Country Profiles

The Islamic finance sector continues to grow, expanding to new jurisdictions and maintaining momentum in countries where it has a well-established presence. A number of developing member countries (DMCs) within the Central West Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia regions have begun implementing legislative and regulatory initiatives to allow the introduction of Islamic financial products and instruments. Some DMCs are aiming to establish themselves as Islamic financial hubs within their regions. Islamic finance is proving to be an increasingly relevant sector as can be derived from the increasing market share of Islamic finance in the domestic banking sectors in key DMCs. Within the backdrop of these developments, ADB has provided critical support to its DMCs in developing Islamic finance within the region.

The following provides a preview of the Islamic finance sector in select DMCs and ADB’s projects involving Islamic finance in these countries.

Islamic finance is a relatively nascent industry in Afghanistan. Currently, at least 7 out of the 16 licensed financial institutions in the country offer some form of Islamic financial services.

With almost a 100% Muslim population, a huge portion of the conservative Muslim Afghan population remains unbanked due to religious reasons. There is relative success in terms of access to Islamic microfinance services as Afghanistan is among the few countries that have a considerable Islamic microfinance presence with strong support from the country’s development partners in expanding this sector.

The government is taking several initiatives to improve the regulatory and legal landscape. A regulatory framework dedicated for Islamic financing is underway. At present, the country is also collaborating to prepare legislation on sukuk and a corresponding implementation plan.

ADB supporting Islamic finance in Afghanistan

  • 2016: Regional-Capacity Development Technical Assistance, “Islamic Finance for Inclusive Growth”, is currently being processed. This technical assistance will provide support to the Islamic Finance Division in Afghanistan’s Central Bank to better regulate the growing Islamic finance sector.
  • 2011: Technical Assistance: Rural Finance Expansion. This technical assistance provided some initial legal support to help establish a regulatory regime for Islamic finance. The technical assistance also undertook some capacity building activities in regulating Islamic finance institutions.

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Bangladesh is among the countries in Asia with Islamic banking industry of systemic significance (with Islamic banks having a market share of at least 15% of the total banking sector assets). As of 2014, there are eight full-fledged Islamic banks in Bangladesh with 17 regular commercial banks and one foreign bank offering Islamic products through their Islamic banking branches/windows.

The Islamic microfinance sector in Bangladesh is also among the strongest in Asia. The country’s leading Islamic microfinance provider, the Islamic Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL), successfully implemented a scheme to support Muslims in the rural areas who were left out from conventional micro financing. This was considered key in addressing rural poverty and increasing financial inclusion in the country.

Despite the size of its Islamic finance sector, Bangladesh is still to develop a comprehensive specific legal and regulatory framework for Islamic finance. In an effort to improve the regulatory framework and liquidity management for the sector, the country’s central bank, Bangladesh Bank, has initiated a number of measures including issuing guidelines for conducting Islamic banking (2009) and launching the Islami Interbank Fund Market (2011) to improve liquidity of the sector.

ADB supporting Islamic finance in Bangladesh

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Brunei Darussalam has a developed Islamic finance industry that has achieved systemic importance in the country. Islamic banking assets account for 40% of the total domestic market share, the highest in all ADB's developing member countries. Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam, the only full-fledged Islamic bank in Brunei, has reported assets amounting to $4.57 billion.

In 2006, the government launched the Short Term Sukuk Al-Ijarah Money Market Program. The sukuk issuances were intended to contribute to the development of the Islamic capital market in the country and as a liquidity management tool.

As of 2015, Brunei represents 0.4% of the global Islamic banking assets. Meanwhile, Brunei accounts for approximately 0.18% of the total outstanding sukuk globally as of December 2015.

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Indonesia has the second biggest Islamic finance industry in Asia in terms of asset size, next to Malaysia. There are at least 12 Islamic banks in Indonesia, 22 conventional banks with a Shari'ah window and 163 Islamic rural banks. In 2015, Indonesia issued a $2 billion 10-year sukuk, its largest sukuk transaction so far and also the largest-volume sukuk in a single transaction for the year. As of 2015, Indonesia makes up 1.4% of the global banking assets and 3.7% of the global sukuk issuances. Islamic finance represents approximately 5% of the domestic total banking assets.

Recognizing the growing significance of Islamic finance in the country, Indonesia’s central bank issued a developmental plan, namely the Blueprint of Islamic Banking Development, to set out strategic initiatives to achieve a sustainable development in the sector as early as 2002. The National Act No. 21/2008 provided the main regulatory framework for the accelerated development of Islamic banking in the country. In 2014, Indonesia’s Financial Sector Authority (OJK) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Sharia Board of Indonesian Ulema Council to ensure a stable development of the Islamic financial services sector consistent with Shari’ah principles and ensure an integrated supervision over Indonesia’s financial services sector.

Indonesia is a member of the Islamic Development Bank, Islamic Financial Services Board, and the International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation.

ADB supporting Islamic Finance in Indonesia

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As early as 2009, the country has adopted legislation on Islamic banking. A year after, the first and sole full-pledged Islamic Bank, Al Hilal Bank, was established. Several legislative amendments were introduced since then, including the amendment passed in 2015 to ensure tax neutrality between conventional financial products and Islamic finance products. In 2012, the Government approved a road-map to develop the country’s Islamic financial industry. In 2016, Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) was established, with the objective of transforming the country to a regional hub for Islamic Finance in Central Asia by 2020. AIFC is currently in the process of developing a comprehensive regulatory framework for its Islamic financial system.

The government strongly supports the development of its Islamic capital market. Kazakhstan’s Strategic Plan for 2020 included developing the domestic stock market as a regional center for Islamic banking within Central Asia. Riding on this momentum, in 2012, the JSC “Development Bank of Kazakhstan” has debuted a Sukuk “al-Murabaha” in the amount of 240 million Malaysian ringgit (about $76.7 million), 38% of which was distributed among the Kazakhstani investors. Meanwhile, the first sovereign sukuk is planned to be launched in 2016.

Given the government’s initiatives, the country’s Islamic finance industry is poised to achieve further growth in the coming years.

ADB supporting Islamic Finance in Kazakhstan

  • 2016: Regional-Capacity Development Technical Assistance, “Islamic Finance for Inclusive Growth”, is currently being processed. This technical assistance will provide support to improve the Islamic finance regulatory framework in Kazakhstan to support the continued development of Islamic banking and other Islamic financial services.

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Malaysia has the most sophisticated and also the biggest Islamic finance industry in Asia in terms of asset size (excluding member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council). As of the first half of 2015, Malaysia’s Islamic banking assets already account for 9.3% of the total Islamic banking assets globally and 23% of its domestic banking sector. Malaysia also dominates the Islamic capital sector, representing at least 50% of the total issuances in 2015.

As one of the leading pioneers in the industry, Malaysia led the establishment of the International Islamic Liquidity Corporation Management, which has been crucial in promoting effective cross-border Shari'ah-compliant liquidity management solutions in the region. In 2013, the country also adopted the Islamic Financial Services Act, which was intended to improve the regulatory framework to effectively reflect the specificities of various Shari'ah contracts.

Another important development includes approval by Malaysia’s Securities Commission of the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) sukuk framework to facilitate development of sustainable and responsible investments, consistent with the growing trend for green bonds and social impact bonds. Following the framework’s approval in 2014, Khazanah Nasional Berhard, the strategic investment fund of Malaysia, through a special purpose vehicle, issued in 2015 a RM100 million 7-year SRI sukuk. The sukuk was issued pursuant to the first sukuk programme approved under the SRI framework. The proceeds will be used to fund schools identified under a trust programme.

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Islamic Finance was first introduced in Maldives in 2005 through a Sri Lankan company, which began offering general insurance products based on Shari'ah principles. The Maldives Banking Act was passed in 2010, authorizing the Maldives Monetary Authority, the country’s central bank, to issue regulations relating to the conduct of Islamic banking activities. Pursuant to this mandate, Maldives Islamic Banking Regulation was issued in 2011, which governed the “licensing, financial, prudential, supervisory matters relating to Islamic banking business in the Maldives.” In the same year, the Maldives Islamic Bank was established, the first full-fledged Islamic bank to operate in the country. Currently, there are about 13 financial institutions offering Islamic financial services and products in the country.

Recent years have seen important initial steps towards the development of Islamic finance in the Maldives. In 2013, the first corporate sukuk in Maldives has been issued by Housing Development Finance Corporation Plc. It was a 10-year corporate real estate sukuk raising USD3.9 million in proceeds for the issuer. Meanwhile, a sovereign dollar-denominated sukuk is expected to be launched by 2017. Earlier in 2016, the Maldives Center for Islamic Finance was established. The center is a 100% government owned entity, which is expected to promote the country as a hub for Islamic finance in South Asia. The center has a wide gamut of functions relating to Islamic finance, including conducting various research, providing product structuring and consultancy services, floating Islamic capital market instruments on the Maldives Stock Exchange, among many others.

ADB supporting Islamic Finance in the Maldives

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Pakistan is among ADB’s developing members with a developed Islamic finance industry, together with Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam. Currently, Islamic finance has an 11% market share in the total banking assets in the country. Pakistan has at least 22 Islamic financial institutions in the country and has a developing sukuk market.

Pakistan is gearing to further expand its Islamic finance sector. Significant government initiatives include the launching of the Islamic Banking Strategic Plan, which aims to increase the country’s Islamic banking sector’s share in the total banking assets to 20% by December 2018 up from 9.8% as of 2014. Earlier this year, the government approved reforms to eliminate interest by introducing a 2% tax rebate on Shariah-compliant manufacturing companies. Pakistan’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SECP) also issued the 2015 Issue of Sukuk Regulations, which is expected to accelerate sukuk issuances in the country. SECP also established a separate Islamic finance department within SECP with a clear mandate to issue Shariah regulations, carry out Shariah compliance, introduce new Shariah compliant products and raise market awareness. In 2015, State Bank of Pakistan also issued the Sharia’ah Governance framework for Islamic banking with the primary objective of strengthening the overall shari’ah compliance environment. Pakistan has a total infrastructure investment requirement of up to $165.2 billion between 2011 to 2020. Given the public sector‘s limited resources to fund this need, there is potential for Islamic funds to serve as an alternative to fill such infrastructure investment gap.

Being resident to one of the biggest Muslim populations globally, and with approximately 7.2% of Pakistan’s adult population remaining unbanked due to religious reasons, there is also opportunity for Islamic finance to increase financial inclusion by providing financial access to such underserved sector of the country.

ADB supporting Islamic finance in Pakistan

  • 2016: Regional-Capacity Development Technical Assistance, “Islamic Finance for Inclusive Growth”, is currently being processed. This technical assistance will provide support to improve the Islamic finance regulatory framework in Pakistan to support the continued development of Islamic banking and other Islamic financial services.
  • 2011: ADB approved a $60 million partial credit guarantee for the payment obligations of project companies to Islamic Development Bank under an Ijara structure.

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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is still to establish a legislative framework for Islamic finance. Despite this, PRC has shown interest to develop its own Islamic finance market. In 2009, the PRC’s central bank, The People’s Bank of China, became a member of the Islamic Financial Services Board. The Ningxia Hui (Muslim) Autonomous Region (Ningxia), where 35% of the population is Muslim, has also been considered to be a key access point for introducing Islamic finance in the country. Ningxia Province has been seeking to establish itself as an Islamic financial center. Earlier in 2009, the Bank of Ningxia established an Islamic banking unit. The approval in 2013 by the PRC’s State Council to establish Ningxia as an inland open economic experimental zone is expected to jumpstart the development of Islamic finance in the country.

Developments include Affin Holdings and the Bank of East Asia confirming plans to establish an Islamic bank in the PRC. Early in 2015, Qatar International Islamic Bank QSC and QNB Capital LLC were reported to have entered into an agreement with Chongging-based Southwest Securities Co. to develop Shari'ah-compliant finance framework in the PRC. The private sector arm of Islamic Development Bank has also partnered with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to develop Shari'ah compliant financial products. These developments positively indicate that Islamic finance will soon further expand in the PRC.

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The Philippines has one Islamic Bank, Al Amanah Islamic Investment Bank (AAIIB), licensed to undertake both Islamic and conventional banking operations. The bank started operating primarily as an Islamic bank through the enactment of Republic Act 6848, which mandated the bank to promote the socio-economic development of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (a region in the Philippines composed of predominantly Muslim provinces) through Shari'ah compliant banking, investing and financing operations. To date, AAIIB operations remain limited with only 8 branches in Mindanao and total assets of approximately $14 million as of 2014.

The relatively slow development of Islamic finance in the country is due in part to the absence of an enabling legislation that will allow the operation of additional Islamic banks. The country’s central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, supports the promotion of Islamic finance and has initiated discussions with Bank Negara Malaysia to assist in the establishment of a legislative framework for the industry. Recent developments also include the filing of a Senate bill for an expanded Islamic banking system in the country.

ADB supporting Islamic finance in Philippines

  • 2012: Agribusiness Development Assistance for smallholders in Mindanao, a grant assistance to promote agri-business development through, among others, introduction of Islamic financing products.

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In 2014, Tajikistan adopted a legislation introducing Islamic banking in the country. The law defines the scope of Islamic banking operations and provides the licensing requirements for financial institutions intending to operate based on Shari'ah principles. Following the approval of the Islamic banking law, Bonki Rushdi Tojikiston, a Tajikistan-based bank, signed an agreement with the private sector arm of Islamic Development Bank to support its conversion as a full-fledged Islamic Bank, expected to be the first Islamic bank in the country.

With 95% of Tajikistan’s total population being Muslims and less than 5% of the population having bank accounts, there is great potential for Islamic finance to improve financial inclusion in the country. Developing Islamic finance could positively impact banking penetration in Tajikistan by expanding the base of market players as well as by making Shari'ah-compliant products and services more accessible to Muslims who opt out from the interest-bearing products offered by conventional financial institutions.

ADB supporting Islamic finance in Tajikistan

  • 2016: Regional-Capacity Development Technical Assistance, “Islamic Finance for Inclusive Growth”, is currently being processed. This technical assistance will provide support to improve the Islamic finance regulatory framework in Tajikistan to support the continued development of Islamic banking and other Islamic financial services.

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Thailand’s Islamic finance industry began in the late 1990s when the Government Savings Bank and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives opened Islamic windows. The Islamic Bank of Thailand, established in 2003 as a state enterprise under Thailand’s Ministry of Finance, remains as the country’s sole full-fledged Islamic bank as of date. As of December 2014, the Islamic Bank of Thailand has an asset base of approximately $3.05 billion.

Islamic microfinance operations is also present in the country. Islamic microfinance institutions operate in the form of a cooperative, with the first Islamic microfinance institution established in 1987. With 7 million Thai Muslims, Islamic microfinance has a potential to address the financing needs of this segment of the population.

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