The global Islamic finance industry will continue to grow at a comparably slow rate of around 5% in 2019 and 2020 in terms of assets, according to the newly issued “Islamic Finance Outlook 2020” by US-based business intelligence firm S&P Global Ratings. This follows a 10% growth rate in 2017 but only 2%-3% growth in 2018, which was mainly owing to flat sukuk issuances and generally weaker economic conditions in the industry’s core markets, with the notable exceptions of Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey, as well as Qatar where a number of issuers have returned to the capital markets as of late.

The report says it does not expect a quick rebound in the market, but acknowledges that the sukuk sector has improved from a total issuance volume of close to $130bn in 2018 – which was only slightly more than around $125bn in 2017 – to $162bn in 2019, according to Mohamed Damak, global head of Islamic finance at S&P Global Ratings. For 2020, he expects an issuance volume of up to $170bn, with accelerators being environmental, social and governance (ESG) sukuk, including green sukuk, and more medium-sized companies and financial institutions issuing Islamic bonds due to better standardisation in legal documentation and Shariah interpretation, which makes it cheaper and less complex to issue sukuk.

More commitments to environmental standards and the green economy in general in Islamic jurisdictions are also driving ESG investments, which – in turn – will attract a new type of investors to Islamic bonds, particularly in segments where ESG-related concerns and Shariah-compliant financing overlap, Damak said.

Apart from regulatory improvements, legal standardisation and ESG investments, the report sees another main opportunity to unlock further potential of Islamic finance, which is – unsurprisingly – Islamic fintech, although the S&P analysts are reluctant to predict a quick adaption of technological innovations in the Islamic finance industry since banks will first have to deal with the disrupting effects of fintech. As an example, the report notes that new digital financial services can equally be a potential threat to some business lines such as money transfer, especially in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) region where expatriates send more than $100bn back home every year.

However, over time, fintech is expected to spur growth of Islamic finance by enhancing the speed and ease of transactions, particularly through blockchain technology, which also helps increase transaction security and improves the traceability of transactions. It will also allow for a range of new digital banking solutions and will simplify and streamline regulatory and legal processes.

“We believe fintech will have only a marginal influence on our Islamic bank and sukuk ratings over the next two years,” the report says.

“[But] we consider that Islamic banks will be able to adapt to their changing operating environment through a combination of collaboration with fintech companies and cost-reduction measures. We also believe that regulators across the wider Islamic finance landscape will continue to protect the financial stability of their banking systems. Furthermore, we think that blockchain could help the operational management of sukuk, but will not induce any changes in the legal substance of the transactions.”

In money terms, the S&P forecast would translate into growth to $2.63tn in Islamic finance assets in 2019 and to $2.76tn in 2020. While the report is not providing a forecast beyond 2020, another study does: The “Islamic Finance Development Report 2019” compiled by Thomson Reuters and the Islamic Corp for the Development of the Private Sector forecasts that the Islamic finance industry will reach total assets of $3.47tn by 2024, based on a compound annual growth rate of 5.5% calculated from $2.52tn in assets in 2018.

Rating agency Moody’s in an earlier report also predicted stable growth in Islamic banking in most core Islamic markets, with an additional factor being mergers between Islamic and conventional banks in the GCC, where Islamic banks are the remaining entities, which could also drive one-off increases in Islamic banking assets in the years to come

Published in : Gulf Times, 20 January 2020.

Source : https://www.gulf-times.com/story/653816/Weaker-economic-conditions-take-toll-on-Islamic-finance-growth

Treating female genital mutilation costs USD 1.4 billion per year globally: WHO

Female genital mutilation (FGM) exacts a crippling economic as well as human cost, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

“FGM is not only a catastrophic abuse of human rights that significantly harms the physical and mental health of millions of girls and women; it is also a drain on a country’s vital economic resources,” said Dr Ian Askew, Director of WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research. “More investment is urgently needed to stop FGM and end the suffering it inflicts.”

New modelling reveals that the total costs of treating the health impacts of FGM would amount to USD 1.4 billion globally per year, if all resulting medical needs were addressed. For individual countries, these costs would near 10% of their entire yearly expenditure on health on average; in some countries, this figure rises to as much as 30%.

The interactive modelling tool that generated these data was launched on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

Severe physical and mental health impacts for women and girls

Women and girls living with FGM face serious risks to their health and well-being. These include immediate consequences after being cut, such as infections, bleeding or psychological trauma, as well as chronic health conditions that can occur throughout life.

Women who have undergone the procedure are more likely to experience life-threatening complications during childbirth. They may face mental health disorders or suffer chronic infections. They may also have pain or problems when they menstruate, urinate or have sexual intercourse.

All of these conditions warrant much-needed medical attention and care.

“High healthcare costs for countries mount because of the tragic personal impacts on women and girls. Governments have a moral responsibility to help end this harmful practice,” says Dr Prosper Tumusiime, Acting Director for Universal Health Coverage and the Life Course in the African Regional Office of WHO. “FGM hurts girls, imposes lifelong health risks on the women they become, and strains the healthcare systems that need to treat them.”

Preventing FGM brings major benefits for women, girls, communities and economies

Using data from 27 high-prevalence countries, the Cost Calculator demonstrates clear economic benefits from ending FGM. If it were abandoned now, it shows that the associated savings in health costs would be more than 60% by 2050.

In contrast, if no action is taken, it is estimated that these costs will soar by 50% over the same time period, as populations grow and as more girls undergo the procedure.

Since 1997, great efforts have been made to end FGM, through work within communities, research, and changes in legislation and policy. 26 countries in Africa and the Middle East now explicitly legislate against FGM, as well as 33 other countries with migrant populations from FGM-practicing countries.

WHO is also working with countries to raise awareness of the harmful impacts of the practice among their health workers, and to engage them in prevention efforts.

“Many countries and communities are showing that abandoning female genital mutilation is possible,” states Dr Christina Pallitto, scientist at WHO. “If countries invest to end female genital mutilation, they can prevent their girls from undergoing this harmful practice and promote the health, rights and well-being of women and girls.”

Female genital mutilation is internationally recognized as a human rights violation. It has no medical benefits and causes only harm. WHO’s position is that FGM must never be carried out.

Further information

The FGM Cost Calculator will be available here, as of 00:30 CET 6 February 2020:

Notes for Editors

About FGM

FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. More than 200 million girls and women alive today are estimated to have undergone the practice across 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated.

FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and 15 years of age.

About the FGM Cost Calculator

The WHO FGM Cost Calculator shows the economic cost of treating the health complications caused by FGM across 27 high-prevalence countries. These costs were calculated using the WHO One Health tool and other available scientific evidence.

Users of the tool can calculate costs by country in a ‘business as usual’ scenario; a scenario of partial abandonment of FGM, and full abandonment of FGM over a 30-year period. In addition, the distribution of costs by different types of health complications is presented by country.

The tool does not consider other indirect costs that hit families and communities, or the socio-economic impacts of the practice, which would be significantly higher still.

The 27 countries modelled include Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Còte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Soudan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Togo, United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen


Published: 6 February 2020, News release, Geneva

Source : https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/06-02-2020-female-genital-mutilation-hurts-women-and-economies