Islamic finance gets the nod

THE Rudd government is pressing ahead with plans to develop Islamic finance in Australia to help position the nation as a leading global financial services hub.

Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry told funds managers yesterday he would travel to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain at the end of next month for talks on the regulation, promotion and export of Islamic finance, banking and insurance.

Estimated at $US729 billion at the end of 2007, the Islamic financial services sector has been growing rapidly, and the government sees it as an alternative source of capital for Australian business and consumers.

“Australia sits as one of the closest neighbours to Indonesia, a rapidly growing developing economy and the largest Muslim nation in the world,” Mr Sherry said at a function hosted by the Investment and Financial Services Association and Deloitte.

“We have close and growing business ties to the Gulf region and beyond. We must do more.”

Charging interest is prohibited in Islamic financial services, as is speculation, and financial transactions must be underpinned by a tangible asset and require both parties to share the risk.

The government-appointed Australian Financial Centre Forum has recommended equal access for such products be introduce by removing regulatory and tax barriers.

Mr Sherry said the government was also considering ways to improve the tax treatment of managed investment trusts to attract foreign investment.

“In 2008, we asked the Board of Taxation to review these tax arrangements, and now we are considering the board’s final report,” he said.

He said the government strongly supported foreign investment in Australia.

source : the australian

Dubai’s Islamic Financial Services Firms to Support the Development of Islamic Finance in Australia

The second Islamic Financial Services Mission, organised by Dubai Export Development Corporation, ended in a high note with further dialogues already in progress with state and federal regulators to make legislative changes to support the growth in Australia’s Islamic financial sector.

The recently concluded mission, which aims to strengthen the exports of Dubai’s Islamic Financial products and services, was the largest focused sector outward trade mission planned by EDC, an agency of the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED), Government of Dubai.

The Mission delegates, headed by Engineer Saed Al Awadi, EDC Chief Executive Officer, participated in various seminars in Sydney and Melbourne that raised awareness about Islamic finance and Dubai’s capabilities in this sector.

On the sidelines of the mission, the representatives attended a ceremony launching the Australian Government’s publication on Islamic finance along with Westpac Institutional Bank’s first Shariah compliant product. Launched by the Hon Simon Crean MP, Australian Trade Minister, Westpac’s Shariah compliant product’s Special Interbank Placement for Islamic institutions is a solution specifically developed for Islamic investors.

Minister Crean applauded EDC and the Australian Trade Commission’s (Austrade) initiative of promoting Islamic finance in Australia. “We believe that there are almost 400,000 Australian Muslims who may use Islamic financial services if they are made more accessible. Islamic finance offers a very sophisticated range of financial products which cater to a growing proportion of the world’s population and is one of the world’s fastest growing financial practices and is spreading globally,” Minister Crean said.

“I am pleased that Australia’s interest in Islamic finance has been growing in recent years, with a number of Australian firms developing and launching Islamic finance products for both domestic and international markets. Westpac’s Special Interbank Placement for Islamic institutions is another example of Australian innovation in collaboration with offshore Islamic institutional investors to create solutions specifically for investment by Islamic customers. As Government, we want to get the policy framework right so the commercial aspects, such as the Westpac solution, follow.  I hope this is the first of many Islamic banking products, including for our superannuation and funds management industries,” he added.

The meetings conducted during the mission were organised by the Australian, New South Wales and Victorian governments. Industry associations and three of Australia’s largest commercial banks were among the organisations met by the delegates.

Dr. Mohd Daud Bakar, Managing Director, Amanie Islamic Finance Consultancy and Education LLC, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) stated, “Australia is rich in natural resources, has a competitive and innovative financial services industry and enjoys strong business relationships with the Middle East. Having Shariah compliant finance in Australia would lead to significant business for those looking for Shariah compliant opportunities.  We are proud to be engaged in supporting the growth of the Islamic finance industry in Australia.”

Furthermore, Majid Dawood, Chief Executive Officer, Yasaar Limited said that, “This was a very successful and beneficial mission for our organization.  We have been able to identify new opportunities and would be continuing the dialogue with the government agencies and financial institutions we met to support the growth of Islamic finance in Australia.”

Among the companies which participated in the mission were Noor Islamic Bank; Noor Takaful and Export Credit Insurance Company of the Emirates; Noor Investment Group; Yasaar Media; Amanie Islamic Finance and Yasaar Limited; IslamicAdvisory.com; NASDAQ Dubai as well as the Dubai International Financial Centre.

source : Al Bawaba