Rabat — Moroccan lawmakers just approved a banking bill that provides for the creation of Islamic banks.
According to Minister-Delegate for the Budget Driss Azami, "participatory financial products and services can make an important contribution to the mobilisation of savings and financial inclusion in Morocco".
The move by the Chamber of Representatives on June 25th to approve the alternative banks had been expected ever since the Justice and Development Party (PJD) took office.
The PJD had long underlined its commitment to the plan, in order to cater to the needs of a certain segment of the population and attract foreign investors. The cabinet in January took the first step by adopting the draft law.
The law covers the basic principles of Sharia finance, defines concepts, details the wording and scope of contracts and transactions, and outlines consumer protection measures and the supervision of participating banks by Bank al-Maghrib.
A range of financial products and services will be offered not only to Moroccans within the kingdom but also to those living in countries where participatory finance products are available.
The MPs who spearheaded the bill said that it addressed a grievance stretching back many years. According to the leader of the PJD group in the Chamber of Representatives, Abdellah Bouanou, the aspiration of a segment of Moroccan society that hoped to see Islamic banks has finally been realised.
Some other lawmakers, however, warned against the idea of "halal" and "haram" banks.
Mounia Ghoulam, an MP representing the Istiqlal Party, underlined that this way of thinking could spark a social revolt.
"There's no danger of ill-feeling being stirred up within society by the concept of halal or haram because Moroccans are aware of the services offered by each type of bank," sociologist Samira Bakali countered.
Said Khairoune, the president of the Finance and Economic Development Committee of the Chamber of Representatives, pointed out that alternative financial products would also contribute to the growth of the national economy.
The introduction of Islamic banks in Morocco would help draw cash into the financial market, economist Mehdi Farayhi agreed.
Foreign investors are already interested in Morocco, he said. An influx of capital is expected from Gulf countries.
"Islamic finance has great potential in Morocco. The authorities just need to raise awareness of the services offered and train suitable staff," Farayhi added.
Rkia Raji, a 42-year-old employee, is among those planning to take advantage of the new banking services.
"My husband didn't want to take out a normal bank loan to buy an apartment," she told Magharebia. "We've been saving up for years, but it's not enough to achieve this goal. Only Islamic banks offer a solution for us," she said.