Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz said that the reforms that Saudi Arabia has witnessed in recent years have been unprecedented and exceeded expectations, hailing the Kingdom’s handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
He made his remarks in the first episode of Arab News’ "Frankly Speaking" YouTube talkshow, hosted by veteran British journalist Frank Kane.
“In Saudi Arabia I think the best thing which has happened in the last few years, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and His Majesty the King and all the other leadership of the country, they have done reforms which you could never even consider or think about,” Aziz said.
“When I lived there, I couldn’t have expected that they would do that. I think today in the structural reform agenda, I would put Saudi Arabia in the top few countries of the world,” said Aziz who lived and worked in the Kingdom for many years at Citi.
He also hailed the recent merger between the National Commercial Bank and Samba.
“Consolidation doesn’t mean there won’t be competition. It will make those banks much stronger so they’ll bring better products, they’ll have larger balance sheets, they can finance bigger deals, they have more absorptive capacity for any shocks. Any economy can go through shocks in the world, the world goes through it all the time. So, then their shock absorbers become much stronger, too,” he said.
On Saudi-Pakistani relations amid the backdrop of Iran’s malign ambitions in the region, Aziz stated: “Naturally we have our own sovereignty to protect — that goes without saying — and we also have friends in the world like Saudi Arabia who are considered really very strategic partners for Pakistan.
“When I looked at Saudi Arabia as a relationship, it was like looking at your elder brother. You know they care for each other.”
“We have a long border with Iran, so our strategy with them is to maintain a relationship which is peaceful and to avoid any tensions,” he continued.