Over 1200 global industry powerhouses, policy makers, innovators and stakeholders will converge for the three-day long forum.
Held under the patronage of HRH Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain and the strategic partnership of the Central Bank of Bahrain, the World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) will take place on November 26th, 27th & 28th in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Middle East Global Advisors (MEGA), a leading financial intelligence platform facilitating the development of knowledge-based economies in the MENASEA markets, announced that it will convene the 25th anniversary edition of their flagship offering – the largest and most prestigious gathering of Islamic banking and finance leaders in the world – at the ART Rotana Hotel in Amwaj Islands.
Over 1200 global industry powerhouses, policy makers, innovators and stakeholders will converge for the three-day long forum that is spearheading a series of discussions gravitating around the theme of “Islamic Finance & Sustainable Economic Growth in the Age of Disruption” in line with its steady vision to serve as a compass for the global Islamic finance and banking industry.
Speaking ahead of the 25th WIBC, Ehsan Abbas, Chairman, Middle East Global Advisors, said: “For over 25 years, WIBC has helped forge a robust ecosystem to widen the scope of Islamic finance to meet new realities, whilst staying true to its ideals. 2018 will mark the 25th anniversary edition of the World Islamic Banking Conference – testament to its continued significance as a trusted benchmark for the industry to gather and share critical insights going forward.”
Adding further, Mr. Abbas said, “To assess recovery of economic growth, WIBC will seek to address the optimal ways that policymakers can support long-term robust growth by preparing to cope with possible bouts of financial market volatility. Countries need to rebuild fiscal buffers, enact structural reforms, and steer monetary policy cautiously in an environment that is already complex and challenging. In the midst of this, the 25th WIBC will focus on how Islamic finance can build on its global value proposition as a means of strengthening the financial sector.”
Speaking on behalf of WIBC’s Strategic Partner, Khalid Hamad Abdul-Rahman Hamad, Executive Director – Banking Supervision, Central Bank of Bahrain, said, “The Central Bank of Bahrain is pleased to be a strategic partner for the 25th edition of the World Islamic Banking Conference to be held on 26-28 November in Bahrain. The conference this year combines the best of Islamic Banking & Bahrain against the backdrop of recent changes. Key areas of focus will be new initiatives in Digital Banking, Economic Growth & Sustainable Finance, and country specific showcases. The Minister for Oil and Gas will also be talking about investment opportunities in Bahrain’s recent mega Oil and Gas discovery. The CBB is committed to remaining at the forefront of these developments by providing regulatory oversight to emerging technologies and ensuring the sustainability of financial resources. With the recent announcement of the Regulatory Sandbox and Bahrain Fintech Bay, Bahrain now also has an ecosystem in place to encourage growth in the Fin-Tech industry, making all the conference discussions & participatory interaction very relevant.”
WIBC has annually reaffirmed its reputation in generating breakthrough thought leadership. A true flagbearer for the conference and its ethos year-on-year, His Excellency Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, Governor, Central Bank of Bahrain, will showcase his support for the event by delivering the keynote address at the 25th World Islamic Banking Conference, with the vision of furthering the ecosystem for Islamic finance entities to thrive and grow globally.
With the pace of change in Financial Services increasing rapidly, so does the urge for the industry to react. Rapidly embracing the prevalent disruption and forging partnerships in efforts to sharpen operational efficiency have taken precedence in the digital era. Over the last few years, a key focus area for WIBC has always been to connect the industry with leading pioneers and innovators in the FinTech space and forge a fresh, innovative and technology-enabled phase of the industry’s development. While last year’s edition witnessed keynote speeches by Alex Tapscott, CEO NextBlock Global, Co-Author of Blockchain Revolution & Founding Member, IMF’s High Level Advisory Group on Fintech and Xen Baynham- Herd, Head of Strategy and Lead Economist – Blockchain who spoke about embracing new technologies like blockchain in the changing face of financial services due to the advent of the digitization, this year’s edition will also see leading technology experts deliberate as part of an exclusive FinTech Panel.
Key features for WIBC 2018 include: Governors’ Addresses; High-profile Regulatory Debate among Central Bankers; a conversation with a distinguished Islamic finance veteran on the future course of the Islamic economy, The Regulations Power Table on fostering synergies among regulators, standard setters and global financial regulatory authorities to further Islamic Finance; Panel discussions focusing on sustainable, equitable & inclusive growth, FinTech, new horizons for Islamic finance, cross-jurisdictional issues on Sharia standards & practices and much more.
Industry leaders will also be recognized for their excellence through the WIBC Performance Awards 2018, the nominees of which will be announced weeks before the November event, and the winners at the Gala Dinner on November 27. Confirmed partners at WIBC 2018 so far include: Casablanca Finance City Authority, Ithmaar Bank, Khaleeji Commercial Bank (KHCB), World Gold Council, First Energy Bank, The Perth Mint, Eiger Trading, Bahrain Islamic Bank (BisB) & Fitch Ratings.
Bahrain, the host nation of WIBC for the past 25 years has emerged as a global leader in Islamic finance, with the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) continuing to provide strong support to the financial industry. With the aim of strengthening Bahrain’s position as a Fintech and financial services hub in the GCC, the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) and FinTech Consortium recently announced the launch of Bahrain FinTech Bay, among the largest dedicated financial technology (fintech) hubs in the Middle East and Africa. The 10,000 square foot space in Manama aims to support the development and acceleration of Fintech firms, as well as the interaction between investors, entrepreneurs, government bodies and financial institutions.
Interestingly, the 24th WIBC proved to be the ideal launch pad for a number of initiatives, notably ALGO Bahrain – the world’s first Fintech Consortium of Islamic Banks and Wahed Invest’s launch of the world’s first halal robo advisor – a unique way of revolutionizing halal investing by using technology. The conference also played host to the launch of The ICD-Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Report 2017 and The Islamic Commercial Law Report 2018 by Thomson Reuters, arming industry leaders with critical insights going forward.
WIBC 2017 registered participation from a staggering 1200 delegates, 87 partners, 90 high profile speakers from across 50 countries, further boosting the powerful WIBC brand and its legacy. The distinguished line-up of speakers over the years include:
- His Excellency Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, Governor, Central Bank of Bahrain
- His Excellency Dr. Kairat Kelimbetov, Governor, Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC)
- His Excellency Dr. Ahmed Abdulkarim Alkholifey, Governor, Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency
- Kishore Mahbubani, Dean, Professor in the Practice of Public Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
- H.E. Hamood Sangour Al-Zadjali, Executive President, Central Bank of Oman
- H.E. Riaz Riazuddin, Deputy Governor, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP)
- Manjiang Cheng, Chief Economist, Bank of China International (BOCI), CEO, Research Company of BOCI
- H.E. Dr. Mohammad Y. Al-Hashel, Governor, Central Bank of Kuwait
To find out more about the 25th World Islamic Banking Conference, visit: www.wibc2018.com
Join the global conversation on Twitter at: @WIBC2018 #WIBC2018
ABOUT MIDDLE EAST GLOBAL ADVISORS (MEGA)
Connecting markets with intelligent insights & strategic execution since 1993
Middle East Global Advisors (MEGA) is the leading gateway connectivity and intelligence platform to Islamic finance opportunities in the rapidly developing economic region that stretches all the way from Morocco in the West to Indonesia in the East- The Middle East North Africa Southeast Asia (MENASEA) connection. For 25 years, our exclusive focus on achieving business results for the Islamic finance industry has enabled us to create significant value for the leading players in the Islamic banking, finance and investment markets.
Visit us at www.meglobaladvisors.com
ABOUT WORLD ISLAMIC BANKING CONFERENCE (WIBC)
The World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) has established its reputation as the world’s largest and most influential gathering of international Islamic banking and finance leaders for over two decades. With the strategic support of the Central Bank of Bahrain, the next generation WIBC will focus on transforming Islamic finance into a global proposition by facilitating strategic opportunities, addressing systematic challenges and connecting international market players and institutional investors to the industry’s catalysts, thought leaders, partners and institutions.
To find out more, visit www.wibc2018.com
Teed off: As COVID fuels S. Africa’s housing crisis, golf courses feel the heat
By Kim Harrisberg
JOHANNESBURG (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – It sounds like a developer’s dream: A greenfield site in the heart of Cape Town, close to the best schools, hospitals and transport links and big enough to build more than 1,400 affordable new homes. The only hitch – it’s a golf course.
The 46-hectare (114-acre) Rondebosch Golf Club is one of hundreds of golf courses in South Africa facing scrutiny by land rights campaigners as a surge in evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic exposes an acute shortage of low-cost housing.
Rondebosch had its lease renewed by the city government late last year despite the presentation of some 1,830 objections by local housing rights group Ndifuna Ukwazi, which says turning golf courses over for homes is a way to tackle deep inequality.
“Using this land for the benefit of a few wealthy individuals at the expense of those in dire need of affordable housing is inefficient, unequal and unjust,” said Michael Clark, head of research and advocacy at Ndifuna Ukwazi.
Warnings by city officials that eviction is on the cards for occupiers of abandoned buildings, just months after Rondebosch’s lease was extended, have roused activists and sparked calls for cities to prioritise land use according to need.
“Golf courses occupy expansive tracts of land in well-located areas across cities,” said Edward Molopi, a researcher with the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), which uses litigation and advocacy to support human rights.
“South African cities face an acute need for affordable housing and this land can be used to address the problem,” Molopi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that he knows of hundreds of housing evictions since lockdown began.
Nearly three decades after the end of white minority rule, South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, according to the World Bank, with urban areas still starkly divided along racial and class lines.
In other countries too, from South Korea to the United States, the swathes of green space needed for a round of golf have stirred debate around alternative uses for the land, whether apartment blocks, public parks or even vineyards.
‘NOT THE ONLY LAND’
But in South Africa, where tracts of land, including golf courses, were used as physical barriers to separate different racial groups during the apartheid regime, campaigners say repurposing such areas is key to achieving a fairer society.
Golf lovers have a choice of about 450 courses in South Africa, according to independent golf course ranking platform Top 100 Golf Courses.
They are easy to spot on a Google Maps view of the nation’s cities, many in close proximity to other golf courses, and also poorer neighbourhoods or townships.
But officials say finding space for affordable homes is more complex than repurposing golf courses.
Not all of the courses are publicly owned or suitable for residential use, said officials from the cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. The sport also draws tourists and creates jobs, they added.
“Densification, diversification and inclusionary housing requirements in well-located parts of our cities is a more realistic approach,” said Nthatisi Modingoane, a spokesman for the city of Johannesburg.
Johannesburg’s Observatory golf course lies less than five kilometres (three miles) from Hillbrow, an inner-city suburb notorious for derelict, overcrowded buildings and crime.
People unable to afford rent end up there in “dark buildings” – properties seized by rogue landlords that offer crowded but cheap rooms, often without electricity.
“Since COVID, people need cheap rent, but if you don’t pay the landlords you get kicked out or … they kill you,” said Ethel Musonza, a housing activist who used to live in a dark building.
“There is a big need for people to be resettled in a safe place they can afford,” she added.
But the Observatory course sits on the site of an old ash dump, making it a poor site for residential construction, said club captain Simon Leventhorp.
“There is need for affordable houses but golf courses aren’t the only land available,” he said, adding that the club had a lower membership fee that other courses, making it a more inclusive space.
Some courses – like Rondebosch in Cape Town – do fit the bill for affordable housing, said Clark.
Golfers at the course can still enjoy views of the city’s famous Table Mountain from the greens, but authorities did add a two-year cancellation clause to the club’s lease if an alternative use of the land is identified.
Land used for community and recreational use, including golf courses, is currently being reviewed for possible residential sites, the city added.
In the meantime, land campaigners will continue to put pressure on state and city governments to “proactively intervene in housing markets”, said Molopi from SERI.
“This will be central to dismantling the ‘apartheid city’ and moving towards urban spatial justice,” Molopi said.
(Reporting by Kim Harrisberg @KimHarrisberg; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
UK might need negative rates if recovery disappoints – BoE’s Vlieghe
By David Milliken and William Schomberg
LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England might need to cut interest rates below zero later this year or in 2022 if a recovery in the economy disappoints, especially if there is persistent unemployment, policymaker Gertjan Vlieghe said on Friday.
Vlieghe said he thought the likeliest scenario was that the economy would recover strongly as forecast by the central bank earlier this month, meaning a further loosening of monetary policy would not be needed.
Data published on Friday suggested the economy had stabilised after a new COVID-19 lockdown hit retailers last month, while businesses and consumers are hopeful a fast vaccination campaign will spur a recovery.
Vlieghe said in a speech published by the BoE that there was a risk of lasting job market weakness hurting wages and prices.
“In such a scenario, I judge more monetary stimulus would be appropriate, and I would favour a negative Bank Rate as the tool to implement the stimulus,” he said.
“The time to implement it would be whenever the data, or the balance of risks around it, suggest that the recovery is falling short of fully eliminating economic slack, which might be later this year or into next year,” he added.
Vlieghe’s comments are similar to those of fellow policymaker Michael Saunders, who said on Thursday negative rates could be the BoE’s best tool in future.
Earlier this month the BoE gave British financial institutions six months to get ready for the possible introduction of negative interest rates, though it stressed that no decision had been taken on whether to implement them.
Investors saw the move as reducing the likelihood of the BoE following other central banks and adopting negative rates.
Some senior BoE policymakers, such as Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden, believe that adding to the central bank’s 875 billion pounds ($1.22 trillion) of government bond purchases remains the best way of boosting the economy if needed.
Vlieghe underscored the scale of the hit to Britain’s economy and said it was clear the country was not experiencing a V-shaped recovery, adding it was more like “something between a swoosh-shaped recovery and a W-shaped recovery.”
“I want to emphasise how far we still have to travel in this recovery,” he said, adding that it was “highly uncertain” how much of the pent-up savings amassed by households during the lockdowns would be spent.
By contrast, last week the BoE’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, likened the economy to a “coiled spring.”
Vlieghe also warned against raising interest rates if the economy appeared to be outperforming expectations.
“It is perfectly possible that we have a short period of pent up demand, after which demand eases back again,” he said.
Higher interest rates were unlikely to be appropriate until 2023 or 2024, he said.
($1 = 0.7146 pounds)
(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by William Schomberg)
UK economy shows signs of stabilisation after new lockdown hit
By William Schomberg and David Milliken
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy has stabilised after a new COVID-19 lockdown last month hit retailers, and business and consumers are hopeful the vaccination campaign will spur a recovery, data showed on Friday.
The IHS Markit/CIPS flash composite Purchasing Managers’ Index, a survey of businesses, suggested the economy was barely shrinking in the first half of February as companies adjusted to the latest restrictions.
A separate survey of households showed consumers at their most confident since the pandemic began.
Britain’s economy had its biggest slump in 300 years in 2020, when it contracted by 10%, and will shrink by 4% in the first three months of 2021, the Bank of England predicts.
The central bank expects a strong subsequent recovery because of the COVID-19 vaccination programme – though policymaker Gertjan Vlieghe said in a speech on Friday that the BoE could need to cut interest rates below zero later this year if unemployment stayed high.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due on Monday to announce the next steps in England’s lockdown but has said any easing of restrictions will be gradual.
Official data for January underscored the impact of the latest lockdown on retailers.
Retail sales volumes slumped by 8.2% from December, a much bigger fall than the 2.5% decrease forecast in a Reuters poll of economists, and the second largest on record.
“The only good thing about the current lockdown is that it’s no way near as bad for the economy as the first one,” Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said.
The smaller fall in retail sales than last April’s 18% plunge reflected growth in online shopping.
BORROWING SURGE SLOWED IN JANUARY
There was some better news for finance minister Rishi Sunak as he prepares to announce Britain’s next annual budget on March 3.
Though public sector borrowing of 8.8 billion pounds ($12.3 billion) was the first January deficit in a decade, it was much less than the 24.5 billion pounds forecast in a Reuters poll.
That took borrowing since the start of the financial year in April to 270.6 billion pounds, reflecting a surge in spending and tax cuts ordered by Sunak.
The figure does not count losses on government-backed loans which could add 30 billion pounds to the shortfall this year, but the deficit is likely to be smaller than official forecasts, the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank said.
Sunak is expected to extend a costly wage subsidy programme, at least for the hardest-hit sectors, but he said the time for a reckoning would come.
“It’s right that once our economy begins to recover, we should look to return the public finances to a more sustainable footing and I’ll always be honest with the British people about how we will do this,” he said.
Some economists expect higher taxes sooner rather than later.
“Big tax rises eventually will have to be announced, with 2022 likely to be the worst year, so that they will be far from voters’ minds by the time of the next general election in May 2024,” Samuel Tombs, at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said.
Public debt rose to 2.115 trillion pounds, or 97.9% of gross domestic product – a percentage not seen since the early 1960s.
The PMI survey and a separate measure of manufacturing from the Confederation of British Industry, showing factory orders suffering the smallest hit in a year, gave Sunak some cause for optimism.
IHS Markit’s chief business economist, Chris Williamson, said the improvement in business expectations suggested the economy was “poised for recovery.”
However the PMI survey showed factory output in February grew at its slowest rate in nine months. Many firms reported extra costs and disruption to supply chains from new post-Brexit barriers to trade with the European Union since Jan. 1.
Vlieghe warned against over-interpreting any early signs of growth. “It is perfectly possible that we have a short period of pent up demand, after which demand eases back again,” he said.
“We are experiencing something between a swoosh-shaped recovery and a W-shaped recovery. We are clearly not experiencing a V-shaped recovery.”
($1 = 0.7160 pounds)
(Editing by Angus MacSwan and Timothy Heritage)
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