INTERVIEW: Albaraka Investment & Development Company (ABID) chief executive Saleh Malaikah responds to written questions from MEED:

12 July 1996

In the field of Islamic banking, which specific products and services do you see as being growth areas during the next few years?

One of the preferred methods in financing would be (Ijara) Finance Leasing. The reason for this form is that it is the most perfect substitute for debt. In addition, the listed equities with thorough screening and purification for Sharia compliance will be favoured for investment.

In terms of products, the asset management through the 'Mudarabah' style will dominate in the immediate future. Accordingly, Islamic Investment Funds are already attracting the institutional and individual investors.

Is the expansion of conventional banks' Islamic operations in the Middle East- such as Citibank's new Islamic bank - going to pose pro blems for indigenous banks?

Oddly, this trend is having an opposite effect. The introduction of the conventional banking units into the Islamic banking field is lending credibility and adding validity to the conceptual premise of Sharia compliant banking. This increase will expand the total overall market niche as well as lend more trust in the Islamic finance and banking system.

The indigenous bank's experience, track record and more credible Sharia compliant operations will continue to command a larger share in an increasing market base.

On the commercial banking side, which geographical regions offer the best potential for growth in the future?

I believe the countries with the most advanced commercial activity and predominant Muslim populations would be the best candidates: This would naturally point to the GCC countries and the South-East Asian market - Malaysia and Indonesia.

Do you see lack of standardisation between Sharia committees or the absence of lenders of last resort as obstacles to the growth of the Islamic sector?

The Dallah Albaraka Group has been working on the development and standardisation of Sharia committee measures through Albaraka Sharia symposiums and various publications in this area. Of late, the establishment of a unified Sharia board, at Albaraka, enlarged the initial Sharia committee from three to five prominent Sharia scholar members of international fame.

We expect this solution will find favour as a standard format and when implemented, do not envision this phase will act as an obstacle to Islamic bank growth.

The 'lender of last resort', in its present form, is not an acceptable concept in Islamic jurisprudence - Nevertheless, the 'lender of last resort' issue is presently under research and development with Al-Amin Company. for Securities and Investment Funds, a unit of Albaraka Investment & Development Company, in which we have already developed mechanisms. Al-Amin issues have a redemption feature that could be used as an Islamic money market instrument. We have also developed various mechanisms for our subsidiary banks which are being implemented. A great deal of attention is being applied with promising possibilities to successfully enrich the solutions to this subject.

In respect to the question of it 'being an obstacle of growth to Islamic banking' my opinion is: 'No more than any of the other issues that defines the distinction between Islamic and conventional banking.'

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