Saudi Arabia confronts an unprecedented series of challenges as 2020 unfolds. The Saudi budget has struggled to balance an ambitious program of diversification away from an oil-based economy, massive new arms procurement, the quagmire of the Yemeni civil war and navigating the US confrontation threatened by steeply declining oil prices. Observers had predicted that the Saudi budget could not sustain current expenditure levels beyond the next two or three years. The steep decline has now fallen over a cliff, dramatic production reductions negotiated with Russia and the rest of OPEC have not stabilized prices at levels adequate to support the Saudi budget nor is there any indication that this situation will change in the mid-term future.
The Kingdom has only $450 billion in foreign exchange reserves, according to most sources, and will need to both borrow and continue liquidating some of their foreign exchange holdings. Will Saudi Arabia be able to increase liquid reserves to cover future imports and sustain credit ratings? What happens then? The Kingdom has failed to adjust budget expenditures for the last several years. How difficult will it be to catch-up now or is it too late?
David Rundell (moderator), Dr. Hani K. Findakly, Dr. Bessma Momani, and Dr. Ghiyath F. Nakshbendi.
David Rundell served as an American diplomat for thirty years, fifteen of which were spent in Saudi Arabia. He worked at the Embassy in Riyadh as well as the Consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran. His assignments included Chief of Mission, Deputy Chief of Mission, Political Counselor, Economic Counselor, and Commercial Counselor. This is a unique record for an American diplomat, not only in Saud Arabia, but in any country.
David helped negotiate Saudi entry into the World Trade Organization. He made a crucial contribution to obtaining five-year reciprocal visas for American and Saudi travelers. He conceived and helped implement the Joint Commission for Critical Infrastructure Protection which has strengthened Saudi American relations as well as global energy security. He won numerous awards for his analysis and reporting from Saudi Arabia including four Superior Honor Awards and the Cox award given each year to the Foreign Service Office who has made the greatest contribution to American trade policy.
After leaving the State Department in 2010 David worked as a business strategy consultant for Monitor Deloitte for five years. In Saudi Arabia, this included work with the Saudi Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saudi Aramco, the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST), and the Saudi Arabian General Investment Agency (SAGIA). For the past five years, David has been a partner in Arabia Analytica a consulting firm based in New York, Washington and Dubai. His new book Vision or Mirage, Saudi Arabia at a Crossroads will be published by Bloomsbury in New York and London this fall.
David holds a B.A. cum laude in economics from Colgate University and a M.Phil. in Middle East Studies from Oxford University. He lives in London and Dubai with his wife and daughter.
Also relevant to this discussion, David has been actively engaged in the production of oil and gas in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico for over 30 years.
Dr. Hani K. Findakly
Vice Chairman of the Clinton Group
Dr. Findakly is Vice Chairman of the Clinton Group. He has held senior financial positions on Wall Street, including Drexel Burnham Lambert, PaineWebber Inc.; Potomac Babson; and, Chairman, Dillon Read. Prior to Wall Street, he was the Chief Investment Officer of the World Bank Group. His early career was in academia as a member of the faculty of MIT, and as OAS Visiting Professor at the Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
He is a graduate of Baghdad University (B.Sc. Magna cum Laude), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): Master of Science (S.M.), and Doctor of Science (Sc.D., Decision Theory).
Dr. Findakly serves on several corporate and public boards, including Peking University; The Beijing Forum; Shanghai International Studies University; Sichuan University, American University of Cairo; University of Maryland; Harvard University; Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center; and UCLA. He is a Trustee of the American University of Sharjah and Sir Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Foundation (Cairo). He has served, inter alia, as Chairman, the Arab Bankers Association of North America; Governor, the Middle East Institute; Director, the Arab American Bank; Director, Deutschebank Alex Brown Venture Capital Funds; Trustee, the UN International School; U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy; and the UNDP Committee on Private Finance for Development. Corporate boards include, inter alia, The Clinton Group (New York), Dillon Read (New York), Potomac Babson (New York), Sedco Holdings (Jeddah), Sedco Capital (Jeddah), MASIC (Riyadh); The Family Office Company (Bahrain), TAIB Bank (Bahrain), the Arab American Bank (New York), and Sage Capital Advisors Ltd. (Mumbai).
Dr. Findakly is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is listed in Who’s Who in America. He is a recipient of several honors, including the Goulbenkian Foundation; Sigma Xi (research excellence); Chi Epsilon (engineering excellence); and, the 2009 Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor. He is married and has two children.
Dr. Bessma Momani
Assistant Vice President of International Relations (2020) and Professor of Political Science, University of Waterloo
Dr. Momani is Assistant Vice President of International Relations (2020) and Full Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Momani is also a Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, D.C. She was a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at both the Brookings Institution and Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., a consultant to the International Monetary Fund, and formerly a visiting scholar at Georgetown University’s Mortara Center. She was a 2015 Fellow of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and now sits on its board of directors. She is also a Fulbright Scholar. Dr. Momani currently sits on the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG) to advise the Deputy Minister of Public Safety Canada and other Government officials on improving transparency to Canada’s national security and intelligence departments and agencies. She is a frequent contributor to international media on international affairs and writes regular op-eds in the Globe and Mail and Time Magazine.
Dr. Ghiyath F. Nakshbendi
Senior Professorial Lecturer, Department of Finance and Real Estate, American University Washington D.C.
Ghiyath Nakshbendi, a Fulbright Scholar, draws upon more than 30 years of diverse business and academic experience within the United States of America and international arenas.
Ghiyath has been affiliated with five institutions of higher learning domestically and internationally. Currently he teaches at Kogod School of Business and is an affiliate faculty at The School of International Service, and College of Arts and Sciences’ Arab World Studies Program, American University. He spent one year as a visiting professor at King Saud University. He is a fellow of Sovereign Investment Lab, Baffi Center on International Markets, Money, and Regulation, Università Bocconi, Milan, Italy. And International Business & Investment Affairs Fellow at National Council on US-Arab Relations. Washington, D.C.
Ghiyath is a Middle East and North Africa (MENA) subject-matter expert (SME). He was born and raised in the Middle East and later, educated in the Middle East and the United States of America. Ghiyath has also conducted significant projects within the MENA region, from Mauritania to Oman, over a period of 20 years. He is a frequent visitor to the region and follows its development diligently.
Since 2003, Ghiyath has acted in the capacity of a Special Representative for foreign investors seeking investments in the United States of America. He has been a Senior Consultant to a Washington, D.C. firm that provides a full range of professional marketing and consulting services to the aerospace & defense, health care and industrial sectors — domestically and internationally.
Previously, Ghiyath managed a one-billion-dollar real estate portfolio in the United States of America and acted as a Special Representative to foreign investors. Prior to that, Ghiyath served as the primary internal Financial Advisor to the oldest sovereign wealth funds in the world. Ghiyath’s field experience in the business world covers 18 countries (including the GCC Countries, U.K., Switzerland and the U.S.A.), in addition to, the United States of America. He has worked in Kuwait in senior positions for a total of 19 years at two different intervals. Ghiyath has lived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and subsequently worked for a Saudi investor. He visits the GCC countries on regular basis. Also, he introduced Islamic finance courses along with the first graduate certificate in Islamic finance in the U.S.A. offered by American University in Washington, D.C. He is the Founding President of American Center for Alternative Finance, (ACFAF), an NGO.
Ghiyath is a frequent speaker and lecturer at world-class venues and organizations domestically and internationally such as the U.S. Department of State and the Foreign Service Institute. His name is listed on the Fulbright Specialist roster and his television, radio and print interviews, include: Alhurra Television, Express News, Bloomberg Asharq SkyNewsArabia, Kuwait TV, FM 93.3 Radio of Kuwait, Oman TV, Dubai TV, SNRT of Morocco, HOT 102 FM Station of Jamaica, Atlantic Radio of Morocco, VOA, Xinhua News Agency, Al Ekhbariya TV of Saudi Arabia, French TV, France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo International, among others.
He received his Bachelor of Commercial Sciences from the University of Aleppo; earned his MBA from the Mays School of Business at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; and was awarded his Ph.D. in Business Administration from American University, Washington, D.C.