Children to be taught Islamic finance in school

The National

Schoolchildren in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain are to receive a new lesson in life: Islamic finance.
Al Hilal Bank has teamed up with Emirates National Schools to offer special Islamic banking and economics courses on the school curriculum, as part of a push by the Ministry of Presidential Affairsto promote financial literacy.

The bank hopes fostering awareness of Islamic finance among young children will help it participate in Abu Dhabi 2030 Economic Vision development plan, said Mohammed Berro, the bank’s chief executive.

“We have a role to play as a bank, as an Islamic bank that makes sure that the new generation of 2030 is well versed financially, in Islamic banking, and will take Abu Dhabi – inshallah – to more successes after 2030,” he said

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http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/finance/children-to-be-taught-islamic-finance-in-school

Saudi- Islamic banking grows 10 to 15% annually

MENAFN – Arab News) Islamic banking and finance, with a total asset of $1.4 trillion and more than 1,000 institutions operating in many countries worldwide is all set for a big take off, says Professor Khurshid Ahmad, chairman of the Islamic Foundation UK and the Institute of Policy Studies in Pakistan and author of several books on the topic.

islamic banking in saudi arabiaSpeaking to Arab News after giving a lecture on “Global economic crisis and the role of Islamic Economics” at the Islamic Development Bank headquarters here, Ahmad said Islamic banking and finance makes an annual growth of 10 to 15 percent when conventional banks make less than one percent.

“According to an IMF study, the institutions that were least affected by the global financial crisis were Islamic banks because they engage mainly in asset-based financing,” said Ahmad, who is a winner of King Faisal International Prize and IDB Prize.

Speaking about challenges, he emphasized the importance of Islamic banks to be shifted from a Shariah-compliant position to a Shariah-based position in order to move from a debt-based economy to a risk-sharing and equity-based participatory economy.

Ahmad also urged Muslim countries to reduce their dependence on foreign financial institutions like World Bank and International Monetary Fund. “I do not know of a single country in the world that has made progress after receiving loans from these institutions,” he said, adding that a number of economists have reached the same opinion after conducting studies on 40 to 48 cases.

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http://www.menafn.com/menafn/1093505668/Saudi-Islamic-banking-grows-10-to-15-annually/

source : http://www.menafn.com

Key Islamic standard for hedging launched

source : Gulf daily news

MANAMA: The International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM) and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) have launched the ISDA/IIFM Mubadalatul Arbaah (Profit Rate Swap) product standard to be used for Islamic hedging purposes.

The Mubadalatul Arbaah (MA) standard follows on from the ISDA/IIFM Tahawwut (Hedging) Master Agreement and provides the industry with a framework for Islamic risk mitigation.

The launch of the Tahawwut Master Agreement as the template for Sharia-compliant risk management was officially announced by Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) in March 2010.

“Islamic Financial Institutions (IFIs) have largely shown resilience in the current difficult financial environment and some are even going through an expansion phase,” IIFM chairman and CBB executive director of banking supervision Khalid Hamad said.

“However, due to the inter-linkages with the global financial system, the balance sheet of IFIs are exposed to fluctuation in foreign currency rates and also cash flow mismatches due to fixed and floating reference rates.

“IIFM recognises the importance of this critical segment at an early stage and undertook the challenge of developing global Islamic hedging standards in collaboration with ISDA.

“I am confident that such joint efforts will continue in the future for the benefit of the industry,” he said.

“ISDA is pleased to continue its partnership with the IIFM as part of its own on-going efforts and commitment to building safe and efficient OTC hedging markets, across both global and Islamic financial markets” said ISDA chief executive Robert G Pickel.

“The ISDA/IIFM Tahawwut Master Agreement was a major milestone in the development of risk management in Islamic finance and the development of the ISDA/IIFM confirmation templates for Islamic Profit Rate Swaps is a natural step in the evolution and development of the market,” he said.

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GCC urged to follow unified Islamic finance regulations

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) should have a unified rule under one regulator for Islamic investment products for ensuring lower cost of funds, according to Islamic Wealth Management (IWM) Report 2012.
“The GCC countries could take a leadership role by establishing standards for the registration of Islamic investment products with one regulator,” the Bank Sarasin report said.
The report was launched by Bank Sarasin managing director and head of Islamic Finance Fares Mourad and Monzer Kahf, a leading Islamic finance scholar.
Such unified rule would allow asset managers to market the product to clients across the region, it said.
Currently any offering needs to comply with different regulations in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, resulting in a lengthy and expensive registration process, the report said. “Reducing expenses and increasing the availability would increase competition, benefiting local investors and further the GCC’s development as a centre of excellence for Islamic finance.”
Although unified rules could be done either a state, region or Arab league level, it would be better to have a centralised agency that could interpret the legislations regarding Shariah investments, Mourad said.
Asked whether there was a need for a separate entity for the regulation and supervision of Islamic investments and products, he said “I really would like to have this” but it was for the regulators in the respective jurisdictions to decide.
Kahf said the Islamic Financial Services Board could take the lead in the centralised agency as it consisted of central bankers in the Muslim countries. “Once you have such an agency, there is no need for separate Shariah boards as lawyers specialised in the field could suffix its role,” he added.
The report also took note of the constant criticism of certain Islamic finance structures such as the ‘Tawarruq’, which involves purchasing a commodity with deferred payment and selling it to a third party for cash, hence replicating the effect of a loan.
“Regulations need to be adjusted to allow financial institutions to engineer products that fit the spirit of Islam while meeting legal and regulatory requirement,” it said.
In this regard, the report cited an example of recent co-operation between the halal industry (mostly foodstuffs) and Islamic finance – two sectors with similar goals that have had little contacts.
With issues related to the environment and social practices as well as corporate governance getting more attention, it said there has been more reporting on corporate social responsibility, which is important to Islamic finance.
“There is still much room for improvement with higher standards and a more strategic approach required at the state, company and private level. The Muslim countries face the greatest challenges,” the report said.

source : gulf times

Dh30m fund for university research

SHARJAH // The American University of Sharjah has given the go-ahead to three new research centres that will pave the way for work in fields as diverse as Islamic finance and archaeology.

The centres – for research into Gulf coastal ecosystems, Islamic finance and banking, and humanities and science – were approved last week by the university’s board of trustees, which gave the projects a Dh30 million endowment over five years.

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The national at : http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/education/dh30m-fund-for-university-research

Dubai targets a green sukuk

April Yee

from The National

“Green sukuk” implies two sets of standards – environmental credentials and Sharia compliance – which helps explain why for now, it is merely a developers’ dream.

But industry executives plan to begin crafting guidelines next year to create the world’s first environmentally friendly Islamic finance, and calls are increasing for green-themed debt instruments to help raise the money needed to combat climate change – more than US$10 trillion (Dh36.73tn) over the next two decades, according to the International Energy Agency.

Dubai hopes to issue green sukuk to finance solar parks, biogas plants and energy efficiency devices for homes.

“I am trying to raise the appetite. We have the projects, so we just need to identify which one is best to basically lead the way,” said Ivano Iannelli, the chief executive of the emirate’s Carbon Centre of Excellence. “It would be a very interesting mode paving the way forward and a success story that investors are likely to follow.”

The call for green sukuk comes as other financing prospects look bleaker.

The biggest renewables project in the UAE, Masdar’s 100 megawatt Shams 1 solar thermal plant, was backed by $600m in loans from a consortium of international banks. But developers do not expect banks, particularly from Europe, to continue to be as free with project financing in the economic crisis.

Carbon credits, another source of funding for climate change abatement, have declined in the past year due to oversupply fears in Europe and a lack of confidence in the political policy underlying them. UN-issued carbon credits traded in Europe have fallen from €13.69 a tonne in May to below €5 given the lack of widespread commitment outside of the EU for renewing the Kyoto Protocol, the binding treaty to curb carbon emissions that backs the UN credits.

Another financing mechanism to arise from the international negotiating process that spawned Kyoto is the Green Climate Fund, which is meant to funnel $100bn a year by 2030 towards climate change abatement projects in developing nations. But nations have yet to agree on who will pay into the fund and who will run it.

That’s where green bonds come in, hopes Sean Kidney, the co-founder of Climate Bonds, a green bonds organisation.

“The world is shifting to these kinds of products in recent years,” says Mr Kidney. “The investors don’t want to take a haircut. The awareness of macro risks of climate change means that given the choice between a fossil fuel product and a green product where the risk-reward ratio is the same, they will choose the green product.”

Proponents say that green sukuk and bonds could provide as much as $300 billion for projects to combat climate change. Last year the value of the global bond market came to about $95tn.

Today the green bond market is only a hundredth of the way there, with about $3bn so far. Of the green bonds, most have ties to the development sector; the World Bank, European Investment Bank, African Development Bank and International Finance Corporation are among the entities that began green issuances starting in 2007.

Demand is strong for commercial banks to issue more green bonds of their own, according to a statement in which Allianz, Swiss Re and a coalition of other institutional investors outlined a desire for more low-carbon investment opportunities.

“As insurers and reinsurers we are conscious of the long-term risks that climate change poses to society and how it will affect pricing of weather risk transfer solutions long term,” read the statement this month. “We are also conscious of our role as large investors and see the importance of using our assets to mitigate this risk.”

Low liquidity in the low-carbon bond market and a need for more due diligence were holding them back, they said.

Climate Bonds and the Clean Energy Business Council, a UAE trade group, are expected to begin work next year on creating the standards for a green sukuk. Climate Bonds already has a set of standards for bonds that auditors such as KPMG and DNV can use. They submit their findings to Climate Bonds, which slaps its seal on the bond if it meets the criteria.

“It is marketing,” says Aaron Bielenberg, the director of the Clean Energy Business Council. “The difference is an issuer like the Government of Dubai can potentially access a different set of investors focused on sustainable investing and can also potentially raise money at lower cost.”

That is critical for Dubai given its target of drawing 1 per cent of its energy from the sun by the end of the decade. Next year the Supreme Council of Energy plans to hire a consultant to look at a framework for funding projects, and as soon as next month it could begin looking for the contractor to design and engineer a 10MW solar park that would cost about $30m, according to an industry benchmark of $3 a watt.

source : The national

Oman’s Islamic banking on growth path

Staff Reporter from Oman Tribune

MUSCAT Islamic banking services in the Sultanate will witness robust growth in the coming days as the central bank will develop general rules and regulations to ensure good governance in these banks, said HE Hamoud Bin Sangour Al Zadjali, Executive President of the Central Bank of Oman, while speaking at the Oman Islamic Economic Forum being held at Al Bustan Palace Hotel on Saturday.

However, Islamic banks should ensure that their banking transactions are sharia compliant, he added.

These banks need to follow assorted accounting standards in certain cases that are acceptable by the parties who are trading in the stock markets and are in line with international standards, he said.

The CBO will review regulatory issues at the legislations which came into force in the first quarter of 2011 and will revise the legislations from time to time based on the developments at the local and world markets.

While elaborating on the functioning of Islamic banking, he said these banks are not isolated from traditional banks and the central bank, the regulator of the banking sector, will keep a link between Islamic banks and other banks. However, it will be a real challenge now and in future.

While talking about the future of the Islamic banking, Prof. Humayan Dar, CEO, Edbiz Consulting and chairman of the Forum, said that the size of Islamic banking industry in the world is expected to touch around $1 trillion, a rise of 7 per cent, in near future. He said while traditional banks have been affected by the global financial crisis in the past two years, the Islamic banks managed to remain immune.

Dr Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al Hinai, deputy chairman of the Islamic Bank for Development, said Islamic banks, which have witnessed robust growth since their launch, are facing challenges in developing a relationship among them, the central bank and other regulatory bodies. Creating a proper supervisory system for the Islamic financial industry, diversification of Fatwas issued by Sharia Audit authorities, lack of standard criteria for contact, lack of efficiencies and talent crunch are also posing major challenges to these banks, he added.

HE Sheikh Dr Kahlan Bin Nabhan Al Kharousi, the Sultanate’s Grand Mufti, said that the Sultanate seeks to learn from other countries’ experience in Islamic banking to avoid shortcoming and help financial and Takaful insurance companies that provide sharia-compliant products.

While talking about the establishment of legislative centres that will grant approval to Islamic banks, Al Kharousi said that banks need to fulfil three guidelines such as a legal framework, managing operations that ensure the provision of Sharia-compliant services and products and efficient and qualified human resources.

The applications require three levels of audit and sharia advice, on top of which is the Central Sharia Authority that lay the general principles and bases for the different sharia compliant activities; this is equal to bonds in capital markets in the Sultanate, he added.

Sharia committee will be in charge of developing details of daily transactions and ensure that they are compatible with the main restrictions. The Ifta house provides advice to decision-makers to ensure that the products are genuinely Sharia complaint.

In response to a question about restructuring of debts in the Islamic way, he said that this may be offered by Islamic banks to help people get rid of usurious transactions. The Islamic windows which will be opened here seek profits, hence the services offered by these windows will be based on sharia contracts.

Tun Abudllah Bin Haji Ahmed Badawi, former prime minister of Malaysia, said that there is a need for global standards in Islamic banking and finance to help it emerge as an international alternative in the sector.

Various countries have their own standards of Islamic banking and financial system. But this creates lots of difficulty in its progress, he said.

Khalid Bin Hilal Al Yahmadi, chairman of Amjad Development Company, said that researches and studies conducted found that principles of transactions at the Islamic economy provide satisfactory and fair solutions for the society.

More than 2 billion rials (over $5 billion) are semi frozen money or interest free deposits. This amount accounts for one-third of the total deposits at local banks. He pointed out that one of the studies affirmed that two-third of the Omani society prefer to deal with financial solutions that are Sharia compliant.

The two-day forum, organised by Amjad Group, was held under the auspices of HH Sayyid Shihab Bin Tariq Al Said and was attended by ministers, honoruable members of the State Council and Shura Council, undersecretaries, executive presidents of banks operating in the Sultanate and Islamic banking institutions from outside the Sultanate.

source : Oman tribune