World loses two mega figures

New Delhi, Aug 1 | Updated: Aug 2 2005, 05:30am hrs
Currencies and oil, two major factors impacting world markets, lost two key personalities who played a crucial role, each in his own way, in the space of two quick days.

Often referred to as the father of the euro, Wim Duisenberg, former chief of the European Central Bank (ECB) was found dead on Sunday in his swimming pool in southeastern France, according to official reports.

On Monday, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, whose writ ran over the desert kingdom for decades, died in hospital in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, according to Saudi TV.

While the passing away of both these men is in no way linked, there is a common thread that connects them both played a crucial role in advancing the interests of their respective regions.

Duisenberg, who served ECB from 1998 to 2003, played a vital role in pushing for a common currency in the euro zone. His biggest achievement was the smooth introduction of euro notes and coins in early 2002. Twelve currencies were replaced with the euro in a huge logistical effort.

Despite the recent setback to EUs integration by negative voting by France and the Netherlands, the euro remains a lasting testimony to Duisenbergs efforts

The importance of Saudi King Fahd, who ruled for about 23 years, can be gauged from the fact that news of his death sent oil future prices to top $61 a barrel early on Monday before it fell marginally. Despite being just a figure-head in the past few years, King Fahd was considered the ultimate arbiter of Saudi policy balancing regional as well as international interests.

Considered close to the US, he was instrumental in institutionalising Saudi Arabias role as a swing producer, increasing production whenever oil prices threatened to go out of hand. However cracks appeared in its relationship with the US after the 9/11 bombings.