RIYADH: Ahmed Al-Kholifey, governor of the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA), has been awarded Central Banker of the Year for the Middle East 2020 by The Banker magazine in London.
The award recognizes not only SAMA’s measures to protect the banking sector and the wider economy from harm in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the body’s innovation agenda, even in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.
Walid bin Ghaith, GM-asset management and chief investment officer at Al-Jazira Capital, said that the award was recognition of measures initiated by the government and SAMA to successfully limit the fallout from the pandemic on the banking sector and the broader economy.
“SAMA actions not only prevented any worst-case scenarios from actually happening but ensured operational business continuity without any disruptions. SAMA had already established a solid track-record of successfully maneuvering the domestic economy through difficult periods in the past arising from volatile oil prices,” he said.
The award, he said, would further improve confidence and credibility in SAMA and the government, but also the entire financial system’s ability to manage crisis situations, especially unexpected “black swan” events such as a pandemic. Being the largest economy in the region, the credibility of the regulatory and supervisory environment of the Kingdom was not only important to the country but also the whole GCC region, he said.
“The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has pulled out all the stops during 2020 in a bid to shield banks and local businesses from the impact of lockdown measures designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, together with the collapse in the Kingdom’s oil revenues in the wake of the global economic crisis,” The Banker said on its website when announcing this year’s awards.
The magazine, which was founded in 1926 and is owned by the Financial Times (FT), said: “Under Mr. Al-Kholifey’s leadership, SAMA injected SR50 billion ($13.33 billion) in the form of interest-free deposits into the local financial sector in June in a bid to shore up liquidity. As a result, the impact of the crisis on the Kingdom’s major banks has been limited, aided also by the continued growth in retail mortgage lending.”