MANILA, September 29, 2003  (STAR) By Des Ferriols  - Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Rafael Buenaventura was named one of the world’s top central bankers for the second year in a row, topping even the world’s most powerful governors such as the US’ Alan Greenspan and Japan’s Toshihiko Fuku.

The October issue of the New York-based Global Finance Magazine released its 2003 central banker report card reflecting the results of an annual survey of the world’s central bankers based on their performance, effectiveness and general success in wielding monetary tools to steer their country’s economy.

Buenaventura was named a Grade A central banker along with eight other central bank chiefs, an elite list that included Australian central bank chief Ian MacFarlane and Poland‚s Leszek Balcerowicz.

Aside from Buenaventura, Global Magazine’s survey named eight other Grade A central bankers but only him and MacFarlane were in last year’s Grade A list, along with Britain’s Sir Edward George who has since been replaced by a new central bank head.

In the report, Buenaventura was singled out among the nine Grade A central bankers for his consistent sanity in the midst of efforts to curtail the regulatory powers of the BSP over banks, especially troubled banks whose worsening condition required immediate intervention.

According to Global Finance analyst Dan Keeler, Buenaventura stood out "yet again this year" despite the controversy over rumored attempts to unseat him from the helm of the BSP.

"Its not just his steady hand that marks him out; it’s that he is continuing to perform a remarkable job even while appealing a one-year suspension handed down by the Philippine court," Keeler said.

Keeler pointed out that Buenaventura’s Grade A status was based on "economic management alone", citing as dampener the Court of Appeals decision that found the BSP chief guilty of "gross neglect of duty" in relation to the closure of Urban Bank of the Philippines whose officials unilaterally declared a bank holiday in 2000.

"Buenaventura’s suspension also overshadows his remarkable record at the bank," Keeler said. "Against enormous odds, he has helped create an economy with steady GDP growth of around five percent in a low-inflation, low interest-rate environment."

Among the top central bankers, was a woman – Malaysia’s Zeti Akhtar Aziz. "Thanks to her efforts, Malaysia is now firmly established as a regional hub for Islamic banking and finance," Keeler said.

South Africa’s Tito Mboweni was also singled out after his efforts to concentrate on choking off inflation with high interest rates paid off. "The medicine, though harsh, seems to have done the trick," Keeler said. With inflation now under control, he said the South African central bank has started cutting rates.

Also in the list of top performers were Norway’s Svein Gredrem, India’s Bimal Jalan, South Korea’s Park Seung and Thailand’s Pridiyathorn Divakula.

In contrast, Keeler said other central bankers were "notable for their lack of success", such as Greenspan and Argentina’s Alfonso Prat-Gay who was cited for his failure to become a "truly independent central banker".

Keeler said Greenspan’s efforts to control the irrational exuberance of the US stock market now looked as "sincere as those of a guy who brought the keg to the frat party and then preached the benefits of sobriety."

Joining Greenspan and Prat-Gay in the D-list were Canada’s David Dodge, the European Union’s Wim Duisinberg, Russia’s Sergey Ignatyev and Switzerland’s Jean-Pierre Roth.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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