Jordan - Banking and securities

The Central Bank of Jordan, founded in 1964 with a capital of JD 2 million and reorganized in 1971, is in charge of note issue, foreign exchange control, and supervision of commercial banks, in cooperation with the Economic Security Council. In 1995, the Central Bank established the dinar as a fully convertible currency for non-capital remittances. In November of that year the bank announced a fixed dollar-dinar rate for current payments. Because of Jordan's IMF-led structural adjustments and trade and investment liberalizations, it became the first Arab country to receive credit ratings from both Standard and Poor and Moody's.

The banking system includes, besides the Central Bank, thirteen commercial banks (five of which are branches of foreign banks), five investment banks, two Islamic banks, one Industrial Development Bank, and several other institutions. Commercial banks have a tradition of being both small, with a low capital base, and highly conservative. The Arab Bank, by far the largest "high street" bank, and the Housing Bank are the largest banks in Jordan. Jordanian banks have acted rapidly to fill the banking void in the Occupied Territories, since the agreement between the PLO and Israel transferred administrative authority to the Palestinians. State banks include the Arab Bank, The Bank of Jordan, Cairo 'Amman Bank, Jordan-Kuwait Bank, and the Jordan National Bank. Commercial banks included those of Jordan, other Arab countries, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Foreign commercial banks in Jordan include the British Bank of the Middle East, Citibank (US), the Arab Land Bank, and the Arab Banking Corporation (Jordan). The late 1970s and 1980s saw an expansion of niche institutions, such as four investment banks, six specialized credit institutions (three of which are under public ownership), four non-banking financial institutions, and one Islamic bank. Unfortunately, many of these have been either too small to have had a strong impact on the provision of credit, or have replicated the approach of the commercial banks. Since 1992, moneychangers have been able to operate legally, having been closed down in February 1989, but their area of operation has been heavily circumscribed.

Loans are extended by the Jordan Industrial Bank, Agricultural Credit Corp., Jordan Co-operative Organization, and other credit institutions.

The 'Amman Financial Market (AFM) has been in existence since the late 1970s. Like most of the equity markets in the Middle East, the AFM is small and lacking in the dynamism that has seen markets in Latin America and Asia take off over the past ten years. A total of 115 companies were listed in 1997, making the AFM second in the Arab world only to Egypt, which quoted some 700 stocks. The capitalization of the AFM stood at around $5 billion, putting it level with Bahrain, but ahead of Oman and Tunisia. In 1996, the government instituted a law allowing foreigners to invest in the AFM. In 1999, the 'Amman Stock Exchange was established as a privately managed institution. There were 149 listed public-shareholding companies at that time, with a market capitalization of approximately $6 billion.

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