By MUSHTAK PARKER | ARAB NEWS
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country with a population of over 210 million, ought to have a natural fit with Islamic banking, finance and insurance. Indeed, the mobilization of domestic savings through Islamic banking is expected to help drive the growth of the Indonesian banking industry, according to Indonesian Vice President Boediono.
However, the latest statistics on the sector shows that Indonesia has a long way to go in emulating the success of its neighbor, Malaysia. While Islamic banking assets have grown by 38 percent per year in 2005-2009, and 47 percent last year, it has started with a very low base. During this period the number of Islamic banking account holders however did increase from 300,000 in 2001 to 8.5 million at the end of June 2011.
For Indonesia, the global sukuk market in particular has become an alternative source of funding for infrastructure and other investments. Indonesia has already issued a debut international sovereign sukuk and a number of rupiah-denominated sukuk for the domestic retail market. The latest foray of the Indonesian Ministry of Finance into the Islamic capital market is set for August 2011 when the government is due to issue 1 trillion rupiah of debut Islamic treasury bills with a six-month tenor.
Gov. Darmin Nasution of the Bank of Indonesia at a recent bilateral conference in Jakarta which was organized by Bank of Indonesia and Bank Negara Malaysia suggested that Indonesia has much to learn from Malaysia’s experience in Islamic finance policy, regulation, legal framework, product innovation and market practice. While Islamic finance in Malaysia had reached 22 percent market share of the total banking sector, in Indonesia this market share is a mere 3 percent. The country today has 11 Islamic banks; 23 Islamic banking windows; and 151 Islamic cooperative and microfinance banks, confirmed the Governor.
Nasution projected Islamic banking deposits in Indonesia to grow steadily over the next few years. The Financing to Deposit Ratio (FDR) of the Indonesian Islamic banking industry was 101.2 per cent for the last decade, but in April 2011 it stood at an impressive 95.2 percent, reflecting the increasing role of Islamic banks as financial intermediaries in Indonesia.
The conference was organized to strengthen the Islamic financial linkages and collaboration between the two countries, including enhancing cross border business volume, liquidity management, product and talent development, as well as Shariah convergence.
Boediono stressed the importance of setting policies, regulations, the quality development of institutions and human resources to boost Islamic financial system linkages between the markets, especially Indonesia and Malaysia. He highlighted the advantages of Islamic finance especially its ethos of financing real economic activities; and the decoupling between risk and reward, especially in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
Indonesia and Malaysia are already engaging on several fronts, whether between the policy makers and regulators, and the private sector investing in Indonesian Islamic financial institutions. There has been a greater sharing of technical expertise and experiences on Islamic financial markets and infrastructure development including the harmonization of regulatory arrangements.
This development of robust financial markets and enabling environment for enhanced linkages between the two markets, experts stress are essential platforms to supporting the two countries’ financial institutions and intermediaries for more effective business connections.
A manifestation of these linkages are the to potentially important memoranda of understandings (MoUs) signed by Malaysian entities with Indonesian counterparts in July 2011.
The first MoU was signed between the Association of Islamic Banking Institutions Malaysia (AIBIM) and the Indonesian Shariah Banking Association (Asbisindo), whereby the two entities will establish an industry taskforce which would jointly develop cross border Islamic liquidity management products acceptable in both markets, and to organize focused workshops on Islamic finance to enhance the connectivity between the Islamic finance industries in Malaysia and Indonesia.
The second MoU was signed between Malaysia’s Maybank Islamic Bhd and PT Bank Syariah Mandiri of Indonesia whereby the two banks would start a cross border collaboration in Islamic treasury and trade finance products, services and facilitation. Maybank Islamic sees this MoU as a complement to its existing subsidiaries in Indonesia, Bank International Indonesia and Maybank Syariah Indonesia.