01/25/2008 12:04 AM | By Shakir Husain, Staff Reporter
Dubai: The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is creating new infrastructure as part of its efforts to become a global Islamic finance hub, a senior official said on Thursday.
Chief executive officer Nasser Al Shaali said Dubai wants to take advantage of both the “demography and geography” of the region to achieve this goal.
Islamic finance in the Gulf is gaining popularity and assets of banks in the sector are growing faster than their counterparts in conventional banking.
Globally, assets of Islamic financial institutions are estimated to be more than $500 billion.
“We want to build critical mass in this sector by creating an international point of reference for Islamic finance regulations, stand-ards and practices,” Al Shaali said at a bankers lunch organised by Emirates NBD.
He said the planned initiatives include setting up of the DIFC Sharia Centre, an Islamic hedge funds platform, an Islamic finance portal, a commodity murabah exchange, and creation of a judicial acad-emy and research centre.
“We already have developed the world’s only model law, which can be applied to regulate the Islamic finance sector by any jurisdiction and we would be happy to assist,” he said.
Malaysia and Bahrain are among the countries where Islamic banking and finance sectors have made considerable progress. Islamic banking, which follows Sharia’s ban on interest, has received a boost in the Gulf from high oil export revenues of Arab countries.
The DIFC, set up by the government in 2004 to make the emirate a financial services hub, has attracted more than 500 companies that include top foreign financial institutions.
The Dubai International Financial Exchange, which is part of the DIFC, is the world’s biggest bourse for Islamic bond listings in terms of value, which is about $16 billion.
According to Al Shaali the DIFC is also strengthening its standards in areas such as insolvency, accounting, compliance for auditing and corporate governance.