Banking and Finance in the Arab Middle East by Rodney Wilson (auth.)

By Rodney Wilson (auth.)

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In the field of banking and finance many young Arabs already worked for the foreign banks represented in the Middle East even in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, but most did not rise above the lowest clerical positions, and many were employed as messengers and in other similar menial tasks. By the 1920s however this situation was changing and, although few Arabs had reached the position of branch managers in the commercial banking system, many of the jobs up to cashier level were filled by local citizens.

The work of the banks was gradually Arabised, with an increasing number of records and accounts kept in Arabic rather than in English or French. Given the extremely restricted numbers of graduates in oriental languages from European universities, and the aversion of many of these graduates to careers such as banking in any case, the banks were virtually forced to recruit local nationals and promote 42 Growth of Arab Financial Expertise 43 them into higher positions than hitherto. Essentially it was supply and demand forces in the labour market that put the banks into this position, although there is little doubt they were also conscious of their image in the societies in which they operated, and the banks wanted to be seen as agents for imparting skills to local nationals.

Exportation du Coton, established in 1928 with its capital worth L£160,000. Those landlord interests involved in the cultivation of cotton and connected with the bank hoped that by founding these two companies, middlemen could be avoided, or at least there would be competition which would reduce their margins and help those more directly involved in production. The performance of the cotton export company was however disappointing compared to that of the collection and internal marketing company, largely because exporting required considerable experience and knowledge of the working of overseas markets.

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