The Banker's Finance Minister of the Year 2023 awards celebrate the officials that have best managed to stimulate growth and stabilise their economy.

Global and Africa

Vera Daves de Sousa, Angola

Despite benefiting from an uplift in oil prices over the past two years, Angola’s economy remains in a fragile state going into 2023. The continent’s second-largest oil exporter, after Nigeria, is set to record economic growth of just 2.9% for 2022, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), trailing the growth rate of both sub-Saharan Africa as a region (3.6%) and most of the region’s other major oil producers. 

Such comparisons, however, fail to recognise the advances made by Angola’s government in recent years despite facing difficult headwinds. For example, economic stagnation towards the end of José Eduardo dos Santos’s 38-year rule saw the country fall into recession in 2016. The misery was subsequently compounded by a collapse in the price of oil, which accounts for around 75% of government revenues, in the early phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

While higher oil prices have helped the country exit from recession in 2021, the IMF has recognised the contribution of the government’s “strong commitment to critical, if difficult, reforms”, which have included a restructuring of the oil sector, the move to a more flexible exchange rate, the introduction of value-added tax and a narrowing of the country’s non-oil fiscal deficit from more than 50% in 2012 to 7.1% in 2021.

Vera Daves de Sousa has been the face of the country’s economic reform programme since becoming the country’s first woman minister of finance in 2019. Her championing of this agenda in the face of significant obstacles sees her awarded The Banker’s African and Global Finance Minister of the Year award for 2023. 

Under her watch, Angola’s economic profile has improved significantly, with the country’s public debt falling from 131% of gross domestic product in 2020 to 66% in 2022. Ms Daves de Sousa has signalled that debt repayments will be accelerated in 2023 — particularly to China, Angola’s largest creditor, to the tune of $18bn. 

Angola’s credit rating has improved in kind. Following a first-ever upgrade by Moody’s in late 2021, all three major rating agencies upped their assessment of the country’s sovereign debt in 2022, with Fitch and Moody’s upgrading their country outlook from neutral to stable in the second half of the year. 

In 2022, the growing attraction of Angola’s sovereign profile saw the country return to the international debt market for the first time since 2019, with a $1.75bn Eurobond issuance that was two-times oversubscribed. 

One of the year’s other highlights was the watershed initial public offering (IPO) of a 10% stake in Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI), the country’s largest private bank and the first listing of its kind on the country’s stock exchange. The share sale, priced at the top of the indicative price range, was once again oversubscribed, raising $94m. 

The BAI IPO was a major landmark in the government’s ambitious privatisation programme following decades of state dominance of the economy. Other major assets up for sale include local telco Unitel, nationalised in late 2022 following the confiscation of shares from Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the former president who faces a string of corruption charges related to business interests accrued during her father’s presidency. 

The pursuit of Ms dos Santos, with an international warrant issued for her arrest in November, is part of a major anti-corruption drive launched by Angolan president João Lourenço upon coming to power in 2017. 

The jewel of the privatisation programme remains state oil firm Sonangol, with a 30% stake set to be sold off by 2027. 

Following the successes of the country’s most recent five-year national development plan, Ms Daves de Sousa is working to finalise the country’s next development plan, which is set to commence in March 2023. She told The Banker that the plan will feature additional initiatives to further encourage the growth of the private sector in a bid to lessen the economy’s reliance on oil revenues, with the economic improvements of recent years being experienced more by the country’s wider population.

“Much more than any recognition for the work of a single person, this award signals the successes achieved by the government of Angola, and its institutions, in the fields of public finance and the development of the economy,” says Ms de Sousa.

“This positive look for Angola is very important, at a time when we still have many challenges ahead, such as the sustainable growth of our economy and consistent job creation. It is an incentive to stay on our course, in defence of living conditions and a prosperous future for all Angolans.”


Marcelo Montenegro, Bolivia   

As with many other countries, Bolivia had to weather the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, as the International Monetary Fund noted, the country’s economic recovery from the downturn has been faster than expected. 

The economy contracted by 8.7% in 2020, but expanded 6.1% the following year. Higher global commodity prices have boosted export receipts, helping to raise the current account to a surplus of 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021. The strengthening of the Bolivian peso and protecting domestic consumption based on subsidies and price controls have both supported the country’s economy. 

Due to increasing private consumption, investment and government consumption, GDP growth of around 5.1% is expected for the end of 2022, according to the central bank. The government had previously predicted a similar growth percentage for 2023, but revised its forecast to 4.8%. 

Since his appointment in November 2020, Marcelo Montenegro, minister of economy and public finance, has been focused on implementing a heterodox economic model, called the ‘Economic Social Communitarian Productive Model’. The model, initiated by former president Evo Morales, who was in office between 2006 and 2019, prioritises the participation of the government in Bolivia’s economy through public investment. 

According to Mr Montenegro, “In our model, the state also plays the role of entrepreneur and market regulator, particularly in the production of strategic goods, such as gas and minerals, and primary goods such as food. Within this structure, the state’s efforts help to strengthen supply, reduce pressures on prices, and protect the well-being of the population in terms of consumption.

In our economic model, domestic demand is the main growth driver

Marcelo Montenegro

“In this way, despite the adverse effects of the pandemic and external factors, such as escalating inflation and the global slowdown, Bolivia achieved a faster than expected economic recovery with price stability and continuity in reducing poverty and other social inequalities.”

Importantly, Bolivia is one of a handful in Latin America to keep inflation under control. In 2021, inflation stood at 0.7%, according to the World Bank. 

“I am honoured to receive this award. It is a recognition of the excellent work that has been done in designing and implementing economic policies in Bolivia. In our economic model, domestic demand is the main growth driver, making the economy more resilient to external shocks. Therefore, income redistribution policies and public investment are key tools to boost domestic demand,” says Mr Montenegro.


Christos Staikouras, Greece  

Since being appointed finance minister in 2019, Christos Staikouras has been instrumental in implementing structural reforms which have put Greece’s public finances and economy back on track. Following the 2008 European sovereign debt crisis, the Greek economy was put on life support and had to be bailed out by the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Greece is now well on the road to recovery — in August 2022, enhanced scrutiny by Greece’s EU creditors ended after it repaid all outstanding IMF credit earlier than expected. 

According to Mr Staikouras, the Greek sovereign had been upgraded four times following the onset of the war in Ukraine and 11 times in total since 2019, and he says it is very close to its target of achieving investment-grade status in 2023.

Although public debt remains high, it is on a downward trajectory, with Fitch Ratings predicting that the debt ratio will fall to 175.4% by end-2022, below its pre-pandemic level and down from 193.3% at end-2021. The country has seen the largest decrease in the debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio among all EU member states since 2019, according to Mr Staikouras. “We will continue on this trajectory and will return to primary budget surplus from 2023 onwards,” he says.

On Mr Staikouras’s watch, Greece has also implemented important reforms in several areas, including the digitisation of public administration, improving the fiscal policy mix, simplifying the framework for investment licensing, and establishing tax incentives to attract investment and boost research and innovation. 

This award is a testament to the Greek people’s sacrifices and the Greek government’s hard efforts

Christos Staikouras

“Many of these reforms are included in our National Recovery and Resilience Plan, ‘Greece 2.0’, which is in full swing,” he says. He has managed to walk a delicate tightrope, carefully balancing fiscal prudence with fiscal consolidation, while implementing a coherent economic package of targeted support measures for households and businesses in order to mitigate the impact of the energy crisis and inflation. 

“It is an honour to receive The Banker’s award as Finance Minister of the Year in Europe,” says Mr Staikouras. “This award is a testament to the Greek people’s sacrifices and the Greek government’s hard efforts, not only during past year, but since July 2019, to strengthen our economy in a sustainable and inclusive way, and to promote its resilience and competitiveness, through the implementation of effective and farsighted policies and structural reforms, despite adverse international circumstances.”


Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, Thailand  

As a country which is heavily dependent on tourism, making up from 12% to 18% of overall gross domestic product (GDP), the Covid-19 pandemic years had a sizable impact on Thailand. Under the governance of finance minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, the country is starting to see its economy recover. The country is expected to see a 3.3% increase in GDP for 2022 and a target of 3.5% growth has been set for 2023.  

In order to meet these economic targets, Mr Termpittayapaisith has been keen to revive the Thai economy, as the country moves on from the pandemic and welcomes tourists back. His strategy is to focus stimulus spending on supporting vulnerable groups and low-income households. 

Recognising the importance of the tourism sector, smaller hotels that had been impacted by the drop in tourist numbers during the pandemic will continue to receive financial support through a loan scheme, which has been extended to June 2023. Through low-interest loans, these small companies will be able to invest in maintaining and upscaling their properties. The government has allocated a budget of Bt5bn ($144.8m) to the project. 

In addition, consumers have been given a spending boost with the rollout of the Khon La Khrueng consumer shopping discount scheme. Now in its fifth phase, the programme is aimed at stimulating domestic consumption, while also helping ease cost of living stress. The government will subsidise 50% of food, drink and general goods purchased by participants, up to Bt150 per day. 

In a bid to increase government revenue, the government reintroduced a tax on financial trades, after being suspended since 1991. Individual investors trading more than Bt1m a month on the Stock Exchange of Thailand would be taxed at 0.055% of transaction value in the first year and to 0.11% afterwards, regardless of profit or loss. It is forecast this will raise an additional Bt16bn a year.

In support of the country’s green economy, taxes will be used to lower the costs of environmentally friendly projects. Taxes in support of electric vehicles (EV) are already in place as Mr Termpittayapaisith has ambitions to make Thailand into an EV hub.

“Many thanks to The Banker for this honourable award," says Mr Termpittayapaisith.

“When the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the world economy, fiscal policies aided individuals as well as businesses, and maintained the level of domestic consumption in Thailand. The country’s digital, and particularly payment, infrastructure has made those aids easily accessible and effectively targeted towards the most vulnerable. With ample fiscal space, the Ministry of Finance was able to enact extensive spending measures, while remaining prudent with public debt management and strictly complying with the law governing fiscal discipline. 

“With an emphasis on sustainability, the running of future fiscal policies should lend itself to a fiscal position that is sound, strong, and sustained over the long run. With the signal to reduce the level of budget deficit beginning in 2023 onwards, it is expected that Thailand would achieve a balanced budget within 10 years.”

Middle East

Sultan bin Salem bin Saeed al-Habsi, Oman  

Sultan bin Salem bin Saeed al-Habsi has presided over a significant improvement in Oman’s economy since his appointment as minister of finance in August 2020. Following a shallower Covid-19 recession than its regional peers, the country’s economy has shown signs of steady growth, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasting growth of 4.4% for 2022. 

Arguably of greater significance over the past year has been the improvement of Oman’s credit rating; S&P Global Ratings upgraded its outlook for the country to stable in April 2022 for the first time since 2015, with a further rating upgrade from BB- to BB in October. Other rating agencies followed suit, with Moody’s Investors Service revising its outlook to ‘positive’ from ‘stable’ in October. 

While rising oil prices have provided a boon for government finances, rating agencies and the IMF have also recognised the importance of the government’s fiscal consolidation efforts under the country’s medium-term fiscal plan, alongside the introduction of value-added tax in October 2021. The country’s total public revenue jumped 43% to around OR10.6bn ($27.5bn) for the first nine months of 2022. 

Of particular significance is an income tax on high earners that was passed by the country’s Shura Council in early November, the first of its kind in the Arabian Gulf, though the tax had not been specified as The Banker went to press. 

Following a reduction in its budget deficit for 2021, the country is set to record its first budget surplus in a decade this year, registering a surplus of OR1.12bn for the first nine months of the year. 

After peaking at around 70% in 2020, the country’s net debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio reduced to 63% in 2021 and is set to fall below 45% for 2022, according to Moody’s.

“This reduction in the debt burden is below the level at the end of 2019 (52% of GDP), more than fully reversing Oman’s loss of fiscal space sustained during 2020 and increasing the sovereign’s resilience ahead of the potential next oil price shock,” the rating agency said.


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