointment as finance minister, Al-Jaadan was previously thehead of the Capital Markets Authority. So already has policymaking experience having overseen the opening up of the Saudi Tadawul to foreign investors over the past couple of years.”
Recently, Al-Jaadan has endeavoured to loosen the restrictions on foreign investors in order to attract more capital into the stock market, Tuvey pointed out.
On Tuesday, the new minister said that he had great confidence in Saudi Arabia’s economic vision despite all the challenges it faces.
“My confidence in God is great, and then the guardian (the king), at this blessed state’s launch toward broader horizons of growth and financial, economic and social prosperity, in the framework of the kingdom’s 2030 vision, despite all the challenges,” he said in a statement on the ministry’s website.
Al-Jadaan was named finance minister by royal decree on Monday, replacing Ibrahim Al-Assaf, who had held the post since 1996.
Al-Assaf served for 20 years in the ministry, which strived to cut spending fast enough to cope with falling oil revenue.
Commenting to Bloomberg, Fahad Nazer, who worked at the Saudi embassy in Washington and is now a political analyst at JTG Inc. in Virginia, said: “Al Jadaan’s appointment reflects the reform direction that Saudi Arabia is moving toward with wide support for a younger generation of bureaucrats.”
He added: “Most of these senior positions are going to younger, less experienced people, but people who are still very-well qualified and energetic.”
Monday’s replacement of the veteran finance minister had no significant impact on the Saudi stock market on Tuesday.

Extensive experience
Before his appointment as the CMA’s chairman of the board on Jan. 29, 2015, Al-Jadaan was one of the founding partners of the Al-Jadaan and Partners Law Firm and was listed in Chambers and Partners 2004-2014 as a leading lawyer in corporate/commercial and the banking/finance practice areas in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Jadaan has extensive experience in advising on all aspects of capital market, structuring, documenting and negotiating complex international project financings and providing counsel on corporate and commercial matters, including equity and debt public offering, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and shareholder agreements and matters pertaining to Islamic law and Islamic finance.
Al-Jadaan has also represented corporate and commercial clients before a number of key courts and judicial committees in Saudi Arabia.
He was also a special adviser to the board of directors at Morgan Stanley Saudi Arabia.
Economists said that Al-Jadaan’s first major job will be to deliver the 2017 budget toward the end of this year.
“As we argued recently, the majority of spending cuts have probably now happened so we expect he will be able to outline plans to ease the pace of fiscal consolidation over the next couple of years,” Capital Economics said in a report.
“But austerity is far from over and many Saudis may have been premature in celebrating Al-Assaf’s departure,” the report added.


Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

Updated 24 May 2019
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Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

  • Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors
  • After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers said they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies

NEW DELHI: Foreign companies in India have welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory for the political stability it brings, but now they need to see him soften a protectionist stance adopted in the past year.
Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors, with US firms such as Amazon.com , Walmart and Mastercard committing billions of dollars in investments and ramping up hiring.
India is also the biggest market by users for firms such as Facebook Inc, and its subsidiary, WhatsApp.
But from around 2017, critics say, the Hindu nationalist leader took a harder, protectionist line on sectors such as e-commerce and technology, crafting some policies that appeared to aim at whipping up patriotic fervor ahead of elections.

Opinion

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“I hope he’s now back to wooing businesses,” said Prasanto Roy, a technology policy analyst based in New Delhi, who advises global tech firms.
“Global firms remain deeply concerned about the lack of policy stability or predictability, this has sent a worrying message to global investors.”
India stuck to its policies despite protests and aggressive lobbying by the United States government, US-India trade bodies and companies themselves.
Small hurdles
Modi was set to hold talks on Friday to form a new cabinet after election panel data showed his Bharatiya Janata Party had won 302 of the 542 seats at stake and was leading in one more, up from the 282 it won in 2014.
After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers told Reuters they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies.
Other investors hope the government will avoid sudden policy changes on investment and regulation that catch them off guard and prove very costly, urging instead industry-wide consultation that permits time to prepare.
Protectionism concerns “are small hurdles you have to go through,” however, said Prem Watsa, the chairman of Canadian diversified investment firm Fairfax Financial, which has investments of $5 billion in India.
“There will be more business-friendly policies and more private enterprise coming into India,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Tech, healthcare and beyond
Among the firms looking for more friendly steps are global payments companies that had benefited since 2016 from Modi’s push for electronic payments instead of cash.
Last year, however, firms such as Mastercard and Visa were asked to store more of their data in India, to allow “unfettered supervisory access,” a change that prompted WhatsApp to delay plans for a payments service.
Modi’s government has also drafted a law to clamp similar stringent data norms on the entire sector.
But abrupt changes to rules on foreign investment in e-commerce stoked alarm at firms such as Amazon, which saw India operations disrupted briefly in February, and Walmart, just months after it invested $16 billion in India’s Flipkart.
Policy changes also hurt foreign players in the $5-billion medical device industry, such as Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson, following 2017 price caps on products such as heart stents and knee implants.
Modi’s government said the move aimed to help poor patients and curb profiteering, but the US government and lobby groups said it harmed innovation, profits and investment plans.
“If foreign companies see their future in this country on a long-term basis...they will have to look at the interests of the people,” Ashwani MaHajjan, an official of a nationalist group that pushed for some of the measures, told Reuters.
That view was echoed this week by two policymakers who said government policies will focus on strengthening India’s own companies, while providing foreign players with adequate opportunities for growth.
Such comments worry foreign executives who fear Modi is not about to change his protectionist stance in a hurry, with one offical of a US tech firm saying, “I’d rather be more worried than be optimistic.”