Bahrain 'most respected financial hub'
Manama, June 8, 2012
By steadfastly implementing best practices, robust regulatory principles and good governance, Bahrain now enjoys the reputation as one of the world's most respected financial centres, said a top government official.
Singapore has built a similar reputation, Bapco chairman Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa told delegates in an opening speech at the Asia-Middle East Investment Summit in Singapore yesterday.
'To have achieved this in such a short period of time is testimony to the vision and dedication of the people who have developed and improved the regulatory frameworks, very often in challenging economic circumstances,' he said.
'A specific example in respect to Bahrain is that it is recognised as a key centre for Islamic finance. It is the home of many organisations which set Islamic standards,' he remarked.
'These institutions continue to play a leading role in the evolution interpreting Sharia principles and practices, and are instrumental in facilitating greater standardisation for the industry at large,' he said.
'Bahrain has also led the way in other financial initiatives,' he added.
The Bahrain government has attracted sophisticated investors from a wide geographical spread to invest in its sovereign sukuk and bond issues.
'In November last year, the Central Bank of Bahrain successfully attracted almost $2 billion for a $750 million seven-year sukuk.
'This was its first sovereign issue since March 2010 and encouragingly there was a very strong demand from investors in the Gulf and the Middle East,' he said.
'In a wider GCC context the financial markets saw increasingly broad, positive progress in terms of volume trading during the first quarter of 2012, further building on the recovery that began to take shape in the second half of last year,' he added.
'This forward momentum was particularly evident in bank lending and sukuk markets.
'These encouraging trends are underpinned to a significant extent by the strong regional economic growth which has benefited from a re-focus in government spending, especially towards infrastructure projects.
'The Bahrain government emphasises social housing, education, health services and social welfare as its main priorities, as well as promoting progress in the oil sector,' he said.
'Whilst it is true that the GCC markets have occasionally shown themselves to be sensitive to external disruptions, there is no doubt in my mind about the increasing resilience of the region to 'buck the trend' in times of global challenges,' he added.
'This is most obvious in respect of the Islamic banking sector, which has remained largely stable during the current crisis.
'From a broader geographical perspective, the impact of ongoing challenges in the euro zone has resulted in a downturn in demand for oil.
'Despite this, the price of a barrel remains largely robust, allowing Bahrain to invest in new oil and gas facilities with confidence that the demand will continue to grow.
'In addition, Singapore, like Bahrain, has very significant oil refining and port facilities,' he said.
'It is a little known fact that Bahrain exports almost one-third of its oil production to Singapore,' he added.-TradeArabia News Service