Yeni Safak

Islamic Finance’s #Sukuk innovation needs to go further

As opposed to earlier structures, today’s sukuk come with a variety of features. There are two broad thrusts in the innovation that has taken place. First, the use of embedded options for better risk management and second, innovation seeking to overcome limitations like the need for physical underlying asset. For example, a call option which provides the right to purchase an underlying asset at a predetermined price is typically embedded to minimize the risk to the obligor. An embedded put option on the other hand favors the sukuk-holder. The put enables the holder to sell the underlying asset to the obligor at a predetermined price. A number of Islamic banks have issued perpetual sukuk with embedded call options for the purpose of meeting their Basel III capital adequacy requirements. Also, sovereign wealth funds like Malaysia’s Khazanah have issued “Exchangeable Sukuk” which allow the holders to either convert the sukuk to the underlying asset, or redeem the sukuk at face value. While sukuk design has come a long way, they need to move toward an even more enhanced risk-sharing.

#Tax neutrality for Islamic Finance needs refinement

For countries wanting to enable Islamic finance within their borders, a key requirement is tax legislation to provide for tax neutrality. Without a waiver, Islamic finance would incur costs that would render it prohibitive. While the debt like contracts of Islamic finance, contracts such as Ijarah, Murabaha, Bai Bithamin Ajil (BBA), Salam and the like dominate Islamic finance, the risk sharing contracts like Mudarabah and Musyarakah remain unused. Yet, it is the risk sharing contracts that truly provide the value added of Islamic finance. Removing the tax impediment to risk sharing contracts can help rejuvenate both Islamic banking and capital markets. The biggest advantage to the movement away from debt to risk sharing at the micro level is the macro level benefit of reduced vulnerability.

Funding Social Expenditure with Risk-Sharing Sukuk

While the use of risk-sharing instruments for the funding of revenue-generating infrastructure projects is easy to understand, such instruments can also be used for the funding of non-revenue generating infrastructure. The principle of risk-sharing would require that the government's repayment of the obligation created be linked to some proxy or indicator of government revenue. Given today's conundrum with debt and the need to deleverage, GDP-linked securities are being revisited. Replacing the benchmark to LIBOR (London Interbank Offer Rate) with a benchmark to nominal GDP makes eminent sense, especially from a Shariah viewpoint.

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