“We in the Union of Arab Banks are fully aware of the importance of small and medium enterprises... they represent the pillars of the initial rise of industry of any country,” said Adnan in his opening address to the Union’s meeting in Beirut on 23 November entitled ‘The current reality of the banking and financial sector in the Middle East and North Africa’.
On the health of the Arab banking sector overall, he noted that figures for most countries in the Gulf (except Bahrain) showed high growth rates that approached or even exceeded those recorded in 2010. He cited a 4.14 percent increase in the assets of UAE banks during the first nine months of 2011 compared with growth of 5.78 percent during 2010 as a whole. He said, “The same applies to banks in Saudi Arabia, which achieved growth of 6.54 percent during the first nine months of 2011 compared to 3.28 percent during the entire 2010.”
Qatari banks recorded growth of 22.94 percent over teh same period, compared to 11.12 percent for all of 2010 while Kuwaiti banks saw a growth rate of 6.03 percent within the first nine months of 2011 compared to 1.84 percent for 2010 as a whole. Elsewhere, Moroccan banks achieved a growth of 4.58 percent during the nine months of 2011 compared to negative growth (-2.21 percent) during the entire 2010.
Among countries affected by unrest, Bahraini banks saw assets contract by10.84 percent in the first eight months of 2011 compared with growth of 0.18 percent for all of 2010. Over the same periods Egypt’s banks saw contraction of 2.52 percent against growth of 16.9 percent and Yemen saw contraction of 11.31 percent compared to growth of 9,43 percent.
Figures from Syria and Tunis show growth in the first four months of the year of 0.23 percent and 8.54 percent respectively compared with growth for the whole of 2010 of 6.22 percent and 4.63 percent respectively. Among other Arab countries where there has been less turmoil, in Lebanon banks’ assets increased by 7.08 percent during the eight months of 2011 compared to 11.87 percent during the entire 2010). Jordan (6.19 percent during the nine months of 2011 compared to 10.85 percent during the entire 2010), Oman (5.58 percent during the eight months of 2011 compared to 10.40 percent during the entire 2010) and Palestine (2.74 percent during the eight months of 2011 compared to 6.17 percent during the entire 2010) all showed positive growth.
Most Arab banks currently maintain excellent capitalisation rates enabling them to immediately meet the proposed requirements under Basel III, said Adnan.