November 10, 2013 Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), issued the following statement today at the conclusion of her visit to Kuwait:
“It has been a great pleasure to visit Kuwait, where I have had the privilege of meeting with His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and discussing with him recent developments in the region, as well as the global and domestic economic situation. We exchanged views on the important role Kuwait plays in regional economic developments. I conveyed my gratitude to Kuwait for its support of its Arab neighbors facing challenging transitions and underlined the IMF’s efforts to encourage the international community to provide additional assistance. I also noted our appreciation for the commitment by Kuwait and other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council to ensure that the IMF’s resources are sufficient to help all members in need.
“I had the opportunity to hold fruitful consultations with His Excellency Finance Minister Sheikh Salem Abdulaziz Al-Sabah as well as my host, the Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Mohammed al-Hashel, on recent developments, economic priorities and the outlook for Kuwait. My visit was a great opportunity to meet with some leading Kuwaiti women, members of the private sector, as well as students at Kuwait University. Our vibrant exchange of views gave me a better sense of the changes that have taken place in the country since my last visit.
“I also had the pleasure of visiting the IMF-Middle East Center for Economics and Finance in Kuwait City, a premier training center in the region. The center has trained over 2,100 government officials from 22 Arab countries and has been able to increase sharply its training of Kuwaiti and other Arab League officials by offering more than 40 courses this year, the bulk of which are organized by the IMF. This training is helping to build capacity for economic decision-making and policy implementation in all Arab League member countries. I conveyed our appreciation for Kuwait’s generous support not only to the center, but also for its contributions to the Fund’s technical assistance initiatives in the region.
“The final highlight of my visit today was the opportunity to give a speech at the newly created Central Bank Symposium. My main message there for Kuwait, and its Gulf neighbors, was that the region has made good progress and needs to build on its gains—the time to plan for the future is now. As I said in my speech, I greatly appreciate our close cooperation with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and look forward to working together on addressing the challenges facing the wider region.
“Kuwait has navigated the global crisis well and its macroeconomic performance remains strong. The country faces challenges, however, that could be overcome by implementing stronger economic policies. Spending rigidities and a growing reliance on oil revenues have increased fiscal risks, notwithstanding the current high fiscal surplus and large buffers. To contain these risks from eroding buffers and to save for future generations, it is important to contain current expenditures such as the public sector wage bill and generalized subsidies, and find ways to enhance non-oil revenues. This requires strong policy frameworks and fiscal institutions to guide public spending and the medium-term fiscal consolidation process.
“I have today announced the release a book written by IMF staff on the Macroeconomics of the Arab Countries of the Gulf, which marks an important contribution for the IMF in its operational work in the GCC region.
“I would like to express my appreciation to the Kuwaiti authorities and people for their hospitality and warm welcome, and I reiterate the IMF’s readiness to help the Kuwait economy in areas of its expertise.”