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Kuwait names new central bank governor

AP News
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Posted: Mar 25, 2012 2:33 PM
Kuwait names new central bank governor

Kuwait is promoting the central bank's deputy governor to the institution's top job following the resignation of its long-serving leader last month, the finance minister announced Sunday.

The appointment of Mohammed Yusef al-Hashel as central bank governor comes as Kuwaiti labor groups, emboldened by Arab Spring protests elsewhere in the region, press for higher wages and perks from the country's rulers.

Mustafa al-Shimali, the Gulf nation's deputy prime minister and minister of finance, said the Cabinet approved al-Hashel's appointment, according to the official Kuwait News Agency.

Al-Hashel, 37, has served as deputy governor since 2009 and holds a doctorate in finance from Virginia's Old Dominion University, according to the bank's website.

He has been acting head of the bank since the resignation last month of Sheik Salem Abdulaziz Al-Sabah, a member of the country's ruling family, who led the bank for more than 25 years.

Sheik Salem quit in protest over a rapid rise in public spending, including substantial wage increases for oil workers and others.

Although the tiny nation ranks among OPEC's top oil exporters, the well-paying government jobs and a cradle-to-grave social security system that Kuwaitis have come to expect are increasingly becoming a burden on the state.

Even so, state workers are demanding more. Customs officials and employees of government-owned Kuwait Airways walked off the job earlier this month to demand higher pay, grounding dozens of flights and leaving some store shelves empty. They staged similar strikes last year.

Most Gulf Arab countries peg their currencies to the dollar. Kuwait, however, ties its dinar to a basket of currencies, a move designed to shield the economy from fluctuations in the dollar and give the central bank more monetary policy flexibility.

Sheik Salem's resignation was the latest in a series of departures by veteran policymakers who have quit as political tensions increased in recent months. The departures come in the wake of allegations of high-level corruption.

No formal charges were brought, but the political standoff over the graft claims eventually led to the resignation of the prime minister in November. That opened the way for parliamentary elections last month.

Opposition groups, including hard-line Islamists, won the majority of seats in the 50-member parliament, one of the few elected bodies in the region that can challenge policies and bring no-confidence motions against officials.