Magharebia (Washington DC)

Morocco to Open Islamic Banks

Rabat — Ever since the Justice and Development Party took office, it has underlined its commitment to implementing this plan in order to cater to the needs of a certain segment of the population and attract foreign investors.

The cabinet on Thursday (January 16th) took the first legal step by adopting a draft law on the creation of participatory Islamic banks.

Minister-Delegate for the Budget Driss Azami said that the creation of a legislative framework governing Islamic banking was "necessary given the belief that participatory financial products and services can make an important contribution to the mobilisation of savings and financial inclusion in Morocco".

For its part, the finance ministry said that several factors motivated the introduction of regulations governing the activity of Islamic banks, including the potential for investment and financing that this activity has in Morocco.

A range of financial products and services should be offered not only to Moroccans living here but also the ones living in host countries that offer participatory finance products, it noted.

The government intends to boost national savings substantially, said government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi.

During a press briefing Thursday, he stated that the High Council of Ulemas would be asked to give its opinion on this draft law to make sure that it complies with Sharia.

Participatory banks must appoint an audit committee to identify and prevent risks of noncompliance with the opinions of the council in their operations, activities and products offered to the public.

Moroccans are split on the proposal to introduce Sharia-compliant finance. Sociologist Karima Msebni told Magharebia that many people do not trust alternative products offered by regular banks.

"The creation of Islamic banks will certainly be helpful to people who do not use banks and are waiting for this kind of service," she said.

Morocco will reap economic benefits in terms of investment too, noted Hamid Roghi, a banker.

"Morocco will be able to attract numerous investors from the Gulf States. A number of them already expressed interest a few years ago in setting themselves up in Morocco and starting up Islamic banks," he said.

However, student Hamza Chrif said he was surprised at the beliefs of a certain segment of the Moroccan population about standard banking products.

"Muslims need to get with the times. I find it hard to believe that normal banking services don't comply with Sharia. Alternative products cost more than normal ones," he said.

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