Saudi Arabia names Fahad al-Mubarak as new central bank governor

January 25, 2021

Saudi Arabia’s king appointed Fahad al-Mubarak as central bank governor, his second stint in one of the most sensitive positions in the kingdom replacing Ahmed al-Kholifey, a decree carried on state media on Sunday said.

Mubarak, who had helmed the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) from 2011 to 2016, was previously chairman and managing director of Morgan Stanley, Saudi Arabia, and has also served as chairman of the Saudi stock exchange

He was succeeded as governor in 2016 by Kholifey, who guided SAMA during a sharp economic contraction last year caused by lower crude prices and COVID-19. Kholifey will become an adviser at the royal court, the decree said.

SAMA last March launched a 50 billion riyal ($13.3 billion)stimulus package to support the private sector in the world’s top oil exporter. In June, it announced the injection of another 50 billion riyals into the banking sector to support liquidity.

In September, as coronavirus restrictions eased and the Saudi economy showed early signs of recovery, Kholifey said he was confident in the country’s financial stability but that caution was needed in decreasing monetary support to avoid a deterioration of assets.

The central bank last year transferred $40 billion to the sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, to boost its firepower in overseas investments. That contributed to a sharp drop in Saudi central bank foreign assets when the Saudi economy was being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kholifey oversaw the Saudi banking sector at a critical time for Saudi Arabia, as banks’ liquidity suffered after the 2014-2015 oil price crash.

Under his guidance in 2016 the central bank introduced new monetary tools to lower market interest rates, which had soared amid shrunken flows of petrodollars.

Liquidity in the Saudi banking system also improved because Riyadh that year started borrowing tens of billions of dollars in the overseas markets, reducing pressure on Saudi banks.

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