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Face Time with Dr. Nahed Taher

  • Story Highlights
  • MME speaks with Dr. Nahed Taher of Gulf One Investment Bank
  • First female head of a Saudi Investment Bank, respected economist
  • Dr. Naher: intra-trade and intra-production should be encouraged in GCC
  • Says in Saudi Arabia "driving for women is definitely a necessity now"
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(CNN) -- Her curriculum vitae makes for impressive, if exhausting, reading.


Dr. Nahed Taher tells CNN her views on currencies, the Saudi economy and whether women should be allowed to drive

While fulfilling a demanding role as the first female head of a Saudi investment bank -- which she founded -- Dr. Nahed Taher also sits on the board of a number of private companies and business committees.

She has twice been named businesswoman of the year, and has made Forbes' list of the world's most powerful women.

John Defterios found a spare moment to sit down with Dr Nahed Taher, the founder, CEO and Executive Director of Gulf One Investment Bank.

John Defterios (JD): Leading up to the GCC meeting in Doha, there was a great deal of not just speculation but even policy statements that this was the right time to de-peg from the US dollar. Why the backtrack, almost at the last minute, in your view?

Dr. Nahed Taher (NT): They believe that it's a cycle not a trend. However, I have some concerns. Having the dollar as a majority of this basket is not a problem, but it should be, it's only wise to do this at the beginning, because they cannot shift dramatically towards a flowing exchange rate or whatever, it should be a managed float.

JD: Speaking of inflation, there's a real number that's put out by different governments in this region, and then the realities. What's the real inflation right now because of the import cost rising with the weaker dollar?

NT: As an economist you can measure the inflationary gap, which is the difference between the growth in the money supply and the growth in the real GDP. And this is, in Saudi Arabia, 15%. So the inflationary gap is 15%, meaning that injection of money in the economy is not having an equal absorption capacity in the economy to create income. It's just burning the money in consumption.

JD: Let's look out a little bit here into the future, you know, 5-10 years away. Can you create a single market for the trading of goods, a greater air of free trade association that's real that lowers barriers so you have more inter-Arab trade?

NT: The problem is that we all import the same thing, and we all export the same thing almost. So there is not really intra-trade between us that makes sense a lot. Because for the GCC, for example, we all import everything from outside. What are we importing from each other? Nothing. Almost, I mean a minority. But, that's what's needed in the future. If we go, for example, into production more like petrol-chemical and mining and whatever we should really create less barriers, and facilitate intra-trade and intra-production as well... and go in mega-companies, not to have a petrol-chemical company in Saudi and one in Kuwait and whatever, and compete, we should work more towards collaboration.

JD: Is the formula correct? When you drive the streets of Jeddah do you say I think we'll get it right this time, the wealth that's coming into the country, recalibrating what we want to do with Saudi Arabia?

NT: There is a big recognition that this boom is totally different than the first boom. At the first boom we didn't have any debt. Now we have a government debt, and we have private sector debt. So we recognize that this wealth has to be wisely spent on projects for the future that can co-op with future demand. We have 60% of our population under 24-years-old, which are baby boomers hopefully we don't want them to be the baby losers in the future.


JD: How about as a woman, do you think that it's a bit strange that you can't drive on the streets but you can sign multi-million or billion dollar deals?

NT: I will leave this to my dearest King Abdullah, to decide. I know he's supportive and he will have it very soon, in the right time. I cannot go against the wind, but driving for women is definitely a necessity now, it's becoming an economic need. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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