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Public awareness key to boost Islamic finance in Turkey

Turkey to host Islamic finance forum in April 2018, says secretary general of Bahrain-based supporter of sector

Anadolu Agency

Turkey should raise public awareness of Islamic finance to boost the sector's market share, said a top official of the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) on Tuesday.

"There is now work on coming up with a full-fledged regulation for Islamic bank separately but I think really one of the key points that we need to address is public awareness at various levels," Abdelilah Belatik, secretary general of the Bahrain-based CIBAFI, which represents Islamic financial services industry globally, told Anadolu Agency.

Belatik called Turkey's target of raising Islamic banks’ share to 20 percent by 2023 -- the nation’s centennial -- ambitious but achievable.

The CIBAFI Global Forum, the council’s annual gathering to discuss Islamic finance, will be held in Turkey next April, Belatik said.

The international organization, affiliated to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has 120 members from 32 jurisdictions.

Belatik said that countries like Turkey and Indonesia and regions such as Central Asia and Africa are important as they have a great growth potential in the Islamic finance sector.

"The market size of Islamic finance reached a certain level in the Middle East, so for the last three to five years the growth coming more importantly from new frontiers and potential is also coming from there," he said.

"Because in these markets Islamic banking still isn’t very large."

'Good for financial stability'

Belatik said they work with countries which lack the infrastructure and regulation for Islamic finance to show them its role in the economy.

"We want to show them that there’s something regardless of religion.

“We talk about what Islamic finance can do for the economy, sustainable development, unemployment, responsible investment, and financing of SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises]. Then they will start to be more open to Islamic finance," he said.

Underlining Islamic finance's significance for financial stability, Belatik said:

"When you have Islamic banks in the country, the financial system is more stable because it isn’t over leveraged."

He said international organizations such as the IMF and World Bank started promoting the sector as it is an equity-based fair business and could support the financing of SMEs.

When the proper regulations and legal infrastructure are introduced for Islamic banks, the sector could develop better and more, Belatik said.

Belatik stressed that the size of the international finance sector is eight to 10 times larger than the world's total GDP, but that under Islamic finance such a disparity is not possible.

"Whatever you need to do has to have an asset base. If you apply Islamic finance, you won’t face financial crises, as it is more resilient in the face of crises."

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