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Upheavals And Islamic Finance

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A short opinion piece on the fate and direction of Islamic finance ex-post the Arab Awakening - Middle East Spring / Uprisings.

A short opinion piece on the fate and direction of Islamic finance ex-post the Arab Awakening - Middle East Spring / Uprisings.


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  • 1. MARKET REPORT www.islamicÀnancenews.com Upheavals and the Fate of Islamic Finance By Sayd Farook and Rushdi SiddiquiAbout a year ago, we were commissioned to write a substantive world, Al-Azhar University. Mubarak also did his best to ensure thatreport on Islamic capital markets. Despite Egypt being the birthplace the Egyptian population maintained a cool distance from doctrinal orof Islamic Ànance and despite the strong economic/population legal Islam. The effect of this is seen far and wide with the Egyptianfundamentals and latent demand, we predicted that Islamic Ànance population, despite the fact that there is a yearning for a holisticwould not grow and may even decline in the country. application of Islam, as evidenced by the broad based appeal of the Muslim brotherhood.There are three reasons for this: 1. Baggage associated with the ‘Islamic’ investment ponzi With the upcoming independent elections, it is likely that Islamist schemes of the 1980s leaning voices such as the brotherhood will regain their rightful place 2. Permissibility of interest bearing bank deposits according to in Egyptian politics, whether that is in opposition or government. This the Grand Mufti of Al Azhar Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy is not to say that Egypt will turn into a hard line Islamist state. Rather, 3. Egyptian government’s pressure to stem the inÁuence of the brotherhood, as a political movement, has demonstrated over Islamist philosophies, including Islamic Ànance the past six years, their determination to establish good government, rather than determine rules for the length of skirts.We witnessed the effect of this Àrst hand when we were invited toCairo to present Islamic Ànance to an educated group of lawyers, What is relevant for Islamic Ànance in all of this, is not so much the overtbankers and professionals late last year. There was seemingly a built- Islamist leanings of the Muslim brotherhood. Rather, it is the fact thatin cynicism and aggression against the commercial applications of the key impediment to the takeoff of Islamic Ànance in Egypt has largelyIslam. When the Egyptian Financial Services Authority (EFSA) decided been removed.to Ànally establish laws and regulations for Sukuk, primarily to attractGulf petro-liquidity, they even decided to avoid any terms that indicated Islamic Ànance missed an important opportunity during the credit crisisany Islamic afÀliation for the regulation. to truly educate G-20 country regulators and institutions about asset- backed Ànancing and investing in the real economy. Maybe lightningIn all our experiences educating on Islamic Ànance all over the world does strike twice in the same place – the ‘bullet’less removal of en-(including Europe, Central Asia, Africa and the Americas), Egypt was trenched despots in Tunisia and Egypt, presents a very special testingunique in its aggressive reaction (by Muslims) towards Islamic Ànance. ground for ‘real’ Islamic Ànance for the region.Even Azerbaijan, a country that has been under the shadows of atheismand communism for almost three quarters of a century with little sign Depositor democracyof Islamic practice, bankers and lawyers had a proactive attitude Consequently, Islamic Ànance needs to be presented to the peopletowards Islamic Ànance. This was evidenced by the establishment neither as a problem or a solution, but a Ànancial or investing option.of four dedicated Islamic Ànancial institutions despite having little It is about business, although others have made it about religion.regulatory support. The reason we raise Egypt as an illustration is The state’s secular heavy hand of control will not be exchanged forbecause it is a glaring example of the rapidly changing dynamics for extremist’s heavy hand of control via selective interpretation ofthe region and more importantly, the dynamics of Islamic Ànance. religious doctrines. Maybe we could opt for an experiment of substance over form, and call it participation banking (in reference to Turkey) overThe growth of Islamic Ànance is attributable to a number of factors — Islamic banking with its current negative connotations. a. surplus risk capital b. doctrinal religiosity (as found in the Middle East and increasingly One of the lessons from both movements, and implications for Yemen, in minority communities in the West) Syria, Jordan, and elsewhere where Islamic Ànance is a Áickering Áame, c. comparative efÀciencies with conventional Ànance is people want options, including the option of making mistakes. The d. enabling regulatory environment for both banking and Islamic ‘free will’ to want Islamic Ànance should be determined by demand Ànance and if imposed, it will surely backÀre. Much like a political party in a democratic state, Islamic Ànance is largely a function of demandWhen a country has a revolutionary upheaval like the one Egypt has from the investors, and wins its ‘deposit’ votes, only when there is theexperienced, it certainly changes the dynamics and growth prospects ability to place the ‘deposit’ votes and not when some invisible handof Islamic Ànance in that country. The same goes for all the other of regulators coerces the population.countries experiencing this as we speak. In terms of Islamic Ànance,there will be some gainers and losers. The critical question is, which We know that latent demand exists from the fundamentals. Anecdotally,country will come out as a winner and which a loser? a banker tells us that the demand for Islamic Ànance is so strong that his multinational bank has been receiving daily requests from the localEgypt, for example, is likely to be a gainer. Besides the ‘Islamic’ ofÀce to open Islamic branches in Egypt. Therefore, for Islamic Ànanceinvestment ponzi schemes of the eighties, religion and religious to prosper in Egypt, all it needs is an open door; the same door open topractice run deep in Egypt. A signiÀcant proportion of the population the conventional banking sector; the same door that has been closedconsider themselves practicing Muslims. However, for the past 30 for the past 30 years.years, they have been unable to really express their religious practices,repressed by Mubarak who banned the Muslim brotherhood in fear Hence, the forecasted growth trends which we predicted for Egyptof his overthrow. The Egyptian government even has a stranglehold in our study in Figure 1 (dating back to 2009/10), should perhapson the renowned and oldest educational establishment of the Muslim continued... © Page 20 23rd March 2011
  • 2. MARKET REPORT www.islamicÀnancenews.com Upheavals and the Fate of Islamic Finance (continued)be revised to reÁect the stronger opportunities, now that the key democracy, which includes representation from all segments ofimpediment is removed. society, including the Islamic segments. Perhaps Libya will also be a growth prospect, if its governance infrastructure survives theFigure 1. Actual and forecast Islamic Ànance penetration rates overthrow of the existing regime. However, a distinct disadvantage of Libya is its lack of infrastructure development when it comes to 50% banking and Ànancial services, which may hinder the growth of the 45% banking industry in general, let alone Islamic Ànance. 40% This is not to say that upheavals are always a good thing for Islamic 35% Ànance. The events that took place over the past weeks in Bahrain 30% along with the negative international media representation have shaken the international community’s perception of the ‘business 25% friendly’ investment hub. This, according to senior bankers in Bahrain, 20% may lead to repatriation of funds and relocation of ofÀces to locations 15% such as Dubai and Qatar which have become all the more attractive. However, the growth prospects of Islamic Ànance and in general, the 10% Ànancial services industry will largely rest on the upcoming decisions 5% of the Bahraini government. 0% 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 On the media side, the progressive elements of the government need to immediately create an environment within the country that can Bahrain Pakistan Bangladesh Qatar lead to a rapid restoration of its image followed by a positive public Egypt Saudi Arabia relations (PR) campaign and re-engagement with the international Indonesia Turkey* Ànancial community (by offering material incentives to Ànancial Jordan UAE Yemen institutions to relocate their operations back here). The excellent Kuwait Malaysia* Average work carried out by the Bahrain Economic Development Board needs to be sustained and even boosted given the circumstances. On theSource: Bankscope data (A) and author’s estimates (F) political side, if Bahrain wants to avoid the events of the past couple of months being perceived as a recurring affair and therefore implyingTable 1. Islamic Ànance assets actual, forecast and market potential ratings political risk volatility, it needs to start engaging in civic discourse with US$ billion 2007A 2013E Market potential the opposition that yields material economic and political rights and beneÀts to all classes of society. Bahrain 20 75 ***** Bangladesh 4 9 * Despite the events of the last few weeks, Bahrain can turn this into a Egypt 6 10 * more positive affair if it is perceived that elements of the government and the future leaders of the country embrace change and will strive to Indonesia 2 11 **** maintain Bahrain’s economic and Ànancial services competitiveness Iran 152 644 ** at all costs. If the country manages to walk and talk the appropriate PR Jordan 3 7 ** campaign, Bahrain as an investment and Ànancial hub, may survive Kuwait 45 112 **** with its reputation intact. Let us wait and see. Malaysia 23 116 ***** This article is written in the authors’ personal capacities and does not Pakistan 4 22 **** in any way represent the views of Thomson Reuters. Qatar 21 147 ***** Saudi Arabia 115 374 ***** Rushdi Siddiqui Global head of Islamic Ànance and OIC countries Sudan 8 46 *** Thomson Reuters Turkey 17 59 *** Email: rushdi.siddiqui@thomsonreuters.com UAE 56 209 **** Rushdi Siddiqui is responsible for Thomson Reuters’ Islamic Ànance Yemen 2 6 * and OIC initiatives. Prior to this, he was responsible for establishing and running the Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes. Total 478 1,848Source: Bankscope data (A) and author’s estimates (F) Dr Sayd Farook Global head Islamic capital marketsMuch of the fundamentals here can be transferred to Tunisia, another Thomson Reuterscountry that was once ruled under the strong arm of a secularist Email: sayd.farook@thomsonreuters.comdictator. It was interesting to note the jubilance of thousands of Dr Sayd Farook leads up Thomson Reuters’ Islamic capital marketssupporters, both Islamist leaning and non-Islamist come to support transactions initiative as global head of Islamic capital markets. Prior tothe Islamist leaning Tunisian opposition Àgure Rachid Ghannouchi. this, he held senior roles in the Islamic Ànance industry including with thePerhaps, Tunisia will also have its fair share of representative AAOIFI, Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance and Dar Al Istithmar. © Page 21 23rd March 2011