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#Malaysia Woos #FinTech Devs for Shariah-Compliant Islamic Finance

Malaysia’s proximity in the ASEAN region and its mix of urban, suburban and rural population makes it a suitable environment for testing and launching FinTech solutions for the global Islamic Finance market. Datuk Yasmin Mohamood, CEO of Malaysia Digital Economy Corp (MDEC), has opened the country’s doors for FinTech startups and companies. Yasmin was speaking at the Finnovasia 2017 Conference in Kuala Lampur and claimed Malaysia as a viable test-bed for FinTech companies. He added that an organized FinTech ecosystem will be developed with the support of Bank Negara Malaysia and the country’s Securities Commission. In August last year, Bitspark partnered Malaysia’s Vitaxel to bring remittance solutions over the bitcoin blockchain. Later in December, Malaysian non-profit Blockchain Embassy Asia established a steering committee toward educating organizations about blockchain technology.

ICD and TUV SUD to develop private sector in Central Asia

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and TUV SUD signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to foster their joint operations in the countries of Central Asia. ICD's CEO Khaled Al-Aboodi and the managing director of TUV SUD Central Asia, Anar Ahmadov, signed the MoU on behalf of the two corporations in Astana, Kazakhstan. The aim of the MoU is to facilitate cooperation in promoting private sector participation and inform about business opportunities in countries of Central Asia. This partnership will enable the two institutions to work closely on market studies related to the transit and logistic sector in the common member countries.

Book Review: Too Little, Too Late

The increase in emerging market debt to more than $900 billion in outstandings according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) heightens the importance of sovereign debt restructuring. This concern affects not only holders of sovereign debt but also investors in corporate, financial, and structured debt. Too Little, Too Late is a collection of 15 papers on current sovereign debt–restructuring challenges and alternative approaches to resolving them. For investment analysts, the book is a valuable source of systematic analysis, insights, and data on a complex problem. The authors maintain that the only durable solution will be a multinational framework that brings lenders and borrowers together by focusing on mutually beneficial incentives.

EdAid launches first ever Sharia-compliant #crowdfunding platform

EdAid has launched the first ever Sharia-compliant crowdfunding platform to finance Muslim students interest-free. QardHasan will help students raise up to £30,000 within 40 days, channelling funds from charitable trusts and potential employers. The UK-based impact investment firm looks to contribute to each crowdfunding campaign by doubling every £500 raised by a borrower through the platform. The firm's founder and chief executive Tom Woolf said the new platform aims to provide affordable and fair funding options to Muslims. Woolf said the project falls somewhere in between LinkedIn and Kickstarter, as it helps students build up a broader network for their academic and professional career.

CAIA Association #Survey: Responsible Investment Principles Growing in Importance

According to a new survey by the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association, incorporation of environmental, social, governance and ethics principles into the investment process is growing in importance. More than three quarters (77%) of respondents to the survey agreed that responsible investing is more important than it was three years ago, while 78% anticipate it will be more important three years from now. When asked to rank the largest drivers of adoption of responsible investing and ESG approaches, respondents chose: Adoption of industry standards (71%); Pressure from institutional investors (67%); and Positive investment return outcomes (64%). A total of 647 CAIA members participated in the survey, which was conducted in January 2017.

Payment App for Foreign Tourists Wins #FinTech Award in #Iran

ZPay, a payment application for foreign tourists in Iran, has won Bank Pasargad Iran’s award for best fintech innovation at the First Fintech Festival. ZPay enables foreigners to shop in Iran while keeping their money outside the country. Iran is doing much to improve its fintech standing. Earlier this month, it was reported that Iran had launched a FinTech Association to push for further development. And yet, while the capital Tehran is home to a growing number of local fintech startups, Iran still has a long way to go before it can be considered a fintech hub.

DFSA issues new #fintech consultation paper

The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) has published its new financial technology (fintech) consultation paper. The paper is the third in a series, setting out the DFSA’s approach to the regulation of pioneering fintech activities. The paper sets out the DFSA’s approach to FinTech firms that want to test innovative products and services in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Firms meeting the qualifying criteria will receive a Financial Services Licence, referred to as an Innovation Testing Licence. The testing phase is a step towards the FinTech firm obtaining a full Financial Services Licence.

Azzad joins coalition asking CEOs to oppose Pres. Trump's refugee and immigrant ban

Azzad Asset Management has joined other socially responsible investment institutions in signing a coalition letter to the 19 CEOs who are members of President Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum. The letter asks to oppose the president's recent executive order barring refugees and certain immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries. In addition to public outcry against the ban on humanitarian and constitutional grounds, many have pointed out the negative impact of barring international workers on the economy. The letter was signed by 64 socially responsible investment firms and human rights and religious organizations. The Strategic and Policy Forum's first meeting is scheduled for February 3.

Islamic finance body drafts new #standard for centralised sharia boards

A global body for Islamic finance has issued a draft standard on centralized sharia boards, aiming to improve corporate governance in the industry. The proposed rules come at a time when Islamic banks are trying to widen their appeal in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, while opening up entirely new markets in Africa. The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) is seeking industry feedback on the proposed standard until the end of February. AAOIFI said the standard would encourage convergence of industry practices by avoiding contradictory rulings and fostering consistency across products and services. While the standard does not prescribe term limits for scholars, it does require sharia boards to implement a rotation policy for its members while including members with expertise in areas such as accounting and law.

2016 sees Islamic banks take a larger share of the #UAE’s #car #loan market

Applications for Islamic car loans in the UAE grew by 64.79% from 2015 to 2016. Despite growth in Islamic car loans, car loans based on traditional finance were more popular among UAE residents in 2016. Emirates NBD’s Feature-Packed Auto Loan was the most applied-for car loan in 2016. The second most applied-for auto loan of 2016 was that of HSBC, the third, fourth and fifth most applied-for car loans of 2016 were from Islamic banks. Emirates Islamic’s Auto Finance product came in third place, while Noor Bank’s Auto Finance and Ajman Bank’s Car Finance came in fourth and fifth respectively.

Trump policies, higher rates may spark emerging market #debt crisis

US President Donald Trump has been accused of courting international trade friction and a new international debt crisis. There were already signs given the huge debt built up over a decade of record low interest rates, and that rates had begun rising. The next international debt crisis could well be in the emerging market corporate sector. Global debt has reached US$217 trillion, equal to a record 325% of global gross domestic product. Investors in Brazil, South Korea, Thailand, Chile, Czech and Malaysia especially have been big borrowers. While most of this has been in local currencies, corporates in India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia as well as Hong Kong and Singapore have borrowed heavily in foreign currency. This creates a currency mismatch situation.

#Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre announces updated strategy for 2017-2021

The Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) announced the launch of its refreshed strategy for 2017-2021. Making the announcement, Sheikh Hamdan said the first part of the strategy includes identifying new key performance indicators (KPIs) for monitoring the growth of important sectors. The second component is enhancing Dubai’s status as a reference for Islamic finance, Halal sector and Islamic lifestyle that includes culture, art, fashion and family tourism. Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri said the DIEDC’s latest goal is to demonstrate the positive impact of Islamic economy. It is necessary to establish the structural framework of the ecosystem. Finance, production and consumption must feature in it as integrated systems aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Al Mansouri pointed out the need for universally accepted standards across Islamic economy sectors and stressed that the UAE will focus on refining these standards.

Poverty amid plenty in the #Gulf

The UN appointed Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty in the Gulf has concluded his mission on 19th January. In his report Dr. Mohamed Ramady highlights that poverty encompasses non-financial targets that encompasses women’s right to work and move freely, inhibiting factors that lead to family poverty. It is meaningless to adopt an absolute line given a large variance in GCC GDP per capita, ranging from around $ 25,000 in Saudi Arabia to $ 95,000 in Qatar. National poverty line figures accordingly vary from $ 1,300 per month to $ 5,000 levels. Cash payment handouts to reduce subsidies to balance national budgets are short-term measures. The key to poverty eradication is education, access to work and removal of social restrictions. To varying degrees, all the Gulf countries have given emphasis to ensuring more female work and civil and political participation. The UN Report also highlighted an uneven corporate social responsibility to carry out effective training and offer more opportunities for female workers and handicapped employees.

#Zurich: #Responsible #Finance & Investment Summit 3-4 May 2017

Summit will explore intersection of #fintech, #ESG and #Islamicfinance. #RFISummit17

January 24, 2017, Zurich, Switzerland –

Bringing together a diversity of perspectives is critical for continuing the growth occurring within responsible finance. On this premise, the Responsible Finance & Investment Summit 2017 will convene in Zurich, Switzerland from 3-4 May 2017 around the theme “Building Bridges, Expanding Impact”.

Recent estimates from industry stakeholders show continued growth in responsible finance assets in many geographies and sectors. Responsible investment in Europe grew by 42% during the past 2 years, while in the U.S., assets grew by 33%. In Islamic finance, which has a global presence with a significant presence in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, growth in the last 2 years has been 21%. Identifying actionable areas for collaboration will support continued growth towards a more sustainable financial system.

Bank Islam MD says unlikely to extend contract

Bank Islam's managing director Datuk Seri Zukri Samat said he would not extend his contract when his tenure ends in June this year. When asked on his successor, Zukri said there was still plenty of time to search for a successor since it was only January. On Bank Islam Visa Infinite MPN credit card-i, he said it was introduced in response to Bank Negara’s call for a cashless society. He said the collaboration with MPN was the bank’s continuous cooperation with the academic institutions starting with the introduction of the UniDebit card in 2012. Meanwhile, MPN chairman Professor Tan Sri Zakri Abu Hamid welcomed the strategic cooperation to strengthen the corporate image of both parties.

Middle East: #Iran’s banks struggle with expectations

Banks in Iran have made progress since the signing of the nuclear deal, yet many obstacles to doing business internationally remain. The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was meant to free up Iran’s economy and banking sector by lifting the sanctions imposed on the country in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme. Under the nuclear sanctions, the US fined several big banks for dealing with sanctioned countries. For that reason, many large international banks fear being fined again if they re-engage with the country, even though they are now allowed to do so under the terms of the JCPOA. So far, only small banks have been willing to re-engage with Iran.

How successful were the Millennium Development Goals?

The Brookings Institution published its new study entitled "Change of pace: Accelerations and advances during the Millennium Development Goal era". The paper examines which trajectories changed, for better or worse between 2000 and 2015. The three key findings of the study are the following: firstly, at least 21 million extra lives were saved due to accelerated progress. During the 2000s there were major accelerations in rates of progress. Secondly, acceleration varied considerably across issues and geographies. Positive changes were concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and low-income countries, as classified by the World Bank in 2000. Thirdly, low-income country acceleration versus middle-income country gains shows a major difference in trends among low-income countries (LICs) versus middle-income countries (MICs). LICs indicated more acceleration but smaller relative gains, while MICs tended to see larger relative gains but less acceleration.

#Pakistani #girl #sold off to #pay #debts

The girl called Jeevti was just 14 when she taken from her family in the night to be married off to a man who says her family owed him $1,000. Her mother, Ameri Kashi Kohli, is sure that her daughter paid the price for a never-ending debt. Ameri says she and her husband borrowed roughly $500 when they first began to work on the land, but she throws up her hands and says the debt was repaid.
It's a familiar story here in southern Pakistan: Small loans balloon into impossible debts, bills multiply, payments are never deducted. In this world, women like Ameri and her young daughter are treated as property: taken as payment for a debt, to settle disputes, or as revenge if a landowner wants to punish his worker. Sometimes parents, burdened by an unforgiving debt, even offer their daughters as payment. The women are like trophies to the men. They choose the prettiest, the young and pliable. Sometimes they take them as second wives to look after their homes. Sometimes they use them as prostitutes to earn money. Sometimes they take them simply because they can.

SGX's kilobar #gold futures contract gets Shariah-compliant status

The #Singapore Kilobar Gold Contract of Singapore Exchange (SGX) has become the world's first Shariah-compliant gold futures contract. SGX said this endorsement by Islamic scholars on its physically settled futures contract unlocks a new investment and risk management option. The Singapore Kilobar Gold Contract seeks to serve as a transparent and centralised Asian price-discovery platform for the gold market. William Chin, head of metals and bulk commodities at SGX, said the move strengthens Singapore's position as an international centre for Islamic finance. Albert Cheng, CEO of the Singapore Bullion Market Association, said the Shariah-compliant SGX contract will be attractive to new customers in the region, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia.

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