Philippine central bank develops Islamic finance system to ‘benefit all Filipinos’

Special Philippine central bank develops Islamic finance system to ‘benefit all Filipinos’
A logo of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is seen at their headquarters in Manila, the Philippines, Apr. 28, 2016. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 October 2023
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Philippine central bank develops Islamic finance system to ‘benefit all Filipinos’

Philippine central bank develops Islamic finance system to ‘benefit all Filipinos’
  • Islamic banking services expected to increase financial inclusion of Muslim Filipinos
  • Central bank says the Philippines is ready for the entry of new Islamic finance investors

MANILA: The development of Islamic banking in the Philippines aims to benefit all Filipinos, the central bank said, as it works on awareness programs to broaden access to financial services in accordance with Islamic law.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has stepped up its promotion of Islamic finance in the country following a decision in August by the nation’s monetary board to approve the first Islamic banking unit license for a traditional bank.
The decision expanded the possibilities for foreign and private banks looking to tap into the market. Earlier, it was limited to the state-owned Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines.
“The BSP has made significant strides in promoting the development of Islamic banking and finance in the country,” Arifa A. Ala, the central bank’s assistant governor, told Arab News this week.
“The promotion and development of Islamic banking and finance will equally benefit all Filipinos, including overseas Filipino workers. This is seen to attract foreign investors inclined to operate in the Philippines under the Islamic finance business model, expand the payment gateways and remittance channels of OFWs, and increase availability of other financial services.”
Around half of 1.8 million overseas Filipinos live and work in the Muslim-majority countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, especially Saudi Arabia, where Islamic banks have a major asset share.
“Through the BSP’s financial literacy and consumer awareness programs, overseas Filipinos can learn more about Islamic banking and finance,” Ala said.
“This could lead to greater consumer participation, and realization of the full potential of Islamic banking and finance in fostering economic growth and inclusive financial system.”
Ala, who is a lead advocate on Islamic banking and finance, and chairs the Islamic Finance Coordination Forum, believes the expansion of the Islamic banking and finance industry will also benefit many Muslim Filipinos who have been financially excluded.
About 6 percent of the 110 million predominantly Catholic population of the Philippines are Muslims. Most live in the impoverished Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the country’s south, which has the lowest financial inclusion rate.
“As of end March 2023, BSP data shows that out of the 479 total unbanked cities and municipalities in the Philippines, 217 are located in Mindanao, of which 110 are in the BARMM, where most Muslim Filipinos reside,” Ala said.
“The entry of new Islamic banking players can provide Filipinos with access to various Islamic banking products and services that can serve their diverse financial requirements. Unbanked Muslim Filipinos can be onboarded into the financial system, while non-Muslim Filipinos can expand their financial transactions and investment options.”
With the current enabling regulatory environment, the central bank believes the Philippines is ready for the entry of new Islamic banking and finance investors.
To promote the Philippine market, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas assistant governor held a briefing for potential Saudi and Filipino backers in Riyadh in mid-August to highlight opportunities in the Philippines.
“Investors from Muslim countries, which are increasingly seeking to invest in products that are in line with their religious beliefs, may invest in the Philippine sovereign sukuk to diversify their investments and manage their liquidity,” Ala said.
“The country is more than ready to accept new Islamic banking and finance players to cater to a large untapped consumer market and a growing economy that has substantial demand for financing.”


UK Labour Party will pursue recognition of Palestine once in power: Shadow foreign secretary

UK Labour Party will pursue recognition of Palestine once in power: Shadow foreign secretary
Updated 8 sec ago
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UK Labour Party will pursue recognition of Palestine once in power: Shadow foreign secretary

UK Labour Party will pursue recognition of Palestine once in power: Shadow foreign secretary
  • David Lammy spoke on same day Ireland, Spain, Norway announced recognition, PM called July general election
  • Lammy slams Israeli politicians who want ‘no-state solution’

LONDON: The UK Labour Party will work toward recognition of a Palestinian state if it wins the next general election, Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy said on Wednesday.
His comments follow Ireland, Norway and Spain deciding to recognize Palestinian statehood, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announcing a general election for July 4.
Lammy said: “I think it’s important, or preferable, that recognition is part of the process to two states, and that’s why I place my emphasis on the two-state solution.”
He added: “I have been quite prepared to disagree with a position put by some politicians in Israel, that there can be a one-state solution or actually I think what is preferred is a no-state solution.”
Israel said it was recalling its ambassadors to Ireland, Norway and Spain.
Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said recognition of Palestine is the “right thing to do.” He added that innocent people in Gaza are enduring “appalling hardship and suffering,” and that recognition of Palestinian statehood is not a move against recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
His Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Store said: “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.” He added: “Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state.”


Funeral held for British aid worker killed by Israeli strike

Jim Henderson, 33, was among seven World Central Kitchen workers who died in an Israeli attack in April. (WCK)
Jim Henderson, 33, was among seven World Central Kitchen workers who died in an Israeli attack in April. (WCK)
Updated 54 min 28 sec ago
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Funeral held for British aid worker killed by Israeli strike

Jim Henderson, 33, was among seven World Central Kitchen workers who died in an Israeli attack in April. (WCK)
  • One of Henderson’s brothers, Matt, said that the aid worker had achieved “so much in his life in a short period of time”
  • “To lose someone of James’ extraordinary character and decency overshadows the pain,” cousin said

LONDON: The funeral of a British aid worker killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza has taken place in Cornwall, England, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

Jim Henderson, 33, was among seven World Central Kitchen workers who died in the Israeli attack in April.

WCK founder Jose Andres accused Israel of targeting his workers “systematically, car by car” after the attack, claims that were dismissed as “nonsense” by Israeli Minister of Economy Nir Barkat in comments to BBC News.

The killings drew widespread international condemnation and US President Joe Biden accused Israel of not doing enough to protect aid workers and civilians.

An Israeli investigation into the attack blamed a series of “grave errors” by Israel Defense Forces officers, and WCK rejected the investigation as lacking credibility.

One of Henderson’s brothers, Matt, said that the aid worker had achieved “so much in his life in a short period of time,” the BBC said.

His cousin, Helen Moran, spoke on behalf of Henderson’s parents and thanked the people who gathered to pay their respects at Truro Cathedral. About 700 people attended the funeral.

“The family has been deeply moved by the outpouring of support during this difficult time,” Moran said.

“This support has been a source of comfort and a reminder of the impact Jim had upon so many people.

“A son, a fiance, a brother and a friend leaving us at such a young age is always a tragedy.

“To lose someone of James’ extraordinary character and decency overshadows the pain,” she said.

Henderson’s other brother, Dan, said: “I don’t really think we knew how wide a scope of Jim’s friends and people that he had real connections with until something like this happens ... it makes us very proud.”

The grieving family had asked people who wanted to pay their respects to line the route and join them in the cathedral.

Bishop Hugh Nelson said that the service marked a farewell and “the celebration of a good life well-lived.”

Henderson’s role was to ensure the WCK aid convoy traveling in Gaza followed safety procedures and remained on the correct route. The former Royal Marine had been in the territory for just over a week when he was killed.


British PM Rishi Sunak calls national election for July 4

British PM Rishi Sunak calls national election for July 4
Updated 22 May 2024
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British PM Rishi Sunak calls national election for July 4

British PM Rishi Sunak calls national election for July 4
  • Move could prove risky for Sunak as his Conservative party lags behind Labour Party in opinion polls
  • Sunak, who took office less than two years ago, has increasingly become isolated in even his own party

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a national election for July 4 on Wednesday, saying Britons would be able to choose their future in a vote his Conservatives are widely expected to lose to the opposition Labour Party after 14 years in power.

Ending months of speculation as to when he would call a new vote, Sunak, 44, stood outside his Downing Street office in pouring rain and announced he was calling the election earlier than expected, a risky strategy with his party far behind Labour in the opinion polls.

Almost shouting to be heard above an anthem associated with the Labour Party played by protesters just outside the gates to Downing Street, Sunak listed what he said were his achievements in government, not only as prime minister but also as a former finance minister.

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” he said, describing that choice as one between stability with him and the unknown with Labour leader Keir Starmer.

“Over the next few weeks, I will fight for every vote, I will earn your trust and I will prove to you that only a Conservative government led by me will not put our hard-earned economic stability at risk.”

In an attack on Labour, he said that Starmer, conversely, always took the “easy way out” and had no plan. “As a result, the future can only be uncertain with them,” he said.

Sunak heads into the election not only far behind the Labour Party in the polls but also somewhat isolated from some in his party, increasingly dependent on a small team of advisers to steer him through what is set to be an ugly campaign.

But he seems to have decided with some economic gains, such as inflation falling and the economy growing at its fastest pace in almost three years, now was the time to take a risk and present his agenda for a new term formally to voters.

The former investment banker and finance minister took office less than two years ago, and since then has struggled to define what he stands for, becoming increasingly frustrated that what he sees as his successes have failed to be appreciated.

ATTACK LINES

Both parties have all but kicked off campaigning for an election, with the attack lines on the economy and on defense already firmly drawn.

Sunak and his government accuse Labour of being poised to increase taxes if in government and that the party would not be a safe pair of hands for Britain in an increasingly dangerous world as it lacks a plan, charges the opposition denies.

Labour accuses the government of 14 years of economic mismanagement, leaving people worse off, with a series of chaotic administrations that have failed to give the stability businesses have craved to spur economic growth.

If Labour win the election, Britain, once known for its political stability, will have had six prime ministers in eight years for the first time since the 1830s.

Labour said before the announcement it was more than ready for an election.

“We are fully ready to go whenever the prime minister calls an election. We have a fully organized and operational campaign ready to go and we think the country is crying out for a general election,” Labour leader Starmer’s spokesperson told reporters.

Starmer kicked off his party’s election campaign last week by pledging to “rebuild Britain,” setting out the first steps he said Labour would take if it forms the next government.

Labour is running about 20 percentage points ahead of Sunak’s Conservatives in the opinion polls but some party officials are concerned their advantage is not as solid as it appears, fearing many voters remain undecided.

Sunak might be aiming to capitalize on that uncertainty and also to wrongfoot Labour, which has still to complete the selection of all its parliamentary candidates, a party veteran said.

Sunak will also hope that some economic gains and the first flights in his centerpiece immigration plan of sending illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda might also boost his party’s fortunes. The earliest possible date for those flights is June 24, 10 days before the election.

While some Conservatives welcomed the move to call an election, not all were happy.

“Death wish 2024,” said one Conservative lawmaker on condition of anonymity.


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK
Updated 22 May 2024
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK
  • “Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” Sunak said
  • The center-left Labour Party is strongly favored to defeat Sunak’s party

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday set July 4 as the date for a national election that will determine who governs the UK, choosing a day of good economic news to urge voters to give his governing Conservatives another chance.
“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” Sunak said.
Sunak’s center-right party has seen its support dwindle steadily after 14 years in power. It has struggled to overcome a series of crises including an economic slump, ethics scandals and a revolving door of leaders in the past two years.
The center-left Labour Party is strongly favored to defeat Sunak’s party.
Speculation about an imminent election mounted after Sunak called a Cabinet meeting for Wednesday afternoon – rather than the usual Tuesday – and Foreign Secretary David Cameron flew back early from a trip to Albania to attend.
The election will be held against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis and deep divisions over how to deal with migrants and asylum seekers making risky English Channel crossings from Europe.
The announcement came the same day official figures showed inflation in the UK had fallen sharply to 2.3 percent, its lowest level in nearly three years on the back of big declines in domestic bills.
The drop in April marks the greatest progress to date on five pledges Sunak made in January 2023, including halving inflation, which had climbed to above 11 percent at the end of 2022. Sunak hailed the new figure as a sign his plan was working.
“Today marks a major moment for the economy, with inflation back to normal,” Sunak said Wednesday. “Brighter days are ahead, but only if we stick to the plan to improve economic security and opportunity for everyone.”
Voters across the United Kingdom will choose all 650 members of the House of Commons for a term of up to five years. The party that commands a majority in the Commons, either alone or in coalition, will form the next government and its leader will be prime minister.
Labour leader Keir Starmer, a former chief prosecutor for England and Wales, is the current favorite. The party’s momentum has built since it dealt the Conservatives heavy losses in local elections earlier this month.
The Conservatives have also lost a series of special elections for seats in Parliament this year, and two of its lawmakers recently defected to Labour.
Following on his party’s successes in the local elections, Starmer, 61, last week announced a platform focused on economic stability after years of soaring inflation as he tries to win over disillusioned voters.
He also pledged to improve border security, recruit more teachers and police and reduce lengthy waiting lists at hospitals and doctors′ clinics across the country.
Elections in the UK have to be held no more than five years apart, but the prime minister can choose the timing within that period. Sunak, 44, had until December to call an election. The last one was in December 2019.
Many political analysts had anticipated that a fall election would give Conservatives a better chance of maintaining power. That’s because economic conditions may improve further, voters could feel the effect of recent tax cuts, interest rates may come down and a controversial plan to deport some asylum-seekers to Rwanda — a key policy for Sunak — could take flight.
Sunak had been noncommittal about the election date, repeatedly saying — as late as lunchtime on Wednesday — that he expected it would be in the second half of the year.
Although inflation has fallen, Sunak’s other promises — to grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists to see a doctor at the state-run National Health Service and stop the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel — have seen less success.
He has struggled after entering office following the disastrous tenure of Liz Truss, who lasted only 49 days after her economic policies rocked financial markets. Truss had been chosen by party members after Boris Johnson was ousted over a series of ethics scandals.


France says conditions not right to recognize Palestinian state

France says conditions not right to recognize Palestinian state
Updated 22 May 2024
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France says conditions not right to recognize Palestinian state

France says conditions not right to recognize Palestinian state
  • “France does not consider that the conditions have yet been met for this decision to have a real impact on this process,” Sejourne said
  • Paris has previously said recognizing a Palestinian state is not taboo

PRAIS: France said on Wednesday conditions were not right to officially recognize a Palestinian state and that such a decision must be more than just symbolic or political posturing.
Remarks by Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne distanced France from Ireland, Spain and Norway, which said on Wednesday they would recognize a Palestinian state on May 28, hoping to accelerate efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza war.
“France does not consider that the conditions have yet been met for this decision to have a real impact on this process,” Sejourne said after talks in Paris with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.
Paris has previously said recognizing a Palestinian state is not taboo, but should be part of a broader effort to achieve a two-state solution between Palestinians and Israelis.
Despite lobbying by several European countries and some Arab states to recognize a Palestinian state, France has said that doing so would do little to change the situation on the ground without genuine negotiations.
“This is not just a symbolic issue or a question of political positioning, but a diplomatic tool in the service of the solution of two states living side by side in peace and security,” Sejourne said.
French diplomats say symbolic recognition will be of no use, especially without real momentum toward a political process supported by the United States, Israel’s main ally.
France has been working on a draft UN Security Council resolution that it hopes to table over the summer.
It wants to bring the parameters for talks on a two-state solution back to the Security Council, while also underpinning clear condemnation of Islamist militant group Hamas after the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. The negotiating process has been moribund for a decade.
The US believes a Palestinian state should be achieved through negotiations and not unilateral recognition, and has the power of veto at the United Nations.