Manila steps up Islamic banking ‘to foster growth’

Filipino Muslims will have access to a wider range of Islamic banking services under a new law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. (AP)
Updated 31 August 2019

Manila steps up Islamic banking ‘to foster growth’

  • The legislation is expected to pave the way for the entry of foreign Islamic banks into the Philippines

MANILA: Filipino Muslims will have access to a wider range of Islamic banking services under a new law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The expansion of the Islamic banking system in the country will be carried out under the supervision of the Philippines Central Bank and its Monetary Board.

Muslims, including those in the autonomous Bangsamoro region in the southern Philippines, stand to benefit from the move, which central bank Gov. Benjamin Diokno said will “unlock the full potential of Islamic financing in fostering inclusive economic growth.”

Under the new law, conventional banks also will be allowed to engage in Islamic banking arrangements, providing they segregate the transactions from conventional business.

The legislation is also expected to pave the way for the entry of foreign Islamic banks into the Philippines.

However, the Monetary Board will regulate the number of participants in the Islamic banking system, taking into account the requirements of the economy, financial stability and the need for healthy competition.

Currently the Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines is the only Islamic lender operating in the country.

Diokno praised the new law, which he said will promote inclusive economic growth.

“With a well-defined regulatory framework now in place, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) looks forward to seeing greater participation in Islamic financing by both domestic and foreign banks,” he said.

“This is expected to widen opportunities for Muslim Filipinos, including those from the Bangsamoro region, in accessing banking products and services. This is a great stride in our financial inclusion mandates.”

An interagency working group has been set up to develop a regulatory framework for Islamic banking and finance.

According to the BSP, Islamic banking and finance promote growth by making finance available to groups that avoid using conventional banking facilities due to their faith.

Muslims make up about 10 percent of the population of the Philippines.

Islamic banking and finance can also be attractive to non-Muslims, particularly investors within or outside the Philippines looking for new asset classes, instruments and products to diversify their portfolios.


Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 19 October 2019

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.