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Sudanese president appoints new governor for Central Bank

December 15, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir issued a decree on Sunday appointing Abdel-Rahman Hassan as governor of the country’s Central Bank.

Hassan, who was the managing director of Omdurman National Bank (ONB) since 2006, replaces Mohamed Kheir al-Zubeir who assumed this position in 2011.

Since the secession of oil-rich South Sudan in mid 2011, Sudan has struggled with the sharp drop in revenues and hard currency which is used to import food and other basic commodities.

During al-Zubeir’s term, the central bank has failed to stop one of the worst deterioration in the value of the Sudanese pound against the US dollar in the black market which flourished due to Forex shortage in the official market.

Several measures were adopted to preserve Forex reserves including restricting luxury imports, limiting travelers’ Forex purchases and curbing the repatriation of profits by foreign businesses.

However the pound continued to lose ground against the US dollar prompting the Central Bank to devalue the currency last September.

The scarcity of dollars had become so bad that the central bank had started using up the general reserves of commercial banks, which are meant to be kept as deposits with the central bank, a financial source has told Reuters.

Some analysts said the new governor will not likely introduce any changes to the monetary or Forex policy.

"Hassan was not chosen for his strong views or extraordinary competence. He was chosen because he is trusted," Harry Verhoeven, an Oxford University professor and expert on Sudan told Reuters.

"I don’t think he would change all that much. It’s to be seen as part of the general reshuffle in which the president tries to balance a need for new faces and some kind of reform and on other hand a safe pair of hands. He ticks that box very well," Verhoeven added.

Others pointed to links between ONB run by Hassan to the military.

"He (Hassan) is an Islamist and likes to implement Islamic banking rules," said one former colleague who asked not to be named.

"He also has a strong relationship with army officials as the Omdurman National Bank is partly owned by the military," the ex-colleague added.

(ST)