Saudi finance minister receives honorary doctorate

The minister of finance for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ibrahim Al-Assaf, who earned his Ph.D. in economics from Colorado State University in 1982, received an honorary doctorate from CSU Friday.

“Dr. Al-Assaf has had an extraordinary career, first in academia, then with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and for the last 20 years as minister of finance for Saudi Arabia,” said College of Liberal Arts Dean Ann Gill. “We were extremely proud to welcome Dr. Al-Assaf back to the Colorado State campus to accept this honorary degree.”

photo of Al-Assaf
Ibrahim Al-Assaf (click to enlarge)

Al-Assaf received the degree at CSU’s Graduate School commencement ceremony in Moby Arena. He was nominated by Stephan Weiler, economics professor and research associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts.

“Dr. Al-Assaf has demonstrated leadership that goes well beyond his country, advocating for and instilling policies that have helped pave the way for economic growth in developing countries,” Weiler said. “In particular, he has channeled Saudi Arabia’s investment in energy and infrastructure towards such nations, recognizing that global economic health is dependent on the success of all countries and their citizens.”

After receiving the degree Friday, Al-Assaf thanked CSU for being so accommodating to Saudi students and reflected on his own time at the university. In 1981, he attended all of the Rams’ home football games, but the team lost every one, he said. The next year, after Al-Assaf had returned to Saudi Arabia, he couldn’t afford the airline ticket to fly back to Colorado to attend commencement and receive his Ph.D. in person, he said, making Friday’s ceremony even more meaningful.

“Thank God, today I was able to buy the ticket and bring my family with me,” he told the audience Friday. “Thank you, CSU, for fulfilling my dream and wish.”

“His vision, his knowledge, his insight and his character have earned the respect of financial policymakers and leaders around the world, and he is celebrated and respected as a global statesman,” CSU President Tony Frank said of Al-Assaf after presenting him with the degree.

Economic contributions

Al-Assaf, left, with CSU Board of Governors Chair Dorothy Horrell and CSU President Tony Frank. (Click to enlarge.)

Al-Assaf has been integral in reshaping the Saudi economy through initiatives that modernize the Saudi financial and business sector, while creating reforms that encourage investments in infrastructure, education and human capital. His actions have not only created a more resilient Saudi economy during a volatile period, but have also solidified the economies of the country’s regional neighbors and the international economic system in general.

By implementing liberal foreign investment laws in addition to capital market, insurance and taxation reforms, Al-Assaf’s strategies contributed to Saudi economic growth of up to 7 percent in 2013. By establishing transparency in the country’s finances and economy, Al-Assaf has created an environment that supports citizen confidence, analyst clarity and open debate of Saudi economic and financial policy.

With the introduction of mortgage finance and business loans for small to medium enterprises, citizens of Saudi Arabia can have access to affordable housing and pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions, benefitting the entire economy. Al-Assaf has also overseen public spending on new schools, hospitals and primary care centers in an effort to promote education and job creation in Saudi Arabia. These initiatives have helped the country diversify its revenue streams while also contribAlAssafAuting to macroeconomic stability.

Past positions

Al-Assaf was appointed minister of finance in January 1996. In that capacity, he also serves as chairman of the board of a number of institutions, including the Public Investment Fund, Pension Fund and Saudi Fund for Development. From 1993 to 1995, he served as dean of the Board of Executive Directors and chairman of the Board Steering Committee composed of the Chairs of Board Committees of the World Bank. Al-Assaf was also Saudi Arabia’s executive director at the World Bank between 1989 and 1995, and alternate executive director for Saudi Arabia at the International Monetary Fund from 1986 to 1989. Between 1982 and 1986, he served as assistant was professor and head of the Department of Administrative Sciences at King Abdul Aziz Military Academy.

Al-Assaf earned a B.A. in economics and political science in 1971 from King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He received an M.A. in economics from the University of Denver in 1976, and his Ph.D. from the Department of Economics in CSU’s College of Liberal Arts in 1982. In 2003, Al-Assaf was named Finance Minister of the Year by the London-based magazine Euromoney. In 2011, CSU’s College of Business presented him with a Global Leadership Award.