Nick Sherry, the Australian assistant treasurer, is in Abu Dhabi on the first leg of his visit to the GCC to learn more about Sharia-compliant finance as his government plans to introduce the industry in his home country. Mr Sherry, who arrived in the capital on Sunday night, held a series of talks with UAE Government officials, investment banks and financial organisations, including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
This is not the first time the Australian senator has visited the capital. Mr Sherry said he came to Abu Dhabi as a tourist 25 years ago when the only hotel in town was the InterContinental, where he is also staying on this visit. He added that his father worked in Abu Dhabi as the head of public affairs for the InterContinental at the time. "The Middle East region is a major net foreign investor, which is why we need to learn and understand Islamic finance, which is an area that's rapidly growing," Mr Sherry said.
A report released by the Australian government this year recommended the country's board of taxation undertake a comprehensive review of its tax laws to ensure that, wherever possible, they do not inhibit the expansion of Islamic finance, banking and insurance products. Mr Sherry said Australia's economy was one of the least affected by the global financial crisis last year. The IMF has forecast growth of 3 per cent this year and 3.5 per cent next year.
He said he was looking to find partners to invest and fund wholesale infrastructure projects, such as highways, ports and health facilities, which he said were ideal to market for Islamic financing. Islamic finance requires a genuine and tangible underlying asset to any investment. Mr Sherry is also responsible for Australia's foreign investment approvals. For a country on the edge of Asia, he added, it was important to diversify foreign investment.