News / Asia

Focus on the Little Guy Could Boost Islamic Banking in Indonesia

Multimedia

Audio

Indonesia's central bank has recently embraced new regulations for Islamic banking, which it sees as key to building on last year's strong economic growth. In a country that is home to more than 200 million Muslims, the potential for expansion is enormous, although Islamic finance still accounts for a small part of the country's financial market.

Over the past six years Islamic banking has averaged 36 percent annual growth in Indonesia. But its $7 billion in assets makes up only 2.5 percent of the country's total banking sector.

Banking analysts say unclear regulations on banking that conforms to Islamic law and pervasive corruption have kept investors away from Indonesia.

The central bank, Bank Indonesia, wants that to change. It has drafted a blueprint that includes expanding Islamic lending to small and medium-sized enterprises, scrapping a tax law that imposes extra costs on Islamic banking transactions and improving risk management.

Under Islamic, or Sharia, law, charging or paying interest is banned, as are investment in businesses that Islam finds unacceptable, such as liquor companies.

Some financial experts say Islamic banking principles, which limit the use of sophisticated derivatives and require transactions to be backed by real assets, could prevent the excessive leverage that undermined the global financial system two years ago.

Bank Indonesia senior bank researcher Dadang Muljawan says those characteristics helped convince the government to develop its dual-banking system. "The Islamic bank can survive very well the economic crisis. This is maybe what has been seen by the Indonesian government as an opportunity …. If we have two systems that can work together and then if one goes bust - I hope not - the other one can sustain," he says.

That does not negate the need for better supervision. The system still requires proper supervision. "Jokingly we sometimes say that we can't say Islamic banks are too holy to fail … it's not the magic word," he says.

Bank Indonesia expects more banks to enter the Islamic market after April, when the new tax law takes effect. Research head Dhani Gunawan says the central bank also hopes to draw in foreign investors to increase the funds available for infrastructure projects and for small and medium-sized businesses. "Islamic banks are focused on small and micro-financing, more close(ly) with real sector financing, so it will support the economy," he says.

If Indonesia is to meet the central bank's goal of seeing Islamic banking account for 10 percent of the market by 2015, it will have to look for high-profile investors, especially in China and the Middle East.

But Dadang says Islamic banks in the country need to focus on the small customers. "We have to also give sufficient attention to micro-finance. Why? Because well, maybe 40 percent of the Indonesian community will still need financial services - capital, bank financing. Most of them are still unbankable (can not access banks), they have the potential to produce something, but they need capital for them to be more efficient, to start a business," he says.

This is where domestic banks can help. B.S. Kusmuljono is a bank executive and chairman of the national committee for microfinance empowerment. He wants to expand an existing system that extends up to $500 in credit to small entrepreneurs, mostly farmers looking to develop their production. "Our aim now is to eradicate poverty and to train as many people as possible to be entrepreneurs. That means the borrower should have a capacity building process. He has to be educated to be a businessman," he says.

But that requires training and added oversight to monitor lending to more than 40 million business owners. Kusmuljono says that may be part of the reason Indonesia has not seen more growth in Islamic finance. "We see that the development is not what we expected 10 years ago. We thought it would grow rapidly. But we are optimistic that the Sharia banking will take an important role because most of the banks in Indonesia have a Sharia affiliate," he says.

Many conventional banks in Indonesia have opened Islamic banking units, as a way to enter the market.

For now, the focus will remain on building small and medium-sized businesses in the financial sector. But there is hope that improved regulations and new government measures could see Indonesia grab a bigger slice of what the central bank says is a $900 billion global market for Islamic banking.
 

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid