OPEC leadership remains firmly in the hands of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which remains in surplus, as do the UAE and Qatar, state the minutes of a meeting that year.

The Bank pursued a cautious policy, taking into account the changes in international relations and also movements in the oil market, which was shaken by a countershock from 1981-1986, when falling demand made it clear that: the existence of oil is no longer a sufficient guarantee of the future of a country.

The Bank s first and overriding aim was to finance Belgium s international trade. Purely financial transactions were excluded as a matter of course. A large part of the Bank s business consisted of documentary credits, which accounted for BEF 51 billion in 1981, and BEF 40 billion in 1982. The Bank also made available large guarantees to support its clients supplier contracts. After the 1973 oil crisis, the flow of Belgian trade to the Middle East grew. Société Générale de Banque financed or guaranteed multiple turnkey engineering contracts by issuing performance bonds and other instruments. A noteworthy example was a major construction contract for two large hospitals for the National Guard in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia totalling BEF 32 billion carried out to the client s total satisfaction.

At the end of 1982, total guarantees issued for the Middle East stood at BEF 28 billion, which represented more than half of all guarantees issued by Société Générale de Banque. These deals carried an element of risk, since the guarantees generally extended over several years. From time to time there were legal disputes that had to be resolved through long negotiations which often involved travelling to meet the parties concerned.

Country limits in the Middle East were not very high in comparison with the Bank s total outstandings overseas, amounting to BEF 558 billion in 1983.

In July 1984, the Foreign Department gave the following details on its relations with some of the countries in the region:

Kuwait: The level of our outstandings in this market remains unchanged and is much lower than deposits received. While the financial, banking and economic situation is basically sound, the country is facing a number of problems. The first issue is its geographic and economic proximity to countries which are at war. This means that Kuwait s airspace and waters are very close to war zones. The second is the aftermath of the 1982 Souk Al-Manakh52 stock market crash which has left many market traders insolvent. Fortunately no major bank was involved in the crash. The authorities are now taking steps to provide liquidity but this unfortunate episode has affected confidence in the country and today explains the current stagnation of Kuwait s economy.

52. Kuwait s unofficial stock market, which ran parallel to the official stock market

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