| DUBAI, March 15
DUBAI, March 15 The Tunisian government
has set up a working group that will study how to develop
Islamic finance in the country, a finance ministry official
The group, which includes representatives from the central
bank, stock exchange and private sector institutions including
Bahrain-based Al Baraka Banking Group, will look at the
country's legal framework, said Karima Rezk, a director at the
Before last year's uprisings, authoritarian governments in
Tunisia and other North African countries restricted or refused
to promote Islamic finance for ideological reasons. A moderate
Islamist party dominates the government which took power through
last October's elections.
Islamic finance, which operates according to religious
principles such as a ban on paying interest, is seen as "an
important initiative that is accepted by all major political
parties", Rezk told Reuters in a telephone interview this week.
She added that the government did not intend to inhibit
conventional banking in the country, but merely wanted to "make
the market more dynamic and add choice to consumers".
The working group aims to meet weekly and come up with
proposals for action within a few months, Rezk said. It is under
the purview of the finance ministry's director-general Chaker
Soltani, whose responsibilities include debt management and
The group has been studying the Islamic banking experience
of countries where the industry is well-developed, including
Malaysia and Bahrain, as well as Jordan and Oman, which are more
recent entrants into the industry.
"We need more details," Rezk said, on both the structures of
Islamic financial products and how to regulate them.
Soltani told Reuters earlier that the Tunisian government
hoped eventually to issue sukuk (Islamic bonds), but did not
expect to make an issue this year since the legal framework to
support it was not yet in place.
"Before issuing Islamic bonds, or sukuk, we must put a law in
place," he said.
(Editing by Andrew Torchia)