World Bulletin / News Desk
Sarajevo's stock exchange on Monday launched an Islamic index, a first for the Balkans region, officials said as investment by Gulf states in Bosnia grows.
The SASX-BBI Index includes 25 Bosnian firms which respect Islamic teaching, director of the Sarajevo stock exchange, Tarik Kurbegovic, told reporters.
The companies do not do business in sectors prohibited by Islam such as gambling, pornography, the alcohol trade, tobacco and pork meat. They also do not receive or pay interest.
"This index is present not only in the Islamic world. All big global stock exchanges have had their Islamic indexes for a long time," Kurbegovic said.
"But we are the first stock exchange in the region to have launched it."
The index was set up in cooperation with the Sarajevo-based Bosnia Bank International (BBI), founded by Gulf countries.
The bank plays an important role in attracting rich Arab investors in the former Yugoslav republic.
"With this index we are putting the Sarajevo stock exchange and its companies on the map of global strategic investors," the bank's director Amer Bukvic said.
Investment in Bosnia by Gulf countries will grow in a "significant way" during the next three to five years, he added.
The goal of the Islamic index is to direct new investment towards the sectors of agriculture, tourism, metallurgic industry and energy.
In the last few years, Gulf businessmen have invested significantly in tourist and residential real estate in Sarajevo and the surrounding region. The projects are mainly for clients from Gulf states.
Some 40 percent of Bosnia's population of 3.8 million are Muslim, with the rest Roman Catholic ethnic Croats and Orthodox ethnic Serbs.
IFC CEO Philippe Le Houerou said the fund will "lower the risk for the private sector and attract new investors -- essentially creating a market where there was none."
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