Eighty per cent of Arab banks are in a position to meet new international regulations on the level of reserves they need to hold while all banks in Bahrain meet these standards, said a top official.
Union of Arab Banks (UAB) chairman Adnan Ahmed Yousif was speaking on the sidelines of the annual Arab Banking Conference, which opened at the InterContinental Regency Bahrain in Manama yesterday.
Yousif, who is also chief executive of Al Baraka Banking Group, said there were 103 banks from 22 countries taking part in the event which has attracted more than 200 delegates on its first visit to Bahrain as a venue, according to a report in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.
He said the Arab banking industry was well prepared to implement the Basel III international regulations which will come into force over the next few years as banks are told to strengthen their reserves and liquidity.
In his keynote address to the conference, Yousif said that the role of the UAB was to implement development across the Arab world and encourage investment in Arab countries and to see that the private sector engages with the public sector in achieving this.
"Unemployment across the Arab world is now running at around 16 per cent and it is up to the private sector to work with the public sector and the banking industry to deal with this problem," he said.
"The UAB has made steady progress with its member banks by looking at the challenges that face us in terms of legislation. We are confident that we can all benefit from these efforts and achievements."
He said that Bahrain had been a pioneer in developing banking in the Arab world, both in terms of traditional finance and in developing Islamic finance.
"Bahrain's financial sector was set up in 1964 with the launch of the Bahrain Monetary Authority," he said.
"The kingdom has led the way in finance in the region and that is why today it has 114 Islamic finance institutions and more than 400 banks and other operations, creating 17 per cent of the country's gross domestic product and employing in excess of 14,000 people of whom two-thirds are Bahraini," he added.
"Despite the difficult global economic situation the Arab banking sector has been producing positive results," Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) Governor Rasheed Al Maraj told delegates at the opening session.
"This reflects the professional standards of the Arab banking sector and a commitment to compliance and international best practice which allows us to improve risk management," he said.
"This has allowed the industry to improve profit levels while maintaining the confidentiality of deals. The banking sector is passing through a delicate phase and this requires institutions to adopt strict compliance to maintain efficiencies in the Arab banking sector.
"The CBB has been keen to apply international standards and stays in harmony with international trends and the application of Basel III," he added.
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