Minister of Finance and National Economy Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf was guest of honor yesterday at a reception in Washington DC organized by the Saudi-U.S. Business Council. Dr. Al-Assaf is in the United States as head of the Kingdom's delegation to the annual joint meetings of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
On Sunday, he met with U.S. Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill to discuss bilateral economic topics and other issues of mutual concern. The meeting was attended by Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) Hamad Al-Sayyari.
In his address to the meeting on Saturday of the IMF and WB committees, Dr. Al-Assaf highlighted the Kingdom's sound economic policies that have enabled the country to face fluctuations in the global economy. He expressed optimism in the steady growth of the Saudi non-oil sector without any problem of inflation, saying: "The future of the Saudi economy is bright and promising." He commented on measures undertaken to accelerate the process of privatization, and the proposed removal of custom barriers on exports of manufactured commodities. He pointed out that at their recent meeting in Lusaka, the major oil-producing countries had reiterated their concern for stability in the global energy market, and praised the decision to establish in Riyadh a permanent secretariat for the international energy forum.
Dr Al-Assaf underlined the importance of the resolutions approved at the International Summit for Financing Development and the Johannesburg Summit for Sustainable Development; welcomed international cooperation in combating money-laundering and preventing the financing of terrorist activities; urged the WB and IMF to shoulder their responsibility towards assisting the developing countries; and stressed the importance of enabling the private sector to positively contribute to solving financial crises.
One of the top items on the agenda of the two-day annual meetings was how best to shore up the nascent global economic recovery, which has not taken hold as quickly or as strongly as the IMF had hoped just a few months ago. IMF is calling on rich nations to rebuild confidence shaken by plunging stock markets, and for Europe and Japan to consider economic reforms to bolster their long-term growth prospects. In addition, a mandate is expected for the IMF to set up an international bankruptcy court to deal with countries defaulting on their debts, an issue provoked by the recent economic collapse of Argentina.