UAE: Dubai aiming to be Islamic finance capital

Six-point strategy ready before summer

10 January, 16:18

(ANSAmed) - DUBAI, JANUARY 10 - Becoming the capital of Islamic finance is Dubai's latest ambition, announced loud and clear in a presentation in which UAE leaders and high-ranking figures in the business and financial worlds took part.

A commission chaired by heir prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammad Al Maktum will be drawing up a six-point list to be developed into a strategic platform, which will then be completed within the next six months.

''I am very optimistic,'' Sheikh Hamdan said. ''Dubai has enough experience, excellent infrastructure and a strategic geographic position in the heart of the Islamic world.'' Some of the key points to be developed are the creation of a Koranic Council to verify Islamic finance standards, a centre of arbitration to resolve disputes arising from Islamic contracts and a promotional programme for halal (i.e. prepared and packaged according to Islamic precepts) food. What Dubai has set out to do is not impossible. The emirate - which is likely to clip the wings of a similar ambition voiced by its neighbour, Bahrain - is already starting from a good position. It has the third nation in the world in terms of volume of Islamic assets at 75 billion dollars. The first is Saudi Arabia with 207 billion dollars and the second Malaysia, with 106 billion dollars. Islamic finance has a turnover of 2.3 billion billion dollars worldwide, a reflection of the fast-growing world community of 1.6 billion Muslims. Beyond the figures themselves, the outlook for future growth is also solid: Ernst & Young has estimated that Islamic bank assets will top 1.8 billion billion dollars this year, compared with the 1.3 seen in 2011. Oil-rich Gulf countries are among the economies in which Islamic finance has branched out the most, and especially so in five sectors: banking, finance, tourism, insurance and food. In 2012 sales of Islamic sukuk bonds were at 21.2 billion dollars in the region. Given this context, ''the integration of traditional and Islamic economic and financial activities will strengthen Dubai as economic capital,'' said Sheikh Mohammad Al Maktum, claiming that the new strategy will not compromise the principles of openness to the free market, and that it will stimulate the entire business community of the Arab world. (ANSAmed).