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Spotlight on key issues of region’s economy, finance

MUSCAT, 16 April 2012 – The 15th Annual Meeting of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Bank Chief Executives, hosted by BankMuscat, got off to a rousing start on Monday (16 April 2012) at Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa. Key leaders of banking and financial institutions in MENA countries are attending the Institute of International Finance's (IIF) annual event.

Critical issues of global, regional finance and economy top the agenda at the 2-day meeting which will also discuss international financial market conditions, emerging market investment prospects, new developments in banking regulation and banking practices.

In opening remarks, Charles Dallara, Managing Director of IIF, said: “We thank and appreciate BankMuscat for hosting this very important meeting, against the backdrop of prevailing global economic and financial uncertainties. The meeting provides an ideal platform to discuss key issues of importance to the region's economy and finance. The MENA region assumes major significance in the context of global energy supply. The global economic outlook is far from satisfactory. The latest IIF forecasts suggest that growth in the mature industrial economies this year is likely to be about the same as in 2011 at just 1.2 per cent while growth in the emerging market economies is likely to average around 5.5 per cent, which is only marginally above the 5 per cent seen last year. The surge in oil prices since the start of this year adds uncertainty to the overall picture."

AbdulRazak Ali Issa, Chief Executive, BankMuscat, said, “We are honoured to join the IIF in hosting this important conference against the backdrop of unprecedented changes in the geopolitical and economic world order. The MENA region is in the thick of these developments. At the heart of economic development, the financial system and capital markets have witnessed progress in the MENA region in recent years. As the real engines of growth and development in each country, MENA banks can play an active role in financing and facilitating development projects in order to promote stability in communities and societies. The IIF forum serves as the right place to strengthen and expand relations among banking and financial institutions in MENA countries."

Highlights of the meeting yesterday (Monday) included a special briefing by Charles Dallara, who recently played a leadership role in the restructuring of Greece's sovereign debt. He highlighted the lessons financial policy makers can draw from the euro sovereign debt crisis. Charles Dallara is leading the IIF's executive team at the meeting.

In a keynote speech, Ed Morse, Managing Director, Global Head of Commodity Research, CitiGroup Capital Markets, discussed the prospects for oil and commodities.

George Abed, Senior Counsellor and IIF Director for Africa and the Middle East, said: “Oil prices have remained high in recent weeks at around $125 per barrel (pb) on the back of rising geo-political risks. The fundamentals of supply and demand are in balance suggesting a possible decline to around $115 pb by June this year. We expect global crude demand to average around 90 million b/d in 2012, or about 1 per cent over 2011. On the supply side, OPEC is currently producing at a 3-year high. Output continues to rebound in Libya, Iraq sees further increases, and Saudi Arabia has boosted its supply to meet demand by all clients. Together, we believe these increases are sufficient to offset declines in Iran's exports."

Keynote speakers at the event today (Tuesday) include His Excellency Yahya bin Said Al Jabri, Chairman of Special Economic Zone Authority, Duqum, and His Excellency Nasser bin Khamis al Jashmi, Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Oil and Gas. 

An important session of the conference will look at key regional banking issues, chaired by Abdulkareem Abu Alnasr, Board Member & CEO, National Commercial Bank. A session on international financial centers will be chaired by Ibrahim Dabdoub, Group CEO, National Bank of Kuwait and member of the IIF Board of Directors. A discussion on investing in emerging markets will be led by Hassan El Sayed Abdalla, CEO, Arab African International Bank.

Global economic issues on focus at the conference include challenges in dealing with Europe's sovereign debt difficulties; slowing pace of growth in emerging markets and recent geo-political risks raising oil prices, as leading banking executives, experts and distinguished senior public officials from the MENA region and beyond seek ways to find sustainable growth opportunities.

Key banking leaders attending the event include David Eldon, Chairman, HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd; Dr. Abdulaziz O'Hali, Chairman of the Board & Executive Committee, The Saudi Investment Bank; H Ersin Ozince, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Turkiye Is Bankasi, Hamdiyah Al Jaff, Chairman and President, Trade Bank of Iraq; Saad Azhari, Chairman and General Manager, Blom Bank.

IIF is a global association of financial institutions and has more than 450 members in nearly 70 countries currently. IIF includes the world's largest commercial and investment banks as well as a growing number of insurance companies and investment management firms, making it an influential voice in international financial affairs. The MENA CEO event is IIF's highest-level gathering of financial leaders and policy makers in the region.