The Union of Arab Banks (UAB) held its 40th Annual Arab Banking Conference 2013 entitled Economic Implications of Arab Transitions: Reforms and Role of Banks in Beirut - Lebanon on the 14-15 November 2013. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a prerecorded video address to the meeting.
He said, “The UAB may justifiably take great pride in its many accomplishments during the past four decades. Among other achievements, the UAB has emerged as a key international and regional participant in developing policies that promote financial stability, economic integration, and sustainable development and prosperity. The UAB has also been a champion of sharing best practices and training among regulators and bankers.
“The partnership that has developed between the Federal Reserve and the UAB may be counted among these successes. Ten years ago, the Federal Reserve helped establish--with the support of many of the countries represented at this conference--the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Financial Regulators' Initiative. Sarkis Yoghourtdjian of the Federal Reserve Board, who is attending with you today, was asked to lead this initiative, whose aim has been to provide technical assistance and bank supervision training to central banks and bank supervisory authorities. Now in its 10th and final year, the Financial Regulators' Initiative has sponsored more than 40 training programmes and conferences throughout the MENA region, and it has provided many short-term, on-the-job training opportunities for MENA regulators with U.S. banking agencies. We are grateful to the UAB for its many contributions to the success of this initiative.
“In addition to celebrating accomplishments, anniversaries also provide a time for reflection and self-assessment. Governments, central bankers, financial regulators, and the banking industry still labor today in the long shadow cast by the global financial crisis. Against that backdrop, financial regulators around the world are engaged in a historic and sweeping renovation of the global financial structure.
“One of the most important goals is to ensure that banks hold more and higher-quality capital, and have sufficient liquid assets on hand, to be able to survive a market shock or severe economic downturn. In addition, we must push banking organisations of all sizes to ensure their compensation practices link pay to performance and do not encourage excessive risk-taking.
“Past and current crises underscore an additional lesson. Then as now, international or regional financial crises require a coordinated response to safeguard the stability of the world's financial system. To that end, the UAB can play an important regional role by facilitating efforts to address potential cross-border issues, and by providing a local platform for strong cooperation between home and host supervisors during normal and crisis periods.”
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, speaking to UAB officials on the sidelines of the meeting was upbeat about the outlook for the country’s banking sector. Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported him as saying, “The banking sector in Lebanon still enjoys a good level of growth… Investment opportunities in Lebanon are still lucrative… and there are big opportunities to restore growth in our economy.”
However, he went on to call for greater assistance in helping Lebanon with refugees from the civil war in Syria. This was a subject that Joseph Torbey, chairman of the World Union of Arab Bankers, spoke of at the meeting. He noted that, “Displaced Syrians comprise more than one third of the Lebanese population…” and warned of the impact on the Lebanese economy.