Damascus, Asharq Al-Awsat- The governor of the Syrian Central Bank, Dr. Adib Mayaleh, said Syria has entered an era of real banking prosperity. He explained that there is an evident Gulf flow of participation in private and conventional banks, as well as in Islamic banks, in addition to an extensive Gulf presence in private insurance companies.
The governor said in a statement to that three Islamic banks had been commissioned recently to operate in the Syrian market. The primary shareholders in these banks are Gulf banks and organizations, such as the affiliate bank of the Islamic Al-Barakah Group, the Qatar International Islamic Bank, and the Al-Sham Bank, the shares of which are held by Qatari, Saudi, and Kuwaiti investment organizations. The Syrian Central Bank is also currently studying applications to establish Islamic banks that will be commissioned shortly, the most prominent of which calls for the establishment of the Islamic Bank, the primary shareholder of which is the Emirates Banking Group. There was also an application by the Al-Kharafi Group to establish an Islamic bank. It was decided that Nasir al-Kharafi would visit Damascus on 19 April to study the establishment of this bank and to discuss other topics related to the Al-Kharafi Group’s investments in Syria. The Syrian Central Bank also issued fresh applications to establish new conventional, private (commercial) banks. At the forefront of these applications was the application submitted by the Gulf Bank.
Mayaleh said: “We have also found this Gulf flow into the insurance sector. It appears that this Gulf presence is fundamental and substantial and is represented by various Gulf nations. This proves that the strongest presence in the insurance industry is Arab.” Mayaleh believes that this extensive Gulf penetration into banks and insurance companies is like a window into other areas of investment, such as industry, tourism, real estate, and others. Some parties have actually begun to move in this direction. Mayaleh anticipates that Gulf investments in Syria will experience a visible surge, especially in light of the fact that Syria did not get its share of the Gulf investment that flowed into the area following the events of 11 September. Returning to the topic of Islamic banks, Mayaleh opined that this would become one of the main conduits to mobilize people’s savings and reinvest them. He said that this kind of bank would play a role in strengthening the Syrian banking system and in supplementing the reforms recently undertaken by the government in the banking and finance sectors.
Mayaleh said that 2006 would witness a powerful upsurge in Islamic banks in view of the presence of a broad base of social and even economic strata that would prefer dealing with this kind of bank and its returns.
In response to a question, Mayaleh said the applications of three Islamic banks are now being studied and that he anticipated their acceptance would be made public in a few months. Moreover, a banking study has indicated that the growth of Islamic banks in Syria will surpass present rates in the world.