MANAMA: In spite of the economic turmoil in Europe, the economic problems in the US and the unrest in Bahrain, this year's World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC)proved to be the biggest to date.
"In the current economic climate, the attendance at this year's event was just magnificent," said event organiser David McLean.
"We broke through the 1,300 delegate numbers and had more sponsors than ever before which is remarkable and is a testament to Bahrain's role as the capital of the Islamic banking industry.
"To get speakers and delegates from more than 50 countries was quite an achievement, given the state of the global financial industry, but it is a testament to the fact that Islamic finance is continuing to grow in this climate and shows that people across the globe see Bahrain as remaining the focus for the industry.
"What was really impressive about this year's event was the number of people and the number of VIPs who turned up for the closing sessions to hear the keynote address by Professor Kishore Mahbubsani from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore talking on Preparing for the Asian Century.
"We had an incredible turnout of VIPs, including Central Bank of Bahrain Governor Rasheed Al Maraj and every seat was taken for this late session," he added.
Addressing the conference, which concluded at the Gulf Hotel yesterday, Prof Mahbubsani said by 2036 China would be the world's largest economy by far, would have the largest number of scientists and have the world's biggest space programme.
"We are entering a new era of world history where economic power is shifting to the east," he said.
"By 2036, China will be the number one economy, India will be second, the US will be third and Japan fourth. There will be no European countries at the top.
"What we are seeing is the end of a 200-year era which has seen Europe and then the US dominate the global economy. It is the end of the West-dominating history," he said.
"But to some extent those 200 years have been an aberration in the last 2,000 years," he added.
He said the West had got to a point where you can't tell from day to day whether the euro would survive, while in the US its super committee has failed miserably to deal with their budget crisis.
"The core of the problem both Europe and the US are facing is that they are failing to understand that the world is rapidly changing. They fail to understand that they can no longer continue to live beyond their means," he added.
He said Asia was now succeeding because it had taken on the values of the West at a time when the West had forgotten them.
Asia, he said, was committed to free market economics, the mastery of science and believed in meritocracy at a time when the West was moving backward.
And he said the Middle East should now look more to Asia and less to the West and re-open the old Silk Route which previously bound the two regions together.
Meanwhile, Bahrain's economic growth is expected to be positive in the third quarter as the economy has already overcome a major part of the impact stemming from the unrest, Mr Al Maraj said of the sidelines of the conference.