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#Saudi Arabia warns against dealing in #cryptocurrencies

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Finance has warned against dealing or investing in digital currencies including cryptocurrencies as they are not recognised by legal entities in the Kingdom. The finance ministry stated that digital currencies are outside the scope of the regulatory framework and are not traded by financial institutions in Saudi Arabia, adding that such cryptocurrencies have been associated with fraudulent activities and attract suspicion. The use of Saudi Arabia’s name, national currency or emblem by any entity for digital currencies marketing will be subject to legal actions.

Beijing’s Belt and Road plans could boost the Islamic banking sector

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is expected to spur further development in Islamic finance around the world. Many of the countries along the infrastructure belt are home to predominantly Muslim populations, including Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The China-headquartered Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank had already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Islamic Development Bank to collaborate on various areas including Islamic finance development. Sukuk issuance had grown strongly in 2017, but Chinese issuers have actually pulled away since then. That’s been attributed to the complexities involved, particularly as standards differ across regulatory regimes with varying interpretations of Sharia compliance. Still, financial links between China and the Middle East continue to grow. The relationships have increasingly moved from just trade partnerships to joint ventures.

McKinsey Issues Warning Shot Over ‘Ominous’ Signs of an Asian Debt Crisis

Global consulting firm McKinsey is warning that signs of an Asian debt crisis are "ominous". Increased indebtedness, stresses in repaying borrowing, lender vulnerabilities and shadow banking practices are some of the concerns. McKinsey examined the balance sheets of more than 23,000 companies across eleven Asia-Pacific countries, and found firms in most of Asia face "significant stress" in servicing debt obligations. In countries such as China and India, those pressures have risen since 2007, while falling sharply in the U.S. and U.K. during the same period. Since 1997, financial regulators have put in place safeguards to prohibit a repeat of the crisis that engulfed Asian nations. Potential triggers of a crisis that need to be monitored include defaults in repayment of debt, liquidity mismatches, and large fluctuations in exchange rates, according to McKinsey.

Kuwait Finance House launches open banking

Kuwait Finance House-Bahrain (KFH-Bahrain) has announced going live with advanced open banking infrastructure, which will allow it to partner with innovative fintech firms. The kingdom is one of the earliest global adopters of mandatory open banking, putting it at the vanguard of customer-driven change in financial services. KFH-Bahrain is one of the first banks to integrate a fintech through the launch of its KFH Jazeel banking platform in partnership with Tarabut Gateway, a subsidiary of Almoayed Technologies. According to KFH-Bahrain executive manager Mohammed Fahmi Hamad, open banking will allow bank account holders to consent to sharing details of their accounts and payments history to licensed third-party providers to make more aware financial decisions. In addition to that, customers will soon be able to link their accounts to independent licensed applications.

#Saudi peer-to-peer funding platform signs with SRB

Saudi peer-to-peer funding platform Raqamyah has assigned the Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB) to manage the Sharia compliance affairs of its crowd-funding technology. Raqamyah founder Ammar Bakheet said the company was developing faster ways of connecting funders with SME’s and also enact the spectrum of SAMA’s regulations in the Kingdom. Shariyah Review Bureau, founded in 2004 in Saudi Arabia and licensed by Central Bank of Bahrain in 2007 provides Sharia advisory services from setting up Sharia Boards to Sharia certification and Sharia audits. SRB founder Yasser S Dahlawi said the collaboration with Raqamyah makes SRB the preeminent choice of Sharia Advisor for P2P firms seeking to offer crowd-funding opportunities in the Kingdom.

Use arbitration to solve Islamic finance disputes

With the growing number of the Islamic financial service providers in Kenya, a proportionate increase in Shariah-related commercial and financial disputes is also expected. In Kenya there is no comprehensive legal and regulatory framework that governs the application of Shariah principles. Arbitration as a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism is gaining in popularity owing to the time and cost it takes to resolve disputes. The disputing parties can select the arbiters and the proceedings can be held in private away from the media glare and therefore does not damage reputations and destroy brands. Islamic financial providers need to ensure that arbitration clauses are factored in their contractual documentations to take care of the need to seek sound Shariah determination of commercial disputes.

The Surprising Leader In The Impact Investing Boom: Debt

Impact investing was once the domain of nuns and other faith-based investors, who wanted their portfolios to reflect their values. Then billionaire capitalists started to build a range of impact products and propelling the impact investing market to over $500 billion. As impact investing has grown over the past decade, impact loan agreements have become increasingly focused on protecting and enhancing impact performance. At a minimum, this has meant including reporting covenants focused on borrower impact performance. Many impact investors go further by modifying common contractual provisions to embed impact considerations. Some impact lenders include covenants that limit borrower expenditures that are excessive or inconsistent with impact goals. Meanwhile, other impact lenders are using "do no harm" covenants to mitigate the heightened reputational risk.

Noor Bank launches online #art gallery

Noor Bank has launched Noor Art Online Gallery, a new digital portal showcasing artworks from a range of galleries and artists in the region and around the world. Designed to display diverse genres of art, specially curated for Noor Wealth clients, the Noor Art Online Gallery aims to serve as a bridge to connect artists and high-net-worth individuals. The bank stated that the works are available for online credit card purchase by clients around the world and will be delivered to their doorstep. Noor Bank's Head of Retail Banking Mufazzal Kajiji said that art acquisition was a key area of interest and this platform would add value to the customer journey, as well as promote art and culture in the UAE.

#Turkey: Islamic economy institute to hold int'l studies

Turkey's first institute on Islamic economy and finance aims to conduct international academic studies in Istanbul. University president Erol Ozvar said the Marmara University Institute of Islamic Economics And Finance (MUISEF) will expand its studies with further academic research. MUISEF is the first of its kind in Turkey in terms of being an academic institute. Ozvar added that the instruction language will be in English and will provide training on Islamic economy and finance for graduate and doctoral students coming from different disciplines. The institute was established under a joint protocol with the Finance Office of the Turkish Presidency and serves the purpose of making Istanbul a "finance center".

Islamic Finance Expert: ‘Halal Coin’ a Matter of Time and Awareness

According to Amanie Advisors CEO Suhaida Mahpot, the existing skepticism towards crypto in Islamic countries is not a pure rejection, but rather a consequence of uncertainty. Mahpot compared the existing situation of cryptocurrencies with Malaysia’s controversial types of investment known as Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) and Amanah Saham Nasional (ASN). The perception of ASB has transformed over the years and it was decided to consider it as "harus" in 2012, which means that it is neither prohibited nor encouraged by the teachings of the faith. Both ASB and ASN investments were finally declared permissible for Muslims by the Selangor Fatwa Committee, the same regulatory authority that previously prohibited them. Mahpot argues that the same goes for digital currencies and financial institutions and scholars need more education about cryptocurrencies and their benefits.

Maldives Islamic Bank launches IPO

The Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) has launched its Initial Public Offering on the Maldives Stock Exchange with the aim of raising MVR244 million (US$15.8 million), offering a 31% stake for public ownership. MIB is offering 6,975,000 shares at a price of MVR35 per share, including 4.5 million ordinary shares offered for subscription and 2.4 million offered for sale. According to the bank, buyers must subscribe to a minimum of 20 shares, which is equivalent to MVR700. Subscriptions exceeding the minimum amount must be in multiples of 10 shares. The expected date of listing of the shares or commencement of trading is November 12.

Lendo enlists SRB for Sharia supervisory services

Saudi-based Lendo has engaged Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB) to help support its Shariah supervisory function by overseeing its offerings, crowdfunding structures and operations. Lendo has been working to acquire its license in Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority’s sandbox regulation while continuing to focus on developing peer to peer funding practices in light of Shariah compliance. Lendo CEO Osama Al Raee expects Shariyah Review Bureau to contribute to the further optimization and improvement in Sharia supervisory oversight and optimize their Sharia risk management system. SRB founder Yasser S Dahlawi said the focus will be to evaluate and optimize existing Sharia control procedures and business processes to ensure well-grounded Sharia structural guarantees.

IIFM to wrap up #Sukuk Al Ijarah #standard suite this year

The International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM) expects to finalise capital market related “Sukuk Al Ijarah” standard suite of documentation later this year. The Perpetual Tier 1 and Senior Unsecured Sukuk Al Mudarabah standard suite of documentation is currently ongoing and is expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter of 2019. The standard-setting body also started translation work on its standards and is expected to come out with French versions by early 2020 to cater for French language jurisdictions. It is also looking to develop training material for its standards in collaboration with consultants and training institutes to offer technically oriented workshops to the users.

#Malaysia Explains New Cap On Interest Expense Deductions

The Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia has released new guidance on restrictions to the deductibility of interest expenses. The rules are based on the recommendations of the OECD in Action 4 of its base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) Action Plan. The rules are intended to prevent tax base erosion through the use of excessive interest expense deductions to reduce domestic tax. There are parts that have been customized based on domestic circumstances. The Malaysian rules cap allowable interest expense deductions at 20 percent of a taxpayer's income before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). Disallowed deductions for one year can be carried forward to the subsequent year.

A Closer Look at How Religious Restrictions Have Risen Around the World

Over the decade from 2007 to 2017, government restrictions on religion increased markedly around the world. Social hostilities involving religion also have risen since 2007. The latest data of the Pew Research Center show that government restrictions have risen in several different ways. Laws and policies restricting religious freedom and government favoritism of religious groups have consistently been the most prevalent types of restrictions. Government limits on religious activities and government harassment of religious groups have also been rising over the past decade. However, interreligious tension and violence has declined markedly since the baseline year.

Draft Bill Proposes Ban On #Cryptocurrencies In #India

India is considering a ban on cryptocurrencies. A draft bill explains that a Digital Rupee, which will be issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), would be approved as legal tender, while all other digital currencies would be prohibited. However, the ban does not apply to anyone using distributed ledger technologies (DLT) or other related technologies for experiments or research, as long as cryptos are not being used for payments. The proposed penalty for violating the ban would be a fine or up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. The news comes after reports that RBI has been developing a blockchain platform for banking in its R&D branch. However, RBI has denied it had any involvement in the proposed legislation.

#Malaysia’s position in the #fintech race

According to the Fintech Malaysia Report 2018, Malaysia had 166 fintech companies operating in the country as at July last year. Payments and e-wallets made up the majority at 19% and 17% of the fintech players respectively, followed by cryptocurrency players (12%) and crowdfunding companies (6%). While Malaysia appears to be well ahead of Vietnam and the Philippines in the fintech race, it’s still nowhere near Indonesia. Mohammad Ridzuan Abdul Aziz, president of the Fintech Association of Malaysia (FAOM), believes that instead of viewing fintech as a race against other countries, the focus should be on collaboration between the key stakeholders. He added that the government also provides a variety of monetary incentives and support programmes for start-ups, and is now recalibrating various agencies to improve awareness and efficiency.

Libra de Facebook : une question de "sécurité nationale" pour le Trésor américain

La future cryptomonnaie du géant des réseaux sociaux pourrait être "mal utilisée pour blanchir de l'argent ou financer le terrorisme" s'inquiète le secrétaire au Trésor américain. Le promoteur du projet chez Facebook, David Marcus, sera auditionné au Sénat. David Marcus a déclaré ne pas être "très à l'aise" avec l'idée de monnaie digitale mondiale de Facebook qui aura "fort à faire pour rassurer" le Trésor et la banque centrale américaine, le Fed. Marcus avait balayé les sujets réglementaires, faisant valoir que l'Association Libra ne serait pas en contact direct avec les consommateurs et que ce serait aux portefeuilles numériques en Libra, comme le futur Calibra que compte lancer Facebook, qui devraient être régulés, notamment au titre des obligations de connaissance client et de lutte contre le blanchiment.

INTERVIEW-Social businesses led by women can fix 'any problem': Nobel winner

According to Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, social enterprises run by women and young people can fix the world's most pressing problems. Bangladesh's Yunus won the Nobel prize in 2006 jointly with Grameen Bank, the microfinance organisation he founded. Nicknamed "banker to the poor", Yunus started his movement 40 years ago with loans worth just $27 to women in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Grameen Bank has since delivered millions of tiny loans to poor people who do not have access to mainstream banking. Some countries in Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines have passed legislation or revised laws to support social business ventures. But what's more important is adapting educational institutions and the financial system to encourage entrepreneurship and social business, Yunus said.

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