Middle East and Central Asia > Kuwait

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Mr. Olumuyiwa S Adedeji, Yacoub Alatrash, and Mr. Divya Kirti
Given their pegged exchange rate regimes, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries usually adjust their policy rates to match shifting U.S. monetary policy. This raises the important question of how changes in U.S. monetary policy affect banks in the GCC. We use bank-level panel data, exploiting variation across banks within countries, to isolate the impact of changing U.S. interest rates on GCC banks funding costs, asset rates, and profitability. We find stronger pass-through from U.S. monetary policy to liability rates than to asset rates and bank profitability, largely reflecting funding structures. In addition, we explore the role of shifts in the quantity of bank liabilities as policy rates change and the role of large banks with relatively stable funding costs to explain these findings.
Raja Almarzoqi, Samy Ben Naceur, and Alessandro Scopelliti
The paper analyzes the relationship between bank competition and stability, with a specific focus on the Middle East and North Africa. Price competition has a positive effect on bank liquidity, as it induces self-discipline incentives on banks for the choice of bank funding sources and for the holding of liquid assets. On the other hand, price competition may have a potentially negative impact on bank solvency and on the credit quality of the loan portfolio. More competitive banks may be less solvent if the potential increase in the equity base—due to capital adjustments—is not large enough to compensate for the reduction in bank profitability. Also, banks subject to stronger competitive pressures may have a higher rate of nonperforming loans, if the increase in the risk-taking incentives from the lender’s side overcomes the decrease in the credit risk from the borrower’s side. In both cases, country-specific policies for market entry conditions—and for bank regulation and supervision—may significantly affect the sign and the size of the relationship. The paper suggests policy reforms designed to improve market contestability and to increase the quality and independence of prudential supervision.
Mr. Vlad Manole and Mr. David A. Grigorian
Bahrain's financial sector development strategy succeeded in building a leading regional banking center, which has become one of the main engines of growth and sources of employment. Although the simulations conducted in the paper suggest that the banking sector in Bahrain continues to occupy a front-runner position among those in a sample of member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, they also reveal that: (i) as expected, banks in Bahrain still lag behind their Singaporean counterparts, and (ii) there is strong competition from other countries in the region. The paper also finds that in terms of scale efficiency, the banks in Bahrain operate at the same level as banks in Singapore and their closest competitors in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The results appear to be robust with respect to changes in the sample size and model specifications.