Monday, January 18, 2010

Dubai bailout, BNM Shariah parameters

The bailout that Dubai received from Abu Dhabi to resolve the immediate problem of the maturing Nakheel sukuk is still only slightly clearer than it was at the time. Initially, the bailout was reported to be $10 billion, which led to criticism about the lack of transparency about where the rest of the money went. This has been somewhat cleared up. Only $5 billion was provided directly from Abu Dhabi ($4.1 billion to pay sukuk certificateholders with the remainder used for other payables). The other $5 billion of the total was the line of credit provided by two government-owned banks in Abu Dhabi, of which about $1 billion has been drawn.

Bank Negara, the Malaysian central bank, has issued three 'Shari'ah parameters' so far that provide guidance on the important areas for different contract types. This type of standardization is useful for the Islamic finance industry because they provide a starting point for discussions about the applicability of different contracts as well as the characteristics of each without creating a fixed contract that could stifle innovation. As I have argued in the past, the move towards some standardization is welcome, as long as it does not limit the potential for future change, either new innovations or a refinement of the existing products. The DIFC Sukuk Guide, released in December 2009, also provides a basic overview of the typical structures used specifically in sukuk, and also provides a reference point for further discussion about the contract structures used in Islamic finance.

The initial reports of the new microfinance institution, Family Bank of Bahrain, said that it provided Shari'ah-compliant financial services. The Grameen Bank's Grameen Dialogue describes the goals of the Family Bank (from 2007 when the Memorandum of Understanding was signed). The Family Bank is listed (as of November 30, pdf) as a conventional retail bank.

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