Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

Seasoned Saudi banker and technocrat steers region's biggest economy

Mohammed Al Tuwaijri is shaping up Saudi reform and fiscal policies

Mohammed Al Tuwaijri is Saudi Arabia’s new minister of economy and planning. Karim Sahib / AFP
Mohammed Al Tuwaijri is Saudi Arabia’s new minister of economy and planning. Karim Sahib / AFP

Mohammed Al Tuwaijri is Saudi Arabia’s new minister of economy and planning, a fitting role for the technocrat who has been at the front-and-centre of the kingdom’s economic transformation drive ever since he joined the government ranks.

Mr Al Tuwaijri, who was the vice minister of economy and planning, has replaced Adel Fakeih in a late Saturday night ministerial shake up aimed at streamlining the country’s economy, which is still heavily dependent on the sale of hydrocarbons for the revenues.

A former Saudi Royal Air Force pilot, Mr Al Tuwaijri, has been instrumental in helping the policymakers in shaping up the economic and fiscal agenda over the past year or so. A banking veteran with 21 years of service under his belt, 12 of which were spent in senior executive management roles in Saudi banks, he has been the public face of the kingdom's economic reform agenda.

Since taking the role of vice minister in the May 2016, he has often spoken to local and international media detailing the kingdom’s plans to tap local and international debt markets; rationalising and balancing the country’s budget; privatisation drive, the government’s resolve to continue spending on infrastructure and socially sensitive issues such as subsidy reforms.

Before joining the government, Al Tuwaijri served as deputy chairman of HSBC Bank Middle East and chief executive of HSBC Bank Middle East, a post he held since October 2013. He has been associated with HSBC Middle East since 2010, holding several positions including the head of Global Banking & Markets Division - Middle East and North Africa at HSBC Holdings since June 2010.

Mr Al Tuwaijri, who holds a graduate degree in business from Riyadh King Saud University and an undergraduate degree in aerodynamics from the Air Force Academy, joined HSBC from JP Morgan, where he served as the managing director and senior country officer of Saudi Arabia.

The series of royal orders that affected Mr Al Tuwaijri’s elevation to a full ministerial role also announced sacking of Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, son of the late Saudi King Abdullah, who will be replaced by Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Muqren as the head of the national guard, according to the Saudi Press Agency.


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The kingdom has also established a supreme committee tasked with investigating public corruption. Local Saudi and international media reports suggested authorities have already detained 11 princes and 38 current or former officials on the orders of the committee, chaired by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The strongly worded royal decrees on Saturday are the latest measure in Saudi Arabia to support its drive for improved economic performance and oversight of public finances. These changes have come on the heels of the government’s concerted efforts to cut its dependence on oil and diversify its revenue lines.

“This centralisation might also be a necessary condition for pushing the austerity and transformation agenda, the benefits of which very few investors are pricing in,” Hasnain Malik, the global head of equity research at the specialist frontier and emerging markets investment bank Exotix Capital said.

Last month, the kingdom courted the who’s who of the global financial and business elite for three days in Riyadh as it continues to press on with incubating an environment conducive to inbound investment and developing a culture of corporate governance in tandem with its privatisation efforts, the planned flotation of Saudi Aramco and other state-controlled assets.

Updated: November 5, 2017 08:18 PM