Gulf economic experts recognize need for bank mergers

Published October 16th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

During the recently concluded 5th GCC conference of Central Bank Governors, which was held in Dubai, government officials emphasized the need to revamp the financial sector and accelerate consolidation among regional banks. 


In a speech delivered at the concluding session of the conference, Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and the UAE Minister of Finance and Industry, called for stepping up the momentum of privatization in the banking sector and emphasized the role of the private sector in meeting future challenges. He also called upon the Central Bank Governors to speed up the process of introducing e-commerce systems and take advantage of the numerous opportunities it provides. Shaikh Hamdan noted that the Dubai Internet City could help in the process and become the first regional platform to introduce e-commerce in the Middle East and the Gulf region, reports Khaleej Times.  


Ahmed Humaid Al Tayer, the UAE Minister of Communication, said during a panel discussion that the GCC banking industry should seriously address the issue of mergers and consolidation if they want to become capable of facing the impending global challenges. He was critical of the delay by GCC banking authorities in allowing national banks to open branches in member countries. 


Meanwhile, a message delivered by Jamil Ibrahim Alhejailan, ambassador and secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, offered encouraging words by noting that the GCC banking system had made steady growth in the past two decades. He said the era of globalization meant that services would move from the local to the international scale.  


According to Gulf News, Mr. Alhejailan offered a four-pronged strategy to achieve this goal: allow GCC banks to open branches in member states; provide sufficient support to the banking system to enable it to meet the challenges of Internet banking; encourage transparency throughout the system by adopting uniform International Accounting Standards; and support mergers, provided these make financial and economic sense.  


The governors participating in the conference were Hamed bin Saoud Al Sayari of Saudi Arabia, and chairman of the GCC Central Banks' Committee; Sultan bin Nasser Al Suwaidi of the UAE; Hammod bin Sanjor Al Zandiali, Oman; Salem Abdulaziz Al Sabah, Kuwait; Abdullah bin Khalifa bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Bahrain; and Abdullah Khaled Al Atteyah, Qatar along with Dr. Mohammed Khalfan bin Kharbash, UAE Minister of State for Finance and Industrial Affairs.  


The governors admitted that there is a desire among all GCC banking regulators to allow Gulf banks to open branches in every state. Al Sayari said Bahrain-based Gulf International Bank is in the process of opening a branch in Riyadh. – (Albawaba-MEBG) 


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