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Gulf growth will demand legal back-up

Capital markets in the Gulf are rich with potential. The markets are developing rapidly, especially in the UAE, but international investors will only get involved once the requisite legal framework is in place. By Nigel Page


Where developments in Arab capital markets are concerned, it has all too often been a case of one step forward, two steps back.

Volatile oil prices and constraints on government spending have been encouraging Arab states to open up their economies to private and foreign investors. But the leisurely pace adopted owes much to the deep cash reserves of these oil-rich economies - and also to the need to support legal and regulatory structures.

Across the region, there continues to be a diversification in financing sources and a deepening in the domestic capital markets, as less reliance is placed on government funding, especially for infrastructure development.

Demographic changes and industrial diversification are encouraging governments to look outside the region - increasingly, in the wake of the Taweelah power station privatization in Abu Dhabi, to the private sector.

Across the whole Arab world, the number of working capital markets has risen from five a decade ago, to 11 today and Gulf markets, which have, up to this point, been generally off-limits to foreigners, are now becoming increasingly aware of the need to attract both foreign and domestic capital.

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