Kuwait’s cabinet calls for reassessment of bedoon citizenship process


The committee will be authorized to carry out stringent verification procedures while singling out the names of all those who really deserve to be granted citizenship. Some officials have expressed concern at this latest development over the issue, however, saying that such a move might create widespread discontentment among those awaiting citizenship. They questioned the Cabinet’s decision of further deferring ruling on the issue until the formation of the aforementioned committee, saying that the countle
ss delays over the matter have become ludicrous.
The Cabinet has also called for the inclusion of certain ministers on the committee, as well as the Cabinet’s Secretary General Abdullatif Al-Rawdan as its head, in an attempt to whittle down the number of candidates awaiting citizenship, the officials added.
The previous lists of candidates awaiting citizenship include sons of Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaitis, military personnel holding high-level university degrees and bedoons whose names were already recorded on the 1965 census, reported Al-Watan. Secondary lists that were compiled later also included the names of the sons of divorced Kuwaiti women and widows.
Meanwhile, An official expressed skepticism on reports about a tailor-made plan to resolve the woes plaguing the country’s bedoons. He asserted yesterday that the government has proposed a plan to work out the problem, but it has not been finalized yet.
Meanwhile, there are rumors doing the rounds that the government has bifurcated the issue into two parts: those eligible for citizenship and those who will be granted permanent residence permits. The official refuted these reports as baseless and added that MP Hassan Johar will present the proposal as a parliamentary suggestion. He said that the government will not take a step forward unless the MPs consider it seriously, reported Al-Nahar.
The official concluded by saying that all the declaration made by MPs do not offer viable solutions to the problems.
Dubai will be the Islamic financial capital of the world: Al-Shaali
Arab News:"Dubai will be the Islamic financial capital of the world," stressed a confident and articulate Nasser Al-Shaali, chief executive officer of the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) in an interview in London recently.
This certainty of purpose and ambition belies an underlying determination of one of the "Young Turks" of the emerging Dubai Inc. technocratic establishment. The DIFC’s growth objectives are not confined to the Islamic finance sector although it sees this space as a unique opportunity to make a mark.
"Over the next year or so, we want to make sure to have installed a substantial infrastructure for the Islamic finance industry including information system, better transparency and the emergence of an industry standard. We aim to take the lead in this space by having the right products and services," explained a confident Al-Shaali.
The DIFC is currently host to over 700 financial and allied institutions, both conventional and Islamic, from all over the world since it was launched in late 2004. However, its commitment to the Islamic finance space has been questioned by some due to the perceived lack of resources allocated for its development. Not so, stressed Nasser Al-Shaali: "Dubai is completely committed to this industry, and will be the global hub for Islamic finance. This process has already started. Noor Islamic Bank, one of the largest capitalized Islamic banks in the world was launched last year. We have seen several Sukuk issuances by Dubai government entities, and there will be more to come. We have devoted tremendous resources to achieve critical mass in Islamic finance."
Indeed, Islamic finance is a very strategic area for the development of the financial services industry at the DIFC and broadly in the GCC region. The DIFC together with the government of Dubai is promoting the development of standards in Islamic finance, and more importantly the development of products and services that will drive this industry to the next phase of its contemporary evolution.
This says the DIFC includes the competencies needed to drive the industry, such as a human capital base that needs to be developed to support the growth of the industry. As such the DIFC has a multi-prong strategy in coordination with other Dubai government entities covering Islamic financial institutions, products, technicians and capabilities to ensure a sustainable growth of the sector. The aim here is also to develop critical mass whether in Islamic capital markets, for instance. Already the Dubai International financial Exchange (DIFX) has the largest number of listed Sukuk in the world.
"We want to build a yield curve for Islamic finance. We want to make sure there are financial infrastructures for Islamic finance products, for example, a repo market and other similar products that we take for granted in conventional finance but that don’t exist in Islamic finance. You need this to support sustainable growth," added Al-Shaali.
But what about creating critical mass say in developing a secondary trading market in Sukuk. These are not really conducive to secondary trading, explained Al-Shaali. Nor is there much strategic value to focus on developing such a secondary market. He prefers the development of a secondary market for Shariah-compliant derivatives including repos.
And what advice would he give to a foreign financial institution wanting to open a presence in the GCC? "If you are looking to the future then they should come to the DIFC. To live in the past you might find some other places. The DIFC has cutting edge infrastructure; has achieved critical mass in the conventional financial sector to be a regional center; and because Dubai has an overall strategy to become the hub for Islamic finance, it is the place to be if you are an Islamic financial institution or player," he maintained.
The Islamic finance market is big enough to accommodate a number of financial centers including Bahrain, Qatar, Riyadh and Kuwait. Although the geographic area is small, the region, he is confident has massive ambitions. "In the GCC alone you have $ 2trillion of project finance. That is more project finance than all the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries combined. A good size of that – about 20 to 40 percent will be done Islamically," he stressed.
The DIFC also has good relations with the Malaysia Islamic Finance Center (MIFC). "We monitor what Malaysia is doing and we admire the accomplishments of Malaysia in building infrastructure for Islamic finance. And whenever there are options for us to work with them to further the sophistication of the industry, we do that."
Dubai of course is well-placed in the Islamic finance space, being the host of the first authorized Islamic commercial bank in the world – the Dubai Islamic Bank which was established in 1975. Since then it has seen the launching of several other local Islamic market players especially potential giants such as Noor Islamic Bank.
The philosophy of the DIFC is that it wants to be a comprehensive financial center, with Islamic finance as a key component. But it wants to add value with projects under way for developing Shariah-compliant derivatives and a centre for knowledge on Islamic finance. Already, Cass Business School of City University, part of London University, last year established a campus in the DIFC offering the world’s first executive MBA in Islamic finance. Unlike Malaysia’s International Center for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF), which is a distance learning institution, the Cass DIFC campus offers a full-time MBA in Islamic finance. Similarly, the London Business School also has its only outside campus at the DIFC offering a general MBA course.
The DIFC last year also launched the Hawakmah center to promote best practice and guidelines in corporate governance, and is working with the industry to develop guidelines in this respect. The guidelines, according to Al-Shaali, will be on a voluntary adoption basis.
Conflict of interest is a contentious issue in Islamic finance both in terms of Shariah boards and senior personnel, primarily in the GCC countries. There have been cases where ministers are also chairman of the board of privately-owned banks and Shariah advisories sit on multiple boards.
Al-Shaali agrees that this needs to be sorted out. He also agrees that more market reforms and liberalization will take place as the GCC economies become more mature and sophisticated. Similarly, political stability starts with economic stability.
He is not unduly concerned about the impact of oil prices on the DIFC and the Islamic finance sector. Oil prices, he maintained, affects the US and Europe more than they affect the Middle East, because the growth in the GCC is asset-based growth and not dependent on oil revenue-based growth. The major sovereign, quasi government and private sector investment institutions have built up huge asset and capital bases. Such asset wealth is a much more important feature of economic activity in the region. So they are not as affected as much by fluctuations in the price of oil. On the contrary, as investors, a half a percentage hike in US interest rates by the Fed has more of an impact than say a $ 5 per barrel increase in the price of oil.
Al-Shaali, however, believes that in the international context, it is important for the GCC countries to engage with the West, and in the case of Islamic finance to build bridges especially with the US authorities in an effort to "demystify" Islamic finance. He strongly believes that in the current global financial environment with its credit crunch, the Islamic finance system has something unique to offer the world, because investments and repackaging of collateralized debt packages would be against Islamic financial principles because of "ambiguous trading" (gharar).
Dubai financial institutions have been largely unscathed by the credit crunch with no institutions writing off billions of dollars in losses in this respect. The only impact in the short-term is that financing in general has become a bit more expensive.
Looking ahead, Al-Shaali, maintains that as the efficiency of Islamic products and the transparency in the sector improves, the industry too will grow. With this, the projects and ambitions of the GCC countries in this space will also grow. As such, just to keep up with this growth and demand, the region would need not only Dubai, but also Bahrain Qatar, Kuwait and maybe Riyadh.

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