Three trends in the global financial market are converging to make sukuk, the Islamic financial instrument most similar to a conventional bond, a potentially viable form of finance for green investments: (1) banks are reluctant to finance infrastructure due to stricter capital requirements; (2) an increasing number of investors are interested in ‘environmentally sustainable investing’ (in other words, investing to promote activities seen as positive for the environment); and (3) the market for sukuk is growing significantly. While these three trends are distinct and not obviously related, taken together, they create a market opportunity for sukuk to be used as a tool to finance environmentally sustainable infrastructure projects.
The need for significant infrastructure spending is obvious in both developed and developing countries. From crumbling transportation infrastructure in the United States to inadequate power generation capacity in India, the evidence is clear that improving infrastructure is a global priority. At the same time, popular concern about climate change and the detrimental impact of increasing greenhouse gas emissions has also made improving infrastructure in an environmentally sustainable manner a priority.
Middle East and North Africa
Until now, the gap between rich and poor in the Middle East and North Africa has seemed—statistically at least—narrower than in many other regions of the world. Digging up data on wealth that has been squirreled abroad and hidden from the public eye, though, changes that.
In many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and in fact around the world, teachers—who play a pivotal role in any effort to improve education quality—have not been officially represented in the design of key government programs aimed at education reform.
Although Tunisia has made significant political progress since its 2011 revolution, in terms of the economy, development has stalled. Tunis-based writer, Christine Petré takes the pulse of entrepreneurship in this young democracy and finds that despite obstacles many would-be entrepreneurs remain positive.
Omer Karasapan crunches the latest ranking of global cities to see how urban centers in the Middle East and North Africa region are faring.
It’s been four years since Yemen witnessed a popular revolt against corruption and injustice. But Yemen has not stabilized since. Back in September 2012, hopes were high that Yemen was on the path to political transition. Aid by the international donor community poured in. But today, Yemenis seem to have lost all hope in government or the impact donor aid could have to improve their prospects.
Do political institutions limit ‘rent-seeking’ (excessive profits free from competition) by political elites? Very much so, if they’re working properly, argue the four authors (Jørgen Juel Andersen, Niels Johannesen, David Dreyer Lassen, and Elena Paltseva) of ‘Petro Rents, Political Institutions, and Hidden Wealth: Evidence from Offshore Bank Accounts.’ Their paper examines unique public data—on bank deposits held in some of the world’s best-known tax havens—to establish whether oil, in particular, really is the ‘resource curse’ it is made out to be by a range of political scientists and development professionals. (Spoiler alert—the answer is ‘yes.’)
From 14 – 24 January, I visited Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Tunisia. It is a region that has some of the greatest challenges when it comes to creating jobs. Finding solutions to the jobs crisis in the MENA region is key to solving many of the other issues that are holding back the region’s development.