Bermuda wants to be safe haven for Mideast investors

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  • Premier Paula Cox opens the C3 Conference on Islamic Finance in the Museum of Natural History in New York City yesterday.

    Premier Paula Cox opens the C3 Conference on Islamic Finance in the Museum of Natural History in New York City yesterday.

What is Islamic finance?

Bermuda is one of the few Western nations offering opportunities for Islamic investors, who need to abide by a moral and religious code. The Island has been promoting Bermuda’s ability to handle Shariah-compliant funds, re/insurance and other types of financial/investment products.
Shariah law is the moral and religious code of Islam, which frowns on alcohol, tobacco and gambling-related businesses and bans interest. Financial industries must operate within those laws.
It’s an emerging market that is being pursued by offshore jurisdictions all over the world.
Global Islamic banking assets with commercial banks will hit $1.1 trillion in 2012, a jump of 33 percent from their 2010 level of $826 billion, according to Ernst & Young’s inaugural World Islamic Banking Competitiveness Report 2011.

Bermuda took centre stage at a high-powered US-Mideast business summit in New York City yesterday against a backdrop of renewed tensions and volatility in the region.

Premier Paula Cox, co-chair of the C3 Summit, opened the conference and also shared the stage with former US President Bill Clinton as she introduced him.

Premier Cox and other Bermuda officials also took part in a luncheon panel where they provided information on business in Bermuda and Islamic finance opportunities, noting that few Shariah-compliant opportunities for investors exist outside the Mideast and virtually none in the US.

On the panel were Tourism and Business Development Minister Wayne Furbert, Bermuda Monetary Authority head Jeremy Cox and Belaid A Jheengoor, asset management director at PwC Bermuda.

Hamilton Mayor Graeme Outerbridge also attended the Summit.

Premier Cox and the Bermuda panellists said the Island can help bridge Western investment management criteria and Shariah rules to help the West capitalise on the potentially high-growth market.

In her opening remarks, Premier Cox said the conference had come at an “opportune time” and Bermuda sees “tremendous scope for economic partnership with the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region”.

She said it’s Government’s aim to be a safe harbour for investment to the GCC and its participation in the C3 Summit was “all about fostering relationships with GCC leaders”.

She said courting Mideast business was critical for Bermuda’s economy: “Narrowly focused development is a dangerous strategy for any economy,” she said. “We can’t have a narrow focus.”

She said she felt Bermuda’s efforts were paying off and Government leaders planned to attend an October conference in the region. Bermuda paid well below $100,000 for sponsoring the conference, which it got in on early, she added. Sponsorship levels of the conference range up to $200,000.

Earlier C3 Summit founder Ransel Potter and several other speakers including the President of the National US Arab Chamber of Commerce David Hamod noted with sadness this week’s killing of Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, whom they knew personally.

Mr Potter said Clinton - one of the world’s most sought-after speakers, had agreed to address the Summit due to his commitment to the Middle East and the quality of speakers and attendees.

He said it was to Premier Cox’s credit that she had seized the Summit’s opportunity to strengthen Bermuda’s partnerships with the Mideast.

He praised Premier Cox for her “vision and foresight to come behind and begin building bridges between the US and Arab world”.

The C3 Summit is to be an annual conference focusing on how US and Middle East companies can profit from change in the region and how the West can do business with these fast emerging markets.

Bermuda’s high-profile role at C3 is seen by Government advisors as a coup for the Island that’s well worth the money paid to be a top sponsor.

Other sponsors and speakers include Sanford Weill, previously chairman and CEO of Citigroup, and Abdullah A Zainel Alireza, former Minister of Commerce and Industry of Saudi Arabia.

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Published Sep 14, 2012 at 6:00 am (Updated Sep 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm)

Bermuda wants to be safe haven for Mideast investors

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