Middle East and Central Asia > Bahrain, Kingdom of

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International Monetary Fund
Financial systems in the GCC have developed significantly over the last couple of decades, but there appears to be further room for progress. The development of bank and equity markets has been supported by a combination of buoyant economic activity, a booming Islamic finance sector, and financial sector reforms. As a result, financial systems have deepened and, overall, the level of financial development compares well with emerging markets. However, it still lags advanced economies and, other than for Saudi Arabia, appears to be lower than would be expected given economic fundamentals, such as income levels. Financial development in the GCC has relied to a large extent on banks, while debt markets and nonbank financial institutions are less developed and access to equity markets is narrow. The non-bank financial institutions—pension funds, asset management and finance companies, and insurance—remain small. Domestic debt markets are underdeveloped. While equity markets appear to be well developed by market size, they are dominated by a few large (and often public-sector) companies. GCC countries have made progress on financial inclusion, but gaps remain in some important areas. Access to finance for SMEs, women, and youth, in particular, appears relatively low. This may partly reflect social norms, low levels of participation of women in the labor market and private sector activity, and the high level of youth unemployment. Further financial development and inclusion is likely to be associated with stronger economic growth in the GCC countries. While there is uncertainty surrounding the empirical estimates in the paper, further progress with financial development and/or inclusion is likely to go hand-in-hand with stronger growth. The growth benefits, however, are likely to vary across countries depending on the current level of financial development and inclusion. To realize these growth benefits, reforms to strengthen access to finance for SMEs, women, and youth are needed. Addressing institutional weaknesses and promoting financial sector competition would help boost access to finance for SMEs. Reforms to enhance financial literacy and improve SME governance structures and insolvency frameworks are critical. Other reforms encouraging female and youth employment and the use of emerging technologies in finance also appear promising. Additional reforms to foster financial development should focus on developing debt markets and making stock markets more accessible to a larger pool of companies and investors. To grow domestic debt markets, the authorities should develop a government yield curve, seek to increase market liquidity through secondary market trading, and ensure requirements for private issuance are not onerous. Stock market reforms should focus on enhancing corporate governance and investor protection, removing restrictions on foreign ownership, and encouraging financial market competition. The latter would also help the development of non-bank financial institutions.
Mr. Robin D Kibuka and Mr. Charles Enoch
The paper reviews the developments in the last 12 years that have influenced the evolution of the IMF's General Data Dissemination System, leading to reforms to enhance its role. The GDDS itself is part of a broader IMF Data Standards Initiative launched in 1996 to help address macroeconomic data deficiencies, which contributed to the emerging economies' financial crisis during the early 1990s. The review takes stock of the experience with statistical technical assistance provided to member countries and the ongoing reforms, within and outside the IMF, to strengthen the GDDS. Such reforms are particularly relevant in the context of the ongoing economic and financial crisis, which once again underscores the role of statistics in guiding policymakers to strengthen defenses against future crises.
International Monetary Fund
This paper discusses key findings of the Detailed Assessment on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) for Bahrain. The assessment was based on the 2003 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) 40 Recommendations. The assessment identifies recommendations on how certain aspects of the system could be strengthened. The assessment reveals that the AML/CFT effort is taken seriously in Bahrain and the Kingdom has worked hard over the past few years to implement an extensive AML framework to address the risk of money laundering.