Bold new ideas for helping Syrian refugees and their overburdened Middle Eastern host countries are gaining traction among international donors, shocked into action by this year's migration of hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrians to Europe.
Rather than struggling to gather humanitarian aid for refugees, the plans center around investing billions of dollars, much of it to be raised on financial markets. The money would go for development in countries such as Jordan and Lebanon to improve lives for both their own populations and refugees.
More controversial is a demand by some in the aid community that, in return for such a "Mideast Marshall Plan," Jordan and Lebanon must allow Syrian refugees to work, integrating them more into society. The host countries, however, point to high domestic unemployment in arguing they cannot put large numbers of refugees to work legally.
"We need to be ambitious," the regional chief of the World Bank, Ferid Belhaj, told The Associated Press. "Development is the key."
More than one-third of small and medium enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa are out of the purview of banking sector and there exists a funding gap of up to $13bn for SME Islamic financing in the region.
Moreover sukuk, or Islamic bonds, have gained real momentum with many non-Muslim countries raising funds through these instruments, said Malaysian Premier Dato Sri Mohamad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak at the 11th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF), which got underway here yesterday and attended by more than 3,000 delegates from 98 countries.
“35% of SMEs in the Mena are excluded from the formal banking sector. Indeed, there is a financing gap of up to $13bn for SME Islamic financing in this region,” Razak said, quoting a study by International Finance Corp (IFC).
The early aughts were a dusty time in Amman, Jordan. Fueled both by optimistic real estate developers hoping to replicate the economic success of Dubai, and by an influx of Iraqi refugees across all levels of the economic spectrum, property prices and construction spiked. After 2008's financial crisis, though, much of that construction halted. Last year, Studio-X's Amman lab—the Jordanian outpost of Columbia University's worldwide network of architecture and urban planning research labs—set out to catalogue these abandoned buildings. Their developers are still waiting for enough money to complete them.
The catalog of 6,500 numismatic pieces – coins, glass weights, dies, medals, etc. - is the third major catalog of Islamic numismatic material held in the Egyptian National Library, formerly the Khedivial Library. The catalog differs from its predecessors in a number of ways. First, it is a new catalog in that inscriptions had to be read from the digital images which were taken under difficult and rushed conditions and not from the actual objects. Second, inscriptions in Arabic are included in this electronic catalog. Inscriptions in European languages and references are the work of Dr. Norman D. Nicol from the 1982 catalog of the collection.
Financial inclusion is one of many the areas that caught the new public authorities’ attention in Tunisia. A decree-law was passed in November 2011 that authorized the establishment of credit institutions dedicated to low-income people. It also created a modern regulatory agency, the microfinance supervisory authority. Beyond micro-lending, the Ministry of Finance now aims at modernizing the entire financial sector in Tunisia by 2020. Such a plan is timely and provides hope for further financial deepening. In this regard, a recent snapshot on financial inclusion completed by CGAP and the World Bank provides insights.
From Takaful Emarat’s perspective, a number of factors in the Mena region have contributed to a relatively weak culture of financial planning and saving among our citizens and expatriate populations. However, education programmes addressing the importance of financial planning in the region are required to highlight the need for both citizens and expatriates to plan and save in order to generate income post-retirement, provide for family education and ensure comprehensive life and health cover is in place, for example. This situation is changing with the growing popularity of takaful as a means to plan for unexpected financial or medical emergencies.
L’université Paris Dauphine lance, en collaboration avec le cabinet Fidaroc Grant Thornton, l’Executive Master principes et pratiques de la finance islamique au Maroc, à Casablanca. L'occasion aussi de faire le point sur les perspectives de la finance islamique au Maroc et dans le monde. Le choix du Maroc pour lancer cette formation n’est pas dû au hasard. Au contraire, il traduit les atouts et les perspectives de développement de la finance islamique au Maroc. Faïçal Mekouar, président de Fidaroc Grant Thornton a par contre rappelé le niveau non satisfaisant de la bancarisation au Maroc.
Islamic lenders will find it difficult to compete in Lebanon's banking sector without regulatory amendments to support growth of the Islamic banking industry, Mutasim Mahmassani , the general manager of Al Baraka Bank Lebanon said. He said that the market share of Islamic banking assets in the overall banking industry in Lebanon remains below 1%. Al Baraka Bank Lebanon , a subsidiary of Al Baraka Banking Group, expects its profits to grow by 7-8% this year to nearly USD 1 million, he added. The official said that lack of awareness of Islamic banking options in Lebanon was also a major obstacle to growth, adding that murabaha is the most popular tool of Islamic finance in Lebanon.
Queen Noor of Jordan, the founder and chairperson of the King Hussein Foundation (KHF), recently announced the launch of Ethmar, a microfinance institution (MFI) that is compliant with Shariah. Queen Noor expressed the vision of Ethmar becoming an innovative model for economic empowerment similar to the other pioneering programs launched by the King Hussein Foundation. As of 2015, the foundation operates programs including the Jubilee Institute; the Information and Research Center; the National Center for Culture and Performing Arts and the National Music Conservatory.
Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt is offering the country's central bank three proposals to activate the mortgage finance initiative for the low and medium-class incomes. Mahmoud Idris - Faisal Bank's Product Manager for Mortgage Unit - said that one of the three proposals offered by the bank to the CBE is to raise premiums of the housing unit gradually every year. The second suggestion is to elongate the funding period from 20 to 25 years. Idris stated that the third proposal is to launch a national campaign by the CBE in coordination with banks to raise citizens' awareness about the importance of the initiative and the necessary steps to participate in it.
Le patron de CIH Bank Ahmed Rahhou a annoncé vouloir se placer sur le créneau de la finance participative. Les banques ont jusqu’à la mi-novembre pour déposer leur demande d’agrément auprès de Bank al Maghrib. Le dossier de CIH Bank est en train d’être finalisé. Le PDG a précisé que cette activité, si elle obtient l’autorisation de la banque centrale, serait menée en partenariat avec une autre banque, sans en préciser le nom. Pour le moment, la BCP et la BMCE ont aussi fait part de leur volonté de se lancer dans le secteur. Des banques étrangères souhaiteraient aussi investir. En ce qui concerne les chiffres du premier semestre 2015 publiés le 21 septembre, la direction de la CIH Bank s’en dit satisfaite.
Egypt's Wethaq Takaful Insurance is to launch its first real estate fund during upcoming general assembly scheduled for next November, head of financial and administration affairs Abdel El Aziz Labib said. Wethaq will present 50 million Egyptian pounds (US$6.4 million) as an initial capital for the new fund. The Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority (EFSA) has granted initial approval for the fund. Wethaq intends to raise the capital of its fund to 250 million pounds within few years after inception, a step toward a plan to launch another fund. Furthermore, Labib said Wethaq's talks with the Egyptian regulator had also included a proposal to establish a new subsidiary to manage the new fund. The new subsidiary shall be 20% owned by Wethaq Egypt, he added.
Le gouverneur de Bank Al Maghrib, Abdellatif Jouahri, a assuré que le Comité des établissements de crédit a reçu plusieurs demandes d'agréments de la part d'institutions étrangères pour l'implantation de banques participatives au Maroc. Pour la plupart, il s'agit de banques du Qatar, d'Arabie Saoudite, du Bahrëin et du Koweit, qui veulent collaborer avec des banques de la place, pour certaines, et s'implanter au Maroc, pour d'autres. Toutes les demandes seront traitées selon des critères spécifiques, comme la capacité à réaliser un bon rendement. D'autres banques internationales ont également manifesté leur intérêt pour le Maroc, notamment HSBC, qui a déjà reçu une autorisation pour ouvrir ses portes au royaume.
Iraq will seek up to $500 million in loans from the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to help cover its projected deficit, complementing the country's return to the international debt market, according to the bond's prospectus. Baghdad wants to raise up to $6 billion in a series of dollar-denominated bonds, Iraq's first in nine years, to fund salaries as well as infrastructure projects in the oil and gas, electricity and transportation sectors.
Chief Executive of Al Baraka Banking Group Adnan Ahmed Yousif has revealed that the bank has completed the procedures for obtaining the necessary licenses to operate in the Moroccan market. It already has operations in Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. He added that the bank has also obtained the necessary approvals for the opening of 20 new branches, and plans to open 25 branches by 2020. Al Baraka is also planning to establish a software company in partnership with European investors and Indians with capital of $15 million under the name Al Baraka Banking Software. The Islamic bank also plans to expand into India and Indonesia. It already has a representative office in Indonesia but sold out of an investment company in India.
Middle East Payment Services (MEPS) - a consortium of local and regional banks that serves as a payment services provider in the Middle East - has signed a partnership agreement with Cihan Bank for Islamic Investment and Finance. This step corresponds with the Bank’s goals to expand the range of banking products and services it offers in Iraq by adding new services in the electronic payment field. By virtue of the agreement, MEPS will provide various services comprising call centers and operating MasterCard point-of-sale (POS) devices. In addition, MEPS will issue the Bank’s payment cards at all its branches across Iraq, as Cihan Bank strives to provide all types of MasterCard including debit, credit and prepaid cards.
The public and private banks in Syria have worked on developing their products despite of the current crisis as they have continued to fund the imports and the economic processes according to the needs of the national economy during the current stage. Some 20 banks are operating in Syria, six of which are private and 14 are public, while three of those banks are Islamic. Contrary to most of the economic sectors in Syria, the profits of the private banks have witnessed a significant development reaching SYP 45 billion by the end of the first half of the current year with an increase of 80.3 percent in comparison with 2014 while between the years 2013 and 2014 they were increased by 65.5 percent.
Egypt is planning to introduce sukuk and revisit the international capital market to help finance its $36bn financing gap during fiscal year (FY) 2015/2016, Minister of Finance Hany Kadry Dimian said. In June, the Egyptian government sold 10-year international bonds worth $1.5bn, with revenue of 6%. Dimian added that the best bet to bridge the financing gap is to continue reforming the economy. The Suez Canal Zone that was entirely a military zone now is opening to everyone, Dimian added. The oil sector is also opening up to new private investors, Dimian noted. Moreover, having a fully fledged VAT system will increase competitiveness, he added, highlighting that competitiveness will help stabilise the pound.
Ratings assigned to Jordan Islamic Bank derive strength from the institution’s strong franchise as the largest retail Islamic bank operating in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The bank’s financial risk profile is also healthy, with strong and improving asset quality indicators, sufficient profitability position, and sizable liquid reserves. Leverage indicators of the institution are at a comfortable level. Jordan’s macroeconomic environment, however, remains challenging against the backdrop of regional instability. The bank has been proactive in incorporating changes in the code of corporate governance for Islamic banks issued by the Central Bank of Jordan.
The Tripoli-based Libyan Audit Bureau has confirmed that Jordan based Al Baraka bank has returned a transfer from Libya for being ‘‘suspicious’’ and for ‘‘funding terrorism’’. The transfer originating from the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) were intended to cover Libyan student scholarships in Jordan. The Audit Bureau revealed that it had, in cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education and the CBL, opened an independent bank account for the Cultural Attaché at its Amman embassy specifically for scholarship funds. However, the Audit Bureau admitted that the Libyan embassy broke procedures and regulations and an agreement by using the funds on other spending rather than for student scholarships.