Last updated: 12 March, 2014

Gulf chief bankers meet despite political row

Arab central bank governors of the energy-rich Gulf met Wednesday in Kuwait to discuss combating terror funding and boosting cooperation, despite a tense diplomatic row between its member states.

“We are a technical committee which does not interfere in politics,” Kuwait’s central bank governor Mohammad al-Hashel told reporters.

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain last week recalled their ambassadors from Qatar for allegedly interfering in their internal affairs.

Qatar categorically denied the accusation and did not recall its envoys.

The four nations are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), established in 1981, along with Kuwait and Oman which did not follow the Saudi-led move.

“The row did not impact the meeting where all members were present and contributed effectively to the meeting which was very normal,” Hashel said.

Central bank governors from the six states, including that of Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud Al-Thani, attended the meeting.

GCC central bank governors hold regular meetings and Kuwait’s session was their 59th. It was also the first GCC meeting since the unprecedented diplomatic dispute.

Hashel said the one-day meeting discussed the efforts of member states individually and collectively to combat money laundering and terror funding and to comply with international standards.

A long-delayed monetary union and single currency were not discussed because UAE and Oman are not part of the union after having withdrawn.

Hashel said GCC states were still facing key economic challenges despite huge wealth from oil, particularly the “increasing dependence on oil income to finance budgets and the rise in current spending,” a term normally used for wages, subsidies and defence spending.

The conservative Gulf monarchies, which sit on 40 percent of the world’s oil and a quarter of its natural gas, pump around 17.5 million barrels of oil per day, or a fifth of the world’s consumption.

Income from oil and natural gas make up around 90 percent of total public revenues. They are estimated to have assets worth more than $2.0 trillion.

High oil prices over the past decade sent the GCC’s combined gross domestic product soaring to $1.6 trillion in 2012.

GCC members are estimated to have posted a record oil income of $740 billion in 2013, up from $680 billion the previous year.