Mr. Ahmed Ba Zaraa the chairman of the board of the Shamil Bank of Yemen and Bahrain:Bank’s projects are many and diverse [Archives:2003/631/Business & Economy]

April 14 2003

Mohammed Al-Masani
Shamil Bank of Yemen and Bahrain was established less than one year ago as a Yemeni joint-stock company with a starting capital of YR 2 billion. Ever since, it has been operating in conformity with many objectives, some of which are to introduce good banking services, develop ways of attracting money and savings and invest them in the best way. About the bank's progress in the elapsed period, experience Islamic banks in particular and the current challenges and impediments in banking work especially if the war on Iraq continues, Yemen Times reporter Mohammed al-Massani interviewed Mr. Ahmed Abu Bakar Bazaraa, the well- known businessman, the chairman of board the board of directors of the Shamil Bank of Yemen and Bahrain, filing this report.

Q: How do you assess the bank work so far?
A-It is supposed there should be several financing periods to form a serious and real assessment. But confidentially the past period of less than one year since the establishment of the Shamil Bank of Yemen and Bahrain was very satisfactory. All indicators are positive for during that period we have achieved all prospects included in our working plan for the first year.

Q:What are the bank's investment projects, your future plans?
A: The projects of the Shamil Bank of Yemen and Bahrain are many and diverse. Some are about our plans to extend the bank services to other governorates. We also intend to offer bank services to our clients through better and modern means. Regarding our dealings with the Islamic banks I do think they are improving and satisfactory and much better than that with other banks as Islamic banks offer good solutions to invest -and usually in Yemen- from the Islamic point of view.

Q:How would you estimate the experience of the Islamic banks in Yemen?
A: Islamic banks of Yemen still have a limited experience, if compared with other countries' Islamic banks such in Bahrain, Egypt, Emirates, Kuwait and many other countries.
Yet the three banks that preceded the Shamil Bank of Yemen and Bahrain i.e. Tadhamon International Islamic Bank, Saba Islamic Bank and Islamic Bank of Yemen- have gained a good experience in the Yemeni market and accordingly have been able to achieve a relative success so far. But the Yemeni market has its own peculiarities as technically it's still a beginner market compared to world banking industry and Islamic banks.
Indicators of their financing capabilities and the figures of their clients are so modest compared to population density and the gross national product. There are indicators about huge volume of liquidity at people's hands in comparison with the banks deposits and this mirrors the culture, specialty and uniqueness of the Yemeni society. I do believe that these indicators are slowly improving.

Q: What are the challenges Islamic banks currently encounter?
A: With respect to the major challenges I may sum them up as follows:
Internal challenges which lie in the arrangement of the banks' conditions and adopting strategic schemes that pivot on the market, its development and completion of the infrastructure of this industry which is still far behind that of many countries. Other challenges lie in the carrying out of real tasks of the banks to participate in the projects of infrastructure of economy as a whole have tangible social return.
External challenges which lie in creating an atmosphere of trust and globally extension the banking system of Yemen which regrettably does not have a world reputation. This is a common problem shared by Yemeni banks but it is more problematic with the Islamic banks which face many pressures and obstacles in their dealing with western corporations, especially after Sept. 11, 2001 under the pretext of fighting terrorism and money laundering and all this negatively affects and hinders the activities of Islamic banks.

Q: What's meant by the black list issued by the Central Bank and how do you deal with loans and clients?
A: The black list issued by the Central Bank of Yemen every now and then is an indicator to some companies and individuals indebted to some banks and have not yet reached an agreement in a specific period of time. And here I want to assure you that the adventure factor in paying and servicing of debts is regrettably so high in Yemen (one of the highest averages in the world according to evaluation of many world financing and insurance companies). And this is attributed to weakness of the judiciary system and its lack of harmony with the government. In the Shamil Bank of Yemen and Bahrainwe consider ourselves still in establishment phase and so we give great attention to this aspect in an attempt to sustain burdens of difficult debts which could impede our job.

Q: If to assess the policy of the central bank of Yemen, what would you say and how it ought to be in your own perspective?
A: Central Bank of Yemen is competently and bravely dealing with monetary policy as it fulfilled an excellent role to maintain the market conditions and stability in the past years.
With respect to the monitoring role of the central bank of Yemen on other banks, it does play its role effectively. But we should confess that the work atmosphere in Yemen has its own legal and executive obstacles from which even the central bank itself is suffering.
And I look forward to that the central bank of Yemen would pay attention to the infrastructure of the bank such as technical aspects (electronic clearinghouse) and regularly offering data ,statistics and competence in investing the legal reverses of the deposit accounts (savings, current accounts, debt and investment.) in a way that suits the working nature of different banks.

Q: How does the impact of the war on Iraq is being reflected on the currently banking conditions of Yemen?
A: The US-UK aggressive war on Iraq ,of course, has its negative impact on the entire world and we as an integral part of this world and a state of the region of war would be affected more.
In fact that depends on the course of the war and factors related to these developments.
But it's worth mentioning that some effects of the war have already been felt such as the fluctuations of the currency worldwide which affected the value of the YR. and also the fluctuations of petroleum would negatively affect the state budget which would directly influence the government and individuals' spending. Situations may further get escalated and that may hinder shipment movement and air cargo. But we do hope and wish that things will be settled down very soon.