Saudi Arabia, Switzerland to increase cooperation in financial sector

Swiss Vice President and Finance Minister Ueli Maurer (right), Chairman of SwissBanking Herbert J. Scheidt (left) and FDF State Secretary Joerg Gasser addressing a press conference on Sunday night in Riyadh. (AN photo)
Updated 19 February 2018

Saudi Arabia, Switzerland to increase cooperation in financial sector

RIYADH: Switzerland has assured the Kingdom that the two countries can work closely together in the financial sector by holding regular meetings and that it will provide all necessary assistance to Saudi financial regulators and bankers.
The assurances were given by Ueli Maurer, Swiss vice president and finance minister, at a press briefing on Sunday night.
Maurer, who held wide-ranging talks with King Salman, said: “Switzerland and Saudi Arabia have agreed to hold a periodic financial dialogue at both political and technical levels. We have discussed Swiss training options for Saudi personnel working in the financial and banking sector.” He also referred to an agreement on double taxation signed by the two sides on Sunday.
The press briefing at the Swiss ambassador’s house was attended by Herbert J. Scheidt, chairman of SwissBanking (Swiss Bankers Association); Joerg Gasser, state secretary at the Swiss Federal Department of Finance (FDF); Peter Minder, FDF head of communications; and Heinrich Schellenberg, the Swiss ambassador.
The two-day visit of the delegation of Swiss bankers and regulators, as well as their intensive meetings with senior Saudi officials, are important bearing in mind the Kingdom’s high-profile corruption purge that has brought billions of dollars in settlements for the state.
Referring to his wide-ranging talks with Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, Economy and Planning Minister Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri and Dr. Ahmed A. Al-Khulaifi, governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), Maurer said: “The talks focused on frameworks for investments and financial services, as well as local opportunities for Swiss financial institutions.”
He said that Swiss financial institutions had a strong presence in several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia.
“Switzerland, which is the second largest financial market in Europe, currently has a total of SR26,600 billion ($7,093 billion) deposits in its banks, whose total number exceeds 261,” said SwissBanking Chairman Scheidt. He pointed out that “about half of these funds under management of the Swiss banks are from international clients.”
He added: “The Swiss banks can also play an advisory role as Saudi Arabia looks for better investment options within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030.”
According to the Swiss Bankers Association, the financial sector remains one of the key sectors of the Swiss economy, even in a challenging environment.

KSRelief signs agreements for relief to Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians

Updated 30 min 31 sec ago

KSRelief signs agreements for relief to Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians

  • Al-Rabeeah: We have no hidden agenda in Syria and we work through international organizations

BEIRUT: The general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, signed on Wednesday seven agreements with Beirut and international and civil organizations operating in Lebanon to implement relief projects targeting Syrian and Palestinian refugees as well as the most affected host communities in Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who participated in the symposium at the Four Seasons Hotel Beirut to sign the agreements, praised the strong Saudi-Lebanese relations, which have existed for decades, and stressed Lebanon’s keenness to ensure their permanence and development.

He said: “The meetings Al-Rabeeah has held with different Lebanese political and religious authorities over the past two days during his visit to Lebanon, under the guidance of King Salman, indicate the Saudi leadership’s true desire to deepen the fraternal ties with the Lebanese, support Lebanon’s unity, independence, sovereignty and coexistence formula, and protect its existence from the repercussions of all the fires, crises and interventions that plague many countries.”

During the symposium, which was attended by a large group of political, religious and social figures, Al-Rabeeah called on the international donor community to shoulder more responsibility.

Addressing the implementing bodies, he said: “It is time to reconsider your working mechanisms in order to develop them and improve procedures to avoid negative impacts.”

“What I mean by reconsidering working processes is that there is a need to work professionally and skillfully because there are not many resources, and we must eliminate bureaucracy and speedily make the most of resources,” Al-Rabeeah told Arab News.

He stressed the importance of developing a close partnership between the donor and the implementer of projects, highlighting that KSRelief’s work is subject to international and regional oversight mechanisms as well as its own internal control mechanisms.

“We have two strategic partners, and when agreements are signed with the recipients of assistance, this means accepting oversight terms,” he said.

Al-Rabeeah said: “Saudi Arabia supports the safe return of Syrian refugees to their country, and so is the case for Yemen.”

“Saudi Arabia has supported peaceful dialogues, which restore security and stability,” he said. “In order for this to happen in Syria, we support the efforts of the United Nations and implement (as KSRelief) relief programs inside Syria. We also have major programs and we count on the UN to ensure a safe return for Syrian refugees.”

On the Syrian regions in which KSRelief is implementing its programs and the difficulties faced, Al-Rabeeah told Arab News: “We have nothing to do with military or religious matters, and wherever there is security, we work. We also work through the UN and the international organizations inside Syria, and we do not have any hidden agenda in this field.”

He stressed that “participating in rebuilding Syria requires security and stability, and the Saudi leadership hopes for a peaceful solution as soon as possible. Until this is achieved, the relief work will continue and won’t cease.”

Al-Rabeeah announced that KSRelief is implementing a quality program to rehabilitate recruited children in Yemen alongside its education, protection, health and environment projects.

“There are those who recruit children to fight in Yemen, violating all humanitarian laws. Our center rehabilitates them so that they are not used as terrorist tools in the future,” he said.

Al-Rabeeah emphasized that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 has given relief work its share, especially in terms of volunteering programs. “We have great examples involved in the field,” he said.

Among the signed agreements was one with the Lebanese High Relief Commission (HRC) to carry out a project to cover the food needs of Lebanese families.

Chairman of Lebanon’s High Relief Commission Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair told Arab News that the agreement targets distributing 10,000 food rations to orphans, widows and destitute families in the poorest and most disadvantaged areas in Lebanon. “This project is encouraging and gives hope to people,” he said.

Khair said that there are 100,000 people in need in Bab Al-Tabbaneh district alone, pledging to commit to transparency during the implementation of the project. “It is not a question of sectarian balance; we are focused on those who are most in need,” he said.

The signed agreements include one for repairing, equipping, and operating the Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Center for Dialysis at the Makassed General Hospital, an agreement with the UNHCR worth $5 million to implement a project for assisting the most affected Syrian families for six months, an agreement to support Souboul Assalam Association in Akkar (northern Lebanon), an agreement with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to implement a project worth $3.8 million to cover the needs of Syrian families that are below the poverty line for a year, and an agreement with UNRWA to cover the medical needs and treatment of cancer and multiple sclerosis in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said: “The challenge facing UNRWA after the reduction of its budget is maintaining the operation of its 715 schools in the Middle East.”

“Saudi Arabia is a key partner for us, and owing to its help, we will be able to help cancer and multiple sclerosis patients,” he said.