Oman’s central bank has given approval to establish the
sultanate’s first standalone Islamic bank, in a bid to grab a share of the
rapidly growing Sharia-compliant banking industry.
In a statement to Oman’s state-run news agency, the central
bank said it had agreed to the establishment of Bank Nizwa, adding "it will consider any
application to open windows for the Islamic banking by any bank operating in
the Sultanate wishing to provide such services.”
Oman is the only state among the six GCC members which,
until now, has not set up a bank specifically offering products and services
complying with Islamic law.
Oman's action aims to tap into demand for sharia-compliant
products and banking services currently being met elsewhere in the Gulf region
where Islamic finance thrives.
Oman's central bank head had said in 2007 that Oman believed
that "banks should be universal."
In a report last November, PricewaterhouseCoopers said the
$1 trillion Islamic finance industry was expected to grow by between 15 to 20
percent per year going forward.