Next week’s influential World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain will see a lot of interesting and highly relevant keynotes, debates and panels, but also a premiere that highlights a phenomenon not yet clearly studied in the industry: The role of women in Islamic finance and the opportunities that arise for them.
Simply Sharia Human Capital, a London-based recruitment and training center solely dedicated to Islamic finance, at the conference will unveil a report called “Women in Islamic Finance & Islamic Economy: Unlocking Talent,” one of the rare studies that actually look into roles, careers and achievements of women in the Islamic finance industry, and the job opportunities it holds for female career seekers from an educational perspective.
Islamic International Rating Agency (IIRA) has assigned investment grade, national scale ratings of BBB-(lb)/A3(lb) (Triple B Minus / A Three) to AlBaraka Bank Lebanon S.A.L (ABBL). Outlook on the assigned ratings is 'Stable'. The fiduciary score has been assessed in the range of '71-75', reflecting adequate fiduciary standards wherein rights of various stakeholders are adequately protected. ABBL was incorporated in 1992 as the first Islamic bank operating in the Republic of Lebanon. ABBL has sought to diversify its financings outside Lebanon, thereby mitigating the effects of the slowdown in the Lebanese economy. Owing to the market dynamics and management caution, ABBL maintains a highly liquid asset profile.
Abdul Halim al-Attar, 33, fled the war in Syria more than three years ago, moving first to Egypt and then to Lebanon. His wife returned to their home country just months after their departure, but Mr al-Attar resisted; he didn't want to go back to a place where he saw no future for their children, a nine-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter. Day after day, Mr al-Attar relied on selling pens and other small items to support his family. At the time, Mr al-Attar was receiving the equivalent of $US36 ($50) a month from the UN Refugee Agency and supplementing that with painstaking sales - enough for a rundown apartment and the bare necessities, but not to send his son to school. An Indiegogo campaign raised $US188,685 for Mr al-Attar.
Lunch menu during the Arab Forum for Environment and Development’s conference on sustainable consumption constituted entirely of local organic food. Moreover, this was the first conference in the Arab region where “recycled” food was served: intact remains of Mediterranean fish served on day one were used to make a delicious fish-filet plate on day two. In addition, no plastic bottles were used during the two day conference, which were replaced by re-usable glass bottles. Within the same context, and in cooperation with AFED, the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM) organized a session during the conference on the Mediterranean diet as part of sustainable food systems.
A new international bond and grant scheme to help countries dealing with the fallout of war and instability in the Middle East and North Africa should be in place by spring, a senior World Bank official said.
In a Reuters interview, Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank's vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, said the type of investment targeted by the plan - education, infrastructure and jobs - was vital to addressing the region's refugee crises. He said that humanitarian aid alone was not enough and the alternative was “one or two lost generations” in a region with 15 million refugees or internally displaced people.
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."
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.
While awareness of CSR has improved in Lebanon, it has not at all become a trend, it’s still in its infancy. Most companies think they are doing CSR but they are doing philanthropy. Corporate social responsibility involves a business going beyond its fundamental profit-making motive to comprehensively and sustainably address social, ethical and environmental considerations in its workplace and the communities it affects. While CSR Lebanon has established itself as a leading authority on the topic and is the only consultancy of its kind in Lebanon, its clients remain located in the Gulf. Moreover, businesses in Lebanon tend to think short-term rather than investing in a multiyear strategy.
A major International Islamic Bank is currently seeking a regional Chief Financial Officer for their operations in Lebanon and Qatar. This role will be primarily based in Beirut.
* 10+ Years Experience in Senior Finance Roles within Global Financial Institutions.
Profits of Lebanese banks operating in Syria in the first three months of 2013 fell by 98.2 percent to $640,000 from $49.8 million in the same period of 2012. That was compared to aggregate net losses of 489.5 million pounds in the fourth quarter of 2012. The aggregate shareholders’ equity of the seven banks reached 35.3 billion pounds, or $406.5 million, at end-March 2013, unchanged from end-2012. The banks’ total operating income reached 4.7 billion pounds in the first quarter of 2013, down 35.7 percent from 7.3 billion pounds in the same period last year. Lebanese banks in Syria have increased provisions for nonperforming loans, though they realize this will affect profits considerably. All of the Lebanese banks said they had no intention of withdrawing from the Syrian market now or in the future because they believed the situation would get back to normal eventually.
Independent consulting firm CSR Lebanon held the 3rd CSR Lebanon Forum on March 18 and 19 entitled "Corporate Social Responsibility in Times of Uncertainty". The fórum was attended by more than 500 leaders from the business community, government, civil society and academia. Among them, there were 30 international, regional and local corporate sustainability experts, along with chief representatives from the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). All speakers and international representatives provided business cases which Lebanon can build upon to promote responsible business practices and transparent sustainability reporting.
Lebanese banks anticipate the Syrian market to grow once the political stability will be reached. By now, there are seven Lebanesse banks that are operating in Syria.
S&P Indices made an anouncement that a new Index will be launched due to increase in the demand for a shariah-compliant benchmark in Islamic countries. The new S&P/OIC COMCEC 50 Shariah Index will measure the performance of 50 leading Shariah-compliant companies from members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Eligible countries and territories for the Index are: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
BIC/MENA and civil society representatives from Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Yemen among others successfully engaged the World Bank at the 2011 Civil Society Policy Forum of the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings.
Egyptian civil society representatives met with Egypt’s World Bank country director, David Craig. Tunisian civil society representatives have insisted for engagement with Bank in first meeting with ED, Mr. Javed Talat. Civil society representatives met the Bank’s new Yemen country manager, Wael Zakout.
Adnan Yousif, Chief Executive Officer of Al Baraka Banking Group and President of the Union of Arab Banks, declined suggestions of capital flight from Syria to Lebanon.
Adnan stated that the Union calls for Arab banks to always be cautious in terms of funding and liquidity.
With the help of social accountability, citizens in the Arab world are holding public institutions accountable for delivering public services and improving the welfare of citizens. The citizens therefor work with governments in a productive, meaningful way by using evidence-based analysis and advocacy.
The World Bank and CARE Egypt helped organizing the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA)-Arab World Regional Strategic Planning and Social Accountability Workshop in Amman, Jordan from June 5-9, 2011. At the the five-day workshop in Jordan there were over 40 representatives from government, CSOs, media, and private sector from seven Arab countries – Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, West Bank and Gaza, Morocco and Tunisia that attended.
Many jurisdictions are interested in Islamic finance and have taken initiatives to develop the industry through reviewing their legal framework to facilitate the introduction of a range of Islamic financial products, including more recently France, Ireland, Australia, Jordan, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Lebanon.
One of the key determinants for the successful development of Islamic finance in any jurisdiction is the existence of a conducive legal framework that supports the operations and growth of the industry.
Lebanon is considering legislation to boost Islamic finance after the industry failed to garner 1 percent of total banking assets.
The central bank is working with a group of local lenders to amend a 2004 law that allowed the establishment of Shariah- compliant banks.
Lebanon is seeking to diversify its banking industry and rebuild the country after the conflict with Israel in 2006 and a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.
The economy grew 9 percent last year and is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to expand another 8 percent this year.
Customers who are eager to be Sharia compliant are flocking to Islamic banks. Yet as Islamic lending boasts that it charges no interest, crunching the numbers churns out something of a surprise. Some Islamic mortgages charge more than already high interest-based traditional mortgages. You could even argue that an Islamic mortgage is, in some cases, so expensive it is akin to usury. And the terms are often less favourable.
Take the current murabaha rates in Syria and Lebanon. Murabaha is an Islamic equivalent to a mortgage or car loan. Instead of lending the customer money and charging interest, the bank purchases the asset and resells it for a profit to the customer. This profit is the murabaha rate.
Unlike, say, in the UK, there are no regulatory laws in Syria that require Islamic banks to quote their product in a way that is equivalent to an interest-based traditional mortgage to allow comparison shopping. The only way the average customer can convert murabaha to interest-based is with the help of a financial calculator and a professional.
Standard Chartered Bank today announced the launch of the first Islamic US Dollar Nostro Account in the United States.
Islamic banks across the world will now be able to earn Shariah-compliant profits on their account balances at Standard Chartered Bank New York by using this facility.
The facility will operate on the Islamic finance principle of Commodity Murabaha. Profits will be paid on a monthly basis.
The Saadiq US Dollar Nostro Accounts will be available globally, including the Middle East & Malaysia. To ensure Standard Chartered’s products comply with the principles of Shariah, the Bank is advised by an independent committee comprising three of the world’s most renowned Shariah scholars – Dr. Abdul Sattar Abu Ghuddah, Sheikh Nizam Yaquby and Dr. Mohamed Ali Elgari.