Using Islamic finance for infrastructure development attracted more attention recently in the quest to maximize finance for development.
At the recent World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings in Bali, the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) co-hosted a symposium on Islamic infrastructure finance, building on the institutions’ strategic partnership. As we note in Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships, the asset-backed, ring-fenced, and project-specific nature of Islamic finance structures and their emphasis on sharing risks make them a natural fit for infrastructure public-private partnerships (PPPs).
investment in quality, sustainable infrastructure helps finance the transition towards a low-carbon, more environmentally friendly economic model. This happens notably in the renewable energy and low-emission transport sectors. Given the scale of resources needed to address the infrastructure investment gap, mobilizing the private sector for this goal has become imperative, especially in countries where financial transactions in banking and capital markets follow Islamic law (or shari’ah) principles.
They define an asset-oriented system of ethical financial intermediation built on the principles of risk-sharing in lawful activities (halal) rather than rent-seeking gains. This “entrepreneurial” approach by investors requires a high degree of transparency and creates incentives to monitor projects more carefully, which, in turn, strengthen the efficiency in building and operating infrastructure.
Islamic finance has the potential to play a crucial role in supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the face of significant financing needs for the SDGs, Islamic finance has untapped potential as a substantial and non-traditional source of financing for the SDGs.
The growth of Islamic finance has been rapid at 10-12% annually over the past two decades. By 2015, the industry had surpassed US$1.88 trillion in size. Islamic finance has emerged as an effective tool for financing development worldwide, including in non-Muslim countries, and may prove to be an important contributor towards realizing the SDGs.
The Third Annual Symposium on Islamic Finance was held in Kuala Lumpur in November 2017, co-organized by the World Bank Group, Islamic Development Bank, International Center for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF) and Guidance Financial Group to explore the potential contributions that Islamic Finance can make to achieving the SDGs.
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Two years in the making, last week the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDBG) and the World Bank Group officially launched the landmark report Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships at a discussion broadcast online from Washington, D.C. We illustrated that, through partnerships, the power of Islamic finance can be instrumental in unlocking financial resources necessary to meet the tremendous demand for critical infrastructure.
In fact, infrastructure PPPs funded with Islamic finance have proliferated in the Middle East, and have flourished in other countries throughout Africa and Asia. Both of our institutions are committed to leverage our competitive advantages, achieve effective interventions, and yield measurable results in scaling up and broadening the use of Islamic finance.
Photo: Artit Wongpradu / Shutterstock.com
Islamic finance has been growing rapidly across the globe. According to a recent report by the Islamic Financial Services Board, the Islamic finance market currently stands around $1.9 trillion. With this growth, its application has been extended into many areas — trade, real estate, manufacturing, banking, infrastructure, and more.
However, Islamic finance is still a relatively untapped market for public-private partnership (PPP) financing, which makes the recent publication Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships such an important resource, especially for governments and practitioners.
“Proceeding from the Islamic Development Bank’s interest, as well as my personal concerns about what benefits the Member Countries, where the subject of partnerships between the public and private sectors (PPPs) has become a major hub in fostering development in several sectors in many countries, I have initiated a forum to address the most significant issues and topics related to the importance of partnerships between the public and private sectors, in addition to the optimal means to activate them and benefit from their acclaimed development role."
– Dr. Bandar Mohammed Al-Hajjar, President, Islamic Development Bank
The first Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Forum took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in March 2017, which I attended as a guest moderator and panelist. The IsDB organized the Forum to support its communication with its member countries by initiating a debate that would introduce forum participants to opportunities and challenges that PPPs present in various countries and various sectors.
Islamic finance assets represent only around 1% of the global financial market, so how can tapping into these funds help close the $452 billion annual infrastructure finance gap in Emerging Markets and Developing Economies? The percentage may be small now, but the Islamic finance market is growing at an impressive pace—and not just in Muslim-majority countries.
In the past decade, the Islamic finance industry has grown at double digits despite the weak global economic environment. By 2020, the Islamic finance industry is projected to reach $3 trillion in total assets with 1 billion users. However, despite its rapid growth and enormous potential, 7 out of 10 adults still do not have access to a bank account in Muslim countries. This means that 682 million adult Muslims still do not have an account at a banking institution. While some Muslim countries have high levels of account ownership (above 90 percent), there are others with less than 5 percent of their adult population who reported having a bank account.
Infrastructure needs in developing countries are great and will continue to rise over the next decade. To sustain the projected global GDP growth between 2012 and 2030, US$57 trillion is needed in infrastructure investment, according to McKinsey's estimates.
In emerging markets infrastructure investment needs have been forecast to range between US$14.4 and US$15.7 trillion in emerging markets from 2008 to 2020.
Since funding infrastructure projects usually requires a long-term and large investment, emerging markets are struggling how to meet these needs through public investments or even traditional bank funding.
Figuring out how to finance investments needed in infrastructure is one of the key issues on the G20 agenda and has also been identified in the Sustainable Development Goals.
While private-public partnerships are usually mentioned as one way to bridge this financing gap, using Islamic finance or other asset-backed financial mechanisms to fund long-term development has started to gain traction in recent years.
As part of events held around the G20 Summit, the World Bank Group with the Turkish Capital Market Board and Borsa Istanbul organized a conference on “Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Long-Term Investment Financing,” which took place on November 18-19, 2015 in Istanbul.
From the smallest rural villages in Bangladesh to the large, bustling metropolitan centers of Cairo or Istanbul, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of Islamic communities around the world, keeping local economies humming.
I first became interested in the potential of leveraging Islamic finance to grow SMEs when I led a seminar on the topic in 1997. I’ve come full circle, almost 20 years later, when I had the opportunity to speak last month in Istanbul at a conference on “Leveraging Islamic Finance for SMEs” organized by the World Bank Group, the Turkish Treasury, the Islamic Development Bank and TUMSIAD, the largest association of SMEs in the country with 10,000 members.