MANAMA: Like the rest of the global financial markets Bahrain needs to reposition itself in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 but it is well placed to achieve this.
That was the main message from a panel discussion held last night at the Bahrain Chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (BCICAI) seminar on the "Resilience of Bahrain's Financial Sector" at the Gulf Hotel.
"The 2008 global financial crisis created systemic problems that mean we all have to reposition ourselves," said Solidarity chief executive Ashraf Bseisu.
"In Bahrain we recovered and we are in a strong position because we have a track record as a centre of excellence.
"We need to look at niche markets and continue to develop as the leading centre for Islamic banking and insurance," he added.
Mr Bseisu said that over the past three years the Bahrain stock market's level of trading and liquidity had been abysmal at best and that the market needed more liquidity and would have to attract foreign investment and grow to achieve this.
"Bahrain's strengths include having a progressive government committed to transparency," said Sakana Holistic Housing Solution vice-chairman Abdul Hakim Khalil Al Mutawa.
"We also have a financial sector which has the skills availability here which will serve us going forward in a changing business environment.
"In the future we need to focus even more on Islamic finance," he said.
Mr Al Mutawa said the need for up to 50,000 units of affordable housing in Bahrain meant there was a need for BD3 billion ($8bn) of financing while infrastructure development took that need to more than BD10bn.
BCICAI chairman T D Balraj said the two evening seminars had been a major success attracting not just members of the Bahrain Chapter but also leading figures from across the banking and insurance sector who participated both as speakers and delegates.
"We organised this event to feel the pulse of the market and the message that is coming out is that we need to look at repositioning but that the market remains robust," he said.
"Islamic banking may still be very much an emerging market but it is clearly and area where Bahrain can lead the region and the world," he added.
The event was organised by the BCICAI and held under the patronage of the Central Bank of Bahrain.
The seminar focused on the way forward for Bahrain's financial sector and reaffirmed the kingdom's pre-eminent standing as the regional hub for banking and finance. The two-day event attracted almost 400 participants from Bahrain's financial sector.