Saudi Arabia’s finance minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan: The new face of fiscal reform?

Published November 2nd, 2016 - 08:08 GMT
Al-Jadaan’s first major job will be to deliver the 2017 budget toward the end of this year. (Arab News)
Al-Jadaan’s first major job will be to deliver the 2017 budget toward the end of this year. (Arab News)

Mohammed Al-Jadaan, Saudi Arabia’s new minister of finance, is widely seen as a reformer within the government and a close ally of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to analysts.

Al-Jadaan, a top lawyer appointed to the Capital Market Authority in early 2015, oversaw the Saudi bourse opening to more foreign investments last year as well as several more recent changes intended to ease barriers to attraction of overseas capital.

Commenting on the latest developments, Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist at Capital Economics, told Arab News: “Prior to his appointment as finance minister, Al-Jaadan was previously the head of the Capital Markets Authority. So already has policymaking experience having overseen the opening up of the Saudi Tadawul to foreign investors over the past couple of years.”

Recently, Al-Jaadan has endeavoured to loosen the restrictions on foreign investors in order to attract more capital into the stock market, Tuvey pointed out.

On Tuesday, the new minister said that he had great confidence in Saudi Arabia’s economic vision despite all the challenges it faces.

“My confidence in God is great, and then the guardian (the king), at this blessed state’s launch toward broader horizons of growth and financial, economic and social prosperity, in the framework of the kingdom’s 2030 vision, despite all the challenges,” he said in a statement on the ministry’s website.

Al-Jadaan was named finance minister by royal decree on Monday, replacing Ibrahim Al-Assaf, who had held the post since 1996.

Al-Assaf served for 20 years in the ministry, which strived to cut spending fast enough to cope with falling oil revenue.

Commenting to Bloomberg, Fahad Nazer, who worked at the Saudi embassy in Washington and is now a political analyst at JTG Inc. in Virginia, said: “Al Jadaan’s appointment reflects the reform direction that Saudi Arabia is moving toward with wide support for a younger generation of bureaucrats.”

He added: “Most of these senior positions are going to younger, less experienced people, but people who are still very-well qualified and energetic.” Monday’s replacement of the veteran finance minister had no significant impact on the Saudi stock market on Tuesday.

Extensive experience

Before his appointment as the CMA’s chairman of the board on Jan. 29, 2015, Al-Jadaan was one of the founding partners of the Al-Jadaan and Partners Law Firm and was listed in Chambers and Partners 2004-2014 as a leading lawyer in corporate/commercial and the banking/finance practice areas in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Jadaan has extensive experience in advising on all aspects of capital market, structuring, documenting and negotiating complex international project financings and providing counsel on corporate and commercial matters, including equity and debt public offering, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and shareholder agreements and matters pertaining to Islamic law and Islamic finance.

Al-Jadaan has also represented corporate and commercial clients before a number of key courts and judicial committees in Saudi Arabia. He was also a special adviser to the board of directors at Morgan Stanley Saudi Arabia. Economists said that Al-Jadaan’s first major job will be to deliver the 2017 budget toward the end of this year.

“As we argued recently, the majority of spending cuts have probably now happened so we expect he will be able to outline plans to ease the pace of fiscal consolidation over the next couple of years,” Capital Economics said in a report.

“But austerity is far from over and many Saudis may have been premature in celebrating Al-Assaf’s departure,” the report added.


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