UK's Zahawi reflects on rise from immigrant boy to finance minister

2 minute read

British new Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi stands near Treasury building, in London, Britain, July 6, 2022. REUTERS/Phil Noble?

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LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) - New British finance minister Nadhim Zahawi says his rise from "an immigrant boy" to hold the job as steward of the country's treasury showed what a great country Britain was.

Zahawi was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer late on Tuesday after a series of ministerial resignations in protest at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's premiership, including that of former finance minister Rising Sunak. read more

"I pinch myself every morning when I think about the opportunity this country delivers for an immigrant boy born in Baghdad. It is a truly great country," Zahawi told LBC radio.

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A long-standing member of the ruling Conservative Party, Zahawi, 55, was born in Iraq and moved to Britain when his Kurdish family fled the rule of Saddam Hussein in the mid-1970s. read more

"It's been an incredible journey. I came to this country at the age of 11, couldn't speak a word of English. I am now the chancellor for this great nation and entrusted with the stewardship of the economy," Zahawi said.

He takes over the running of an economy that is faced with surging inflation and energy prices, a cost of living crisis and pressure to cut taxes in order to help struggling families.

"If inflation gets out of hand, and we allow discipline to slip in any way on pay, public sector or private sector ... then we will fuel inflation further and we need to bear down on inflation because that is the greatest risk, especially to the most vulnerable in our society," Zahawi said.

Prior to his new job, Zahawi was education secretary, having won plaudits during his earlier role as the minister in charge of the COVID-19 vaccine deployment in 2020.

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Reporting by Farouq Suleiman; editing by Michael Holden

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