Australia / NZ

#Malaysia: Solar #Sukuk Lights The Way To Alternative Funding Sources: Australia, Indonesia And Malaysia Working Together

SGI-Mitabu, a joint venture of two Australian solar companies, The Solar Guys International and Mitabu Australia, has revived its plans to fund its Indonesian 250 megawatt solar project with Islamic compliant funding. SGI-Mitabu will offer its sukuk in Labuan, Malaysia. SGI-Mitabu's sukuk issue is set to be the first Islamic finance offering by an Australian corporate and could provide a useful example of alternative sources of capital to other companies. Companies seeking alternative sources of funding may wish to consider whether a form of Islamic finance would be suitable for their next project, even if they have to look outside their own jurisdiction to make it happen.

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Are Contract for Differences #CFD / #Binary Options halal? Well, no. Why?

Many Muslims contacted me in the last years with one single repeating question: Are CFD and/or Binary Options halal meaning permissible in Islam? There are indeed forex brokers offering so called Islamic accounts avoiding outright interest. But still: A contract of difference does not involve the ownership of any underlying (currency, stocks etc.) hence money against money is exchanged in different amounts - this is the most simple test for the prohibited Riba. Any Muslim receiving such offers should therefore insist of receiving the Fatwa and if not provided leave out.

The intention on those trading activities everyone can ask himself; mostly it will be akin to gambling and this on top of the fact that the trading activity itself is a zero sum game; meaning what one wins another looses, which rules out again to participate in such business. It does not do any better that aside from luck the outcome is influenced by know how - the same is true for classical money games as Poker or Backgammon. Still nobody would classify Poker therefore as halal.

#Australian Islamic Finance Juggernaut Moving Forward with Middle-East #Expansion

Equitable Financial Solutions (EFSOL), Australia's largest, international Islamic finance company has announced the establishment of its Dubai office at Emirates Towers. EFSOL is actively pursuing its Middle-East expansion strategy, following the successful establishment of its ASEAN office based in Singapore. Usman Siddiqui, Managing Director of EFSOL said the new Dubai office will give investors access to the company's superior products and returns. He is confident that the EFSOL team will boost their financial products' offerings in key areas of Islamic finance.

World’s leading financial institutions in Hall of Shame for #investments in #cluster munitions producers

From Canada, CI Financial, Manulife Financial, Royal Bank of Canada and Sun Life Financial are also included in the Hall of Shame. Jointly, these Canadian financial institutions invested US$565 million in cluster munitions producers between June 2012 and April 2016.

The report by Dutch peace organisation PAX was released today in Ottawa, together with the Cluster Munition Coalition and Mines Action Canada, to put pressure on Canada and other governments to put an end to these investments.

“It is an absolute outrage that financial institutions are investing billions into companies that produce weapons which are banned under international law”, says Suzanne Oosterwijk, author of the PAX report. “Canada has also banned these weapons. It is time for financial institutions to stop disregarding the international norm with these explosive investments into producers of illegal weapons that maim and kill civilians.”

Interest-free loans steer people away from dangers of credit cards, #microfinance organisations say

In #Australia microfinance organisations are expecting a growing demand for financial help. Every year about 20.000 Australians obtain such loans and the figures are expected to double by the end of 2017. For example Good Shepherd Microfinance has partnered with state and federal governments and the National Australia Bank to provide the loans. Manager Adam Mooney said the increasing availability of no-interest loans of up to $1.200 would steer people away from credit cards and high-interest, short-term loans. He also said Good Shepherd was looking for more support to expand its programs.

Source: 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-07/interest-free-loans-'giving-low-income-people-hope'/7485160

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#Education #Crowdfunding - A direct and effective way of #Giving with #Givology

Dear Reader,

For some time I did private research on crowdfunding and fintech for the social good. Only recently I found the long existing platform givology.org - it allows to donate specifically for education to individual pupils in poorer countries and getting in touch with them! Personally this one of the causes important to me, because it ensures that the funds are being spent on education, and therewith building a future.

My questions to you are the following:

1. Would you donate for education via an internet platform, then you can conveniently check a profile from Somaliland just here:

https://www.givology.org/~tfscholarship/

2. If you are *not* interested to donate now, could you share what exactly, if anything, would make you donate? This would be exetremely helpful and I will share the information with givology.org to find a way to do just that.

3. If you any other ideas please feel free to share them. You can also directly suggest to volunteer: http://www.givology.org/get-involved/

In case you wish to receive further updates on Givology please register your email here: https://www.givology.org/register/

How Does Unethical Conduct Get Normalised in Banking?

The call to set up a Royal Commission on Banking has set in motion the debate on ethics in banking and finance, and the possible remedies to overcome the problem of unethical conduct. It is accepted that the problem is systemic, and yet the remedy suggested is at the individual level - for example the Banking + Finance Oath. The latest Panama Papers scandal dwarfs the past scandals yet again. As long as the money banks can make out of the deals is in excess of the fine they pay, such scandals will continue.

Too important to fail—addressing the humanitarian financing gap

UN study paper on the humanitarian financing gap.

Excerpt:
"The world today spends around US$ 25 billion to provide life-saving assistance to 125 million people devastated by wars and natural disasters. While this amount is twelve times greater than fifteen years ago, never before has generosity been so insufficient. Over the last years conflicts and natural disasters have led to fast-growing numbers of people in need and a funding gap for humanitarian action of an estimated US$ 15 billion. This is a lot of money, but not out of reach for a world producing US$ 78 trillion of annual GDP.

Call for Papers: Global Donors Forum, Istanbul May 2016, 24-25

Resetting Priorities - Redefining Roles

Five years ago, the Global Donors Forum was convened in Dubai to take on a challenging task: to define the roadmap for Muslim giving into the next decade. As a growing network of philanthropists, grantmaking foundations and socially responsible corporations, the Forum lead a consultative dialogue among the thought leaders from which, it was hoped, a new social compact could emerge.

Half a decade on, with the world having changed dramatically as events in the Middle East would attest, the Global Donors Forum 2016, has a new set of issues to focus upon. Foremost among these is the need to rigorously analyse the past decade in order to ascertain how best to formulate strategies to counter emerging challenges. The GDF 2016 will, therefore, attempt to set new priorities as it looks to redefine the role of philanthropy, with a focus on the Muslim world in a radically changed global landscape.

Australia sees nascent growth in Islamic finance despite tax concerns

Australia has begun to see a steady stream of property deals using Islamic financing as the attraction of low-risk tenants and a weak Australian dollar offset concerns about the lack of a welcoming tax environment for such transactions. While the emergence of such deals represents a breakthrough for Gulf and Southeast Asian investors, questions remain over how much momentum will develop as Australia has yet to follow the lead of other jurisdictions like Britain and Hong Kong in passing tax law amendments to facilitate Islamic finance. Interest is strong, and structures have now been developed that can suit commercial investment deals as well as development financing.

Islamic fund manager reaches $100 million milestone

The fund manager behind the first private Islamic superannuation fund in the world, Crescent Wealth, has passed $100 million in funds under management. The benchmark figure was passed after the Australia-based group reported a 245 per cent growth in funds under management for the 2015 financial year with the group tapping into demand for ethical Islamic investment products. Crescent Wealth launched the first private Islamic superannuation fund in the world in 2013 growing fund members close to ten-fold between the 2014 and 2015 financial years to reach 4200 members, with an expectation of further growth due to interest from overseas investors.

Australian Islamic Fund Manager Crescent Wealth hits $100million milestone

Australia-based Islamic fund manager Crescent Wealth is now managing over $100 Million in Islamic Super and Investments. This makes Crescent Wealth not only one of Australia’s fastest growing Super funds, but also one of the best performing with many of their funds market leaders in their respective sectors. This is a remarkable achievement for a company that launched the world’s first private Islamic pension fund a little over 2 years ago. Crescent Wealth’s International Equity Fund was ranked as the #1 Top Performing Ethical Fund returning 27.9% after fees (ranking by Financial Express for the 2015 financial year). Since its launch on 22 February 2013 to 30 June 15, the same fund has achieved a great total return of 60.65%.

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Cryptocurrencies and Islamic finance?

Bitcoin (https://bitcoin.org) started to make the idea of a cryptocurrency popular. What is missing so far is an intense discussion among Sharia scholars.

What makes Bitcoin unique is, that it is a) created by a computer program b) that it is created and verified by a decentralised process, the so-called 'Blockchain' technology (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_chain_(database)), which is solving a practical problem for the first time: To enable trust and accounting without a central ledger, such as a central bank. c) that it faciliates payments quick, efficient and discreet - while the latter leads to accusation of misuse, e.g. for gaming, drugs, terror finance etc.

How it can be seen from an Islamic perspective is not widely discussed, despite it deserves the attention. What we find in search engines are some discussions and also an initiative, which calls itself a bank (https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=21732.0).

Aussie Philanthropists Struggling With Red Tape

The Index of Philanthropic Freedom 2015 by the Centre for Global Prosperity at the Hudson Institute ranked Australia behind New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Japan and Spain in terms of barriers and incentives for individuals and organisations to donate money and time to social causes. Australia was ranked 13th overall for philanthropic freedom out of 64 countries, with the Netherlands, the USA and Germany taking out the top three places. New Zealand was ranked eighth while the UK was one place behind Australia at 14. Australia’s philanthropic environment is decidedly disjointed. On the one hand, Australia maintains the region’s most favorable environment for the operation and registration of CSOs (Civil Society Organisations), on the other hand, Australia has a variety of policies that are not necessarily designed to deter cross-border flows but do exactly that.

Middle East investors looking to buy properties in Australia

Middle East investors are increasingly looking at Australia as a destination to expand their real estate portfolios, according to IP Global. A stable economy coupled with strong population growth continues to underpin the property markets in cities such as Brisbane and Melbourne, the property investment firm said in its latest quarterly global real estate outlook. While there are signs that property prices are overheating in traditional investor hot spots like Sydney, pockets of value still exist in suburbs of Brisbane and Melbourne. Paul Preston, Director, Head of EMEA at IP Global, which has offices in the UAE, said that a rising population and big infrastructure spending programs support the outlook for real estate returns in areas beyond the more well-known, traditional investment locations.

Muslim woman turns to financial institutions for Islam-friendly mortgages

Sara Jawadi, a Muslim woman who unsuccessfully lobbied New Zealand's big banks for interest-free mortgages, is turning her attention to other financial institutions. Jawadi said she had approached Kiwibank, ANZ, BNZ and Westpac but she was either met with no response or was told to send an email. The next step was to approach private investors and finance companies in the hope of a better response, she said. Jawadi and other Kiwi Muslims in similar situations could be in luck as New Zealand's first Islam-friendly KiwiSaver provider plans to offer interest-free mortgages to Muslims. Amanah Ethical launched the country's first Sharia-compliant KiwiSaver earlier this year.

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Short European fixed-income trade. A loss of a lifetime?

Bill Gross, well known fixed income fund manager twittered (https://twitter.com/januscapital/status/590519759797530624) and moved markets with his idea to sell German sovereign bonds short (selling without having them) to buy them back later cheaper. He called it "The Short of a lifetime"; the only issue would be the "timing"...

Interest rates will be once raising again but will short seller stay solvent long enough to benefit? The German economy is doing fine, but other EURO zone countries do not perform as well and need low interest rates for a prolonged period of time. Japan has so far not convincingly ended their easy money policy.

Australia's Waratah Resources to launch Islamic commodities venture

Sydney-based Waratah Resources Limited plans to launch an Islamic commodities trading business as it shifts focus from Asian markets to the Middle East. The move adds to a growing number of firms keen to tap into an Islamic finance market that is developing beyond its traditional homes in the Middle East and southeast Asia. Waratah will setup a company domiciled in the Malaysian offshore finance centre of Labuan under a 50/50 joint venture agreement with Malaysia's Amanie Holdings, an Islamic finance advisory firm. The firm's next goal is to secure funding arrangements with partners who have been introduced by its sharia partners over the past few months, to provide the required capital for its joint venture vehicle, said executive chairman Ben Kirkpatrick.

Countries with very high religious diversity - including China - outpace world in economic growth

The Weekly Number's analysis of a new Pew Research Center report - a study based on methodology developed by Brian J. Grim - finds that the 12 countries identified in the study as having very high religious diversity each outpaced the world's economic growth between 2008 and 2012.

Full Report: http://www.pewforum.org/2014/04/04/global-religious-diversity/

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