Britain can help KSA achieve its development goals, says UK’s economic secretary

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Basil Al-Ghalayini, chairman of BMG Financial Group, at the London Stock Exchange, with financial experts Edward Frazer, CEO of Trinity Group, and Michele Troiani, head of UK and Europe buyside relationship management at LSEG. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
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Basil Al-Ghalayini, chairman of BMG Financial Group, at the London Stock Exchange. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 12 July 2018
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Britain can help KSA achieve its development goals, says UK’s economic secretary

  • An Arab News-BMG forum heard how the UK could step up support for Saudi Arabia’s ambitious reform plans
  • UK's Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Philip Glen said that as Britain prepares to break with Europe, that “now, more than ever” the UK stands behind Saudi Arabia’s ambitious vision for its future. 

LONDON: Britain is uniquely placed to help Saudi Arabia successfully achieve its development program for its financial sector, a key part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms, the UK’s economic secretary to the treasury told a forum in London on Wednesday.

Addressing the 12th BMG Economic Forum, held in conjunction with Arab News, John Philip Glen MP said that as Britain prepares to break with Europe, that “now, more than ever” the UK stands behind Saudi Arabia’s ambitious vision for its future. 

“Today is a fantastic opportunity to consider the prospect of even further investment and dialogue between the UK and the Kingdom,” he said. 

“We are committed to strengthening these linkages even further as the UK leaves the EU to ensure we remain the gateway of the markets of the future and secure the commercial opportunities that this country voted to explore and deepen as Great Britain.

“We applaud Saudi Arabia’s ambition and stand as a willing Western partner.”

In his speech, titled “UK collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program,” Glen outlined how the UK could step up support for Vision 2030, helping the Kingdom to achieve a world-class Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP), one of the 12 executive programs launched by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) to achieve the objectives of Vision 2030.

“The FSDP sets the ambition of the Kingdom for its financial sector such as digitization, a drive toward a cashless society, and improved financial inclusion,” said Glen. 

“The FSDP also seeks to stimulate growth and capital markets development and we commend Saudi Arabia for its ambitious and comprehensive plan and I believe that we have much to offer the country.

“By engaging with Vision 2030, the UK can become a delivery partner, supporting the Kingdom’s vision to spurt growth and unlock potential. 

“The UK shines as a global financial hub with world-class expertise and a host of financial services that we could lend to Saudi Arabia and we believe Britain is uniquely placed to help translate the FSDP for an ambitious vision into something tangible and sustainable.”

He said that, as the Kingdom drives ahead with it blueprint for its future, the UK wants to ensure it offers more than just “warm words of support.” 

“British enterprise has entrenched fundamental strengths and the global reach of our financial markets and technology is one of one these,” he said.

Glen said that he envisions the UK helping Saudi Arabia achieve its development program for its financial sector by leveraging its cutting-edge expertise to develop the digital payments infrastructure in the Kingdom and encourage the entry of new service providers. 

“London is a global leader in technology so we can leverage our homegrown talent and exchange best practices with Saudi Arabian companies,” he continued. 

“The UK is also uniquely placed to support the upskilling of Saudi finance professionals.”

Glen said there is also work underway with the London Stock Exchange to help firms in the Kingdom to bolster their financial services capabilities. UK firms specializing in providing professional qualifications could further help Saudi Arabia establish a “financial sector academy,” as well as support other FSDP areas of focus by business-lending, asset management, capital market development and savings products. 

“We are committed even further to supporting Saudi Arabia’s capital markets and private sector-led initiatives to encourage deep and more liquid markets.”

Glen also hailed the Kingdom’s privatization program, one of 12 key elements of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan. The government plans to raise about $200 billion through privatization, on top of the initial public offering of Saudi Aramco, which could bring in $100 million.

“Over the weekend my boss, our Chancellor of the Exchequer, met (Saudi) ministers of commerce and finance to discuss how the UK can support Saudi Arabia in delivering Vision 2030, expressing a desire for the private sector to lead this change,” he said.  “Because as a country and a government we believe freedom and rival potential of business is the driver of growth

“As a country, we have marched to the beat of commerce and the drum is only getting louder as we continue to strengthen our position as a financial engine of the world and a champion of the free market. 

“I hope that we can continue to work together to support stronger and deeper bonds and connections beyond borders, across markets, for many years to come.”

Senior Saudi officials, international sovereign fund officials, emerging fund managers, CEOs, investment bankers, and lawyers were among the speakers at the forum.

The high-level event, which forms the first of the annual two-day BMG Summer Retreat, discussed investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s vision for the future, among many other topics. 

Government officials, regulators, and industry chiefs gathered on the iconic atrium balcony at the London Stock Exchange as the daily 60- second countdown officially marked the start of Wednesday’s trading — and served as a precursor to the forum.

Al-Ghalayini and Dr. Robert Barnes, CEO of Turquoise and global head of primary markets at the London Stock Exchange Group, stepped forward and completed the daily ritual of placing a bespoke engraved glass tablet onto the podium, setting off the 8 a.m. bell.

Talat Hafiz, secretary general of the Media and Banking Awareness Committee at Saudi Banks, led the first panel of the forum, under the theme “Business and Financial Environments in Saudi Arabia.”

“Saudi Arabia is ... the heart of the Arab world and an investment powerhouse,” said Hafiz.

Hussain Shobokshi, businessman and consultant and columnist, said: “Our biggest commodity used to be oil. Now, I believe our biggest commodity is youth.”


Turkey set to begin oil and gas drilling off Cyprus

Updated 21 February 2019
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Turkey set to begin oil and gas drilling off Cyprus

  • “In the coming days we will start drilling with two ships around Cyprus,” Turkish foreign minister said
  • Turkey and the Cypriot government have overlapping claims of jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean

ISTANBUL: Turkey will begin drilling for oil and gas near Cyprus in coming days, state-owned news agency Anadolu reported Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying on Thursday, a move that could stoke tensions with neighboring Cyprus and Greece.
Turkey and the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government have overlapping claims of jurisdiction for offshore oil and gas research in the eastern Mediterranean, a region thought to be rich in natural gas.
“In the coming days we will start drilling with two ships around Cyprus,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying in a speech to a business conference in western Turkey’s Aydin province.
“Let those who come to the region from far away, and their companies, see that nothing can be done in that region without us. Nothing at all can be done in the Mediterranean without Turkey, we will not allow that,” Cavusoglu said.
Turkey launched its first drillship “Fatih” in October to drill off the coast of Turkey’s southern Antalya province. It said a second ship that it purchased would operate in the Black Sea, but was diverted to the Cyprus area.
Breakaway north Cyprus, which is supported by Turkey, says any offshore wealth also belongs to them, as partners in the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960.
The island was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Countless peacemaking endeavours have failed, and offshore wealth has increasingly complicated peace negotiations, with Greek Cypriots saying the matter is not up for discussion.