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#UK lifts sanctions on key #Iranian bank

The British government has announced that it has removed Bank Saderat Iran (BSI) from its list of sanctioned entities. The decision to delist the bank was in line with the amended regulations by the European Union regarding the lifting of sanctions against Iran. The regulations required the sanctions against the BSI to be maintained until 22 October 2016. Britain has previously lifted sanctions against three other Iranian banks. In January, the Bank of England announced that it had reactivated the licenses of Melli Bank, Persia International Bank and Bank Sepah International. This followed the implementation of a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries. Iran agreed to restrict certain aspects of its nuclear energy activities in return for measures by the P5+1 to remove certain economic sanctions imposed against the country.

Finance Ministry initiates works on legal infrastructure of Istanbul's Finance Center

#Turkey's Finance Minister Naci Agbal said the ministry initiated studies on a draft law on the Istanbul International Finance Center (IIFC). Agbal stated that the government introduced new financial instruments step by step, including the founding of the Sovereign Welfare Fund (SWF), real estate certificates and Islamic finance tools, in an attempt to intensify Turkey's financial markets. The draft law on the IIFC aims to offer opportunities to financial players and attract international financial institutions to Turkey. At the IIFC 50,000 people will be employed and it will have 25,000 daily visitors once opened. The joint infrastructure work of the financial center includes an administrative building, a police station, a health center, fire department, continuing education center, various academic courses, a mosque, a nursery, an underground parking lot and a trestle.

#Sukuk company granted #tax exemption

In #Pakistan the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) allowed exemption from withholding tax on purchase of immovable property by the Second Pakistan International Sukuk Company. The company has already enjoyed several exemption and concessions, exemption from levy of various advance taxes, profit on debt and tax on income from property. This further exemption was granted to strengthen the Islamic debt market by attracting investors by grant of tax concessions.

Regulating #Indonesia’s Buzzing #Fintech Space

The Indonesian Financial Services Authority (OJK) notes that there are currently 71 active fintech startups in the country. These startups provide diverse products and services, including payment gateways, lending, banking services, insurance services, pawn shops, or online financial advisory. This has also led the OJK to pay more attention to the sector, with hopes of developing appropriate regulation. The regulations that will be issued by OJK should not be too rigid, so as to provide a balanced climate. Some regulatory concerns include business licensing, business operation, governance, supervision and inspection, reporting obligations, and equities. All in all, the seriousness of OJK and other relevant parties to provide supportive regulations will hopefully bring strategic action.

Dubai launches international Islamic endowments body

A group of Islamic endowments, or awqaf, and the Dubai government have launched an international organization tasked with improving investments made in the sector. The Awqaf International Organization (AIO) aims to coordinate commercial efforts of sharia-compliant charitable foundations from around the globe. They have amassed huge holdings of real estate, commercial enterprises and other assets, which according to a Dubai government estimate total $1 trillion globally. Management of some awqaf assets has been criticised as inefficient. Now AIO has also been tasked with recommending unified templates for legal frameworks and overseeing applications of sharia standards in accounting, reviewing, and governance, said Husain Benyounis, secretary general of Awqaf New Zealand. The founding members of AIO include awqaf from South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the U.S., and the emirates of Dubai and Sharjah.

Religious investors lose faith in Wells Fargo after scandal

A group of nuns and other religiously-affiliated investors have lost faith in Wells Fargo and filed a shareholder resolution calling on the bank to report on a fake accounts scandal that led to a $190 million settlement. The bank employees opened as many as 2 million checking, savings and credit card accounts without the customers' permission in order to meet sales quotas. The San Francisco-based bank said it would provide more specifics on areas like its risk controls, but that did not happen. Wells Fargo's board has taken some steps since the settlement to address concerns, but the religious shareholders now say they need more changes. For instance another resolution filed by the Unitarian Universalist Association calls on Wells Fargo's board to study how to connect executive pay with ethical conduct.

Islamic finance body AAOIFI looks to finalise new standards by yr-end

The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) plans to finalize several new standards by the end of the year. Bahrain-based AAOIFI has published a draft sharia standard for gold-based products with a one month consultation period ending on Nov. 9. AAOIFI's sharia board also discussed work on a new sharia standard covering credit cards, while a final draft of a sharia standard covering liability of investment managers would be issued during its next meeting. Standards for murabaha, sukuk and ijara are also underway with a working group expected to finalize them by the end of the year. A revision of the existing standard on sukuk will cover issues including the asset-backed and asset-based nature of sukuk, capital boosting instruments, beneficial ownership and non-viability clauses.

Google Said It Would Ban All Payday Loan Ads. It Didn’t.

In May Google announced it would ban all payday loan advertisements through its AdWords service. But months after the policy was implemented, brokers have easily sidestepped the company’s rules, leaving consumers still vulnerable to high-cost debt traps that can ruin their financial lives. These brokers are not payday lenders but what are known as 'lead generators.' They take consumers’ personal information, run a credit history, and then sell the file to payday lenders, based on what kind of loan they can afford. Although Google said they want to protect users from deceptive or harmful financial products, several advertisements are still displayed at the top of a search, from companies like GOInstallmentLoans.com, WeLend2U and QuickLoanTree.

#UK P2P Finance Association Releases Major Research on Economics of Peer to Peer Lending

The UK Peer to Peer Finance Association (P2PFA) has released a commissioned study on the economics of the peer to peer lending market in the UK. The study focused specifically on the eight-member platforms of the P2PFA which collectively comprise over 75% of the UK market. Reinder van Dijk, Partner at Oxera consulting, called peer to peer lending a 'real innovation' bringing benefits to both borrowers and investors. According to the report, P2P lending has created additional competition and choice in the market for loans and investment. P2P lending provides new options for retail investors, opening up access to risk-and-return from an asset class of consumer and business loans with net returns of between 4% & 8%. P2P lending does not create systemic risk, P2PFA member platforms provide a level of transparency which empowers investors.

Islamic banking consumers prefer not to choose between Islamic and conventional products

A recent study on Islamic microfinance by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), Yale University and Tameweelcom found less price sensitivity by some consumers and a lot of focus on simplicity in product offerings and Shariah compliance. Consumers of financial products are in general price sensitive and as costs increase, demand goes down. It turned out that about 30% of Muslims always prefer a Shariah-compliant product with little price sensitivity. When given the option to choose between Islamic and conventional banking products, consumers are less likely to make a choice than if presented with only one of the products. The authors attribute this finding to the 'paradox of choice'. If a conventional bank thinks they can maintain market share by starting an Islamic window to offer Islamic products alongside conventional products, they may end up turning off consumers.

Fitch affirms GFH rating with revised outlook to positive

Fitch Ratings has affirmed GFH Financial Group’s (GFH) Short-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at "B" and revised its outlook upward from stable to Positive with a Long-term IDR at "B-". The positive outlook reflects the steps GFH’s management have taken to strengthen its balance sheet by paying down debt, reshaping the business model with focus on income-generating investments, and consequent improvement of profitability. GFH said it believes that this upward revision of the outlook is the result of its new strategy and in developing new recurring steams of income through income yielding investments.

Financial inclusion: Collaborative efforts to address poverty

Underprivileged citizens today live in an economy that exposes them to certain risks, like unpredictable incomes and high daily expenses. With around 70% of the population still excluded, Indonesia has taken major leaps to improve the situation. Since the preceding high-level talks in 2010, Bank Indonesia (BI) and the Financial Services Authority (OJK) have focused on how to provide better access to financial services. The disproportional knowledge between the banking industry and the population in general is quite severe, and a product to address the specific needs of the economically active poor and micro entrepreneurs is essential. Moreover, the challenges of financial inclusion do not stop when formal financial services are provided. It goes beyond service provision to educating and empowering the community to understand finance. Financial inclusion cannot be achieved through isolated efforts. Collaboration between private companies, the government and civil society is necessary.

Big Bad Actors: A Global View of #Debt

Until now a full picture of global debt was missing. However, the October 2016 Fiscal Monitor has put a number on the size of debt covering virtually the whole world. Global debt is at record highs, amounting to $152 trillion or 225% of global GDP. Close to $100 trillion or about two thirds are liabilities of nonfinancial firms and households, private debt. The remainder is public debt. The concern with excessive private debt goes beyond the risk that it may mutate into public debt. Excessive private debt is associated with financial crises. Moreover, financial recessions are longer and deeper than normal recessions. It is excessive private debt that countries should avoid. Therefore, regulatory and supervisory policies should ensure the monitoring and sustainability of private debt.

Growing demand seen for Islamic-themed media

A report titled 'Developments and opportunities in Islamic-themed television and online video content' identifies 188 Islamic-themed television and online channels globally. The report is produced by Thomson Reuters and Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) in partnership with DinarStandard. It identifies the main Islamic-themed broadcast media markets in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) 57 member countries. OIC markets generated a total of $10 billion in advertising revenue during 2015. According to Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of DIEDC, this report is proof of the sustainability of Islamic values that endure the test of time. Haroon Latif, director of Strategic Insights at DinarStandard, said that Muslim viewers were a key customer segment in the Culture and Recreation sectors. He added that there were significant untapped opportunities across genres in Islamic-themed media.

The World Bank Group’s Mission to End Extreme Poverty: A conversation with President Jim Yong Kim

Ahead of the World Bank's annual meeting, president Jim Yong Kim will set out his vision for ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. He will speak about the links between growth, poverty and inequality, the changing face of poverty, and the role the World Bank Group. Following an introduction by the host of the meeting, Strobe Talbott, Jim Yong Kim will deliver his speech, then will engage in a conversation with Kemal Dervi?, vice president and director for the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings. Questions and answers will be fielded at the conclusion.

National Bonds unveils findings of financial health check for Q3 2016

National Bonds Corporation, a Shari'ah-compliant savings and investment company in the #UAE, announced the results of its financial health check for Q3 2016. The survey found that the majority of the UAE’s residents are yet to sign up for Takaful coverage while only a minority is covered by traditional insurance. Within the UAE national pool of respondents, 89% admitted to not being insured against disabilities through Takaful in contrast to 11% that have traditional coverage against disabilities. The financial health check also charted the financial stability of participants. The results of the present survey are encouraging and indicate that 67% of UAE nationals and 72% of expat residents plan to pay off their liabilities and become debt free by end of this year.

#Uganda: Govt to Extend Interest-Free Loans to Women Groups

More than 2,000 groups of women will acquire interest-free loans worth Shs43 billion from the government under the Uganda Women's Entrepreneurship programme (UWEP). According to Mr Puis Bigirimana, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Gender, women entrepreneurs are constrained by limited access to finance as they attempt to grow their businesses. UWEP will promote women's economic empowerment through entrepreneurship skills. Under the programme, groups will receive up to Shs12.5 million each while special projects that benefit a bigger community will receive Shs25 million. UWEP National programme coordinator Ms Brenda Kifuko said all beneficiaries will have to pay back to enable more women access credit. Groups that pay in the first year of reception will only pay the principle amount while groups that pay after the first year will be subject to a 5% interest rate in form of a service fee to cater for inflation.

State Bank’s Vice President gunned down in Karachi

Senior Vice President of State bank of Pakistan (SBP) was gunned down in the area of Gulistan –e- Johar, within the jurisdiction of Shariah Faisal police. Superintendent Police (SP) Gulshan Doctor Fahad Ahmad said that Muhammad Sadiq Siddiqui was going to a bakery when two alleged dacoits attempted to snatch his vehicle. On resistance, dacoits opened fire on him. As a result, he sustained serious injuries and died, while dacoits managed to escape from the scene with car.

HELB plans for shariah compliant loans

In #Kenya the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) is set to introduce Shariah compliant products. The proposal to make the students loan provider Shariah compliant is currently being reviewed by the Attorney-General, prof Githu Muigai. Once approved, the law will improve access for Muslim students to educational financial support helping them to obtain loans which do not infringe on their religious beliefs. The number of Muslim students at universities has been on a gradual rise and the move will be of great benefit. HELB Chief Executive Charles Ringera said the board was with Islamic finance experts in the implementation of the policy.

Azzad Joins Call for Food Industry to End Use of Antibiotics on Livestock

Azzad Asset Management has joined a consortium of responsible investors in support of a United Nations' call to end antibiotic use in global food supply chains. The UN statement calls member nations to bring clarity to antibiotic use through national and regional regulations. Antibiotics are frequently used for rapid growth promotion in livestock and poultry and to prevent illness in animals living in cramped and unhealthy conditions. Experts say that the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in the meat industry has contributed to the rise of antibiotic resistance in the US and across the world. It is estimated that this public health issue is responsible for 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths each year.

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