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Insurance sector bucks downturn

MANAMA: Despite the recent financial turmoil, the insurance sector in Bahrain has continued its double digit growth in both the conventional and takaful markets.

That was the message from Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) executive director financial institutions supervision Abdul Rahman Al Baker in his opening speech to the two-day Sixth Annual Gulf Insurance Forum at the Gulf Hotel.

"Following an annual increase of gross premiums of 34 per cent for the 2008 year end, we have seen a continuing growth trend for 2009 with a 9pc growth as of the end of June compared to the same period in the previous year," he said.

"Gross premiums for the takaful sector have increased 37pc to BD18 million ($47.8m) as of the end of June.

"Currently, takaful gross premiums account for almost 18pc of total premiums, up from 14pc a year ago.

"Medical insurance as well as life insurance have also contributed significantly to this growth in overall premiums.

"While underwriting results have continued their positive trends, the insurance firms needs to closely monitor their returns on investment, in order to ensure that they will continue to meet their liquidity and financial obligations towards their policyholders," he added.

"We at the CBB believes that sound insurance markets need to have appropriate regulatory framework, adequate accounting standards and a strong supervisory infrastructure, and proper corporate governance that should be long-term oriented focusing not only on shareholders returns, but also on protecting policyholders.

"There is also a clear and urgent need for better co-operation among supervisors on both a regional and global basis and a co-ordinated approach in several of supervisory issues," he added.

"Since we met last year at the fifth Gulf Insurance forum in Kuwait, the global insurance industry endured many challenges as the crisis unfolded and shock waves were felt across financial markets and economies," said Bahrain Insurance Association (BIA) chairman, Ashraf Bseisu

"Fortunately, the GCC insurance industry fared much better and was less affected vis-ˆ-vis other financial services institutions such as banks.

"In this context, the theme, Developing GCC Insurance Markets and Products, was chosen to correspond to specific demands for development and modernisation of our industry going forward.

"This gathering will address the legislative and regulatory framework in the region, in pursuit of the greater objective of economic integration and unity across the GCC," he said.

"The other pivotal issue that will be covered relates to the nurturing, development and provision the qualified human resources, especially indigenous ones," he saidd.

"This will provide the nucleus that will ultimately enable respective markets and companies to be able to better interact and respond to its surrounding dynamic environment within the overall context of globalisation and free trade," he added.

The event has been jointly organised by the BIA and the Co-ordination Commission for Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Companies (CCGIRC).

CCGIRC executive council chairman Shaikh Faisal bin Khalid Al Qassimi called on regulatory authorities to help develop insurance regulatory practices and promote insurance legislation.

"I want insurance companies in all the GCC countries to adopt new means and measures to support their financial status, develop their technical efficiency and performance in order to be able to withstand market liberalisation and competition," he said.

"It is important that our Gulf governments have to adopt a policy for consolidating the bases of the insurance industry through the merger of small companies and the establishment of Gulf insurance companies which have a strong financial blanket capable of competing with international companies," he said.

business@gdn.com.bh



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