EYEWITNESS: Money…

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…and principles?

Word is, Finance Minister Winston Jordan just signed on the dotted line for a US$900 million loan from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB).

If this manifests itself, that fella Raymond Chickerie, who’d been pushing the PPP Government for years to become a member of the Bank would be vindicated! This finally occurred two years ago to the day with the new PNC-led coalition Government which announced we’d be eligible for “access to concessionary resources, grants and interest free loans.”

While Guyana has a 10 per cent Muslim population, most of us don’t realise Islam has its own perspective on banking.

One that’s quite different from what we’ve been used to, which is based totally on western, “Christian” principles. Right off the bat, we’ve got to understand that the money can only be used in consonance with Islamic law or “Sharia”. This means the Finance Ministry will have to be guided by a local Sharia Board that’s au fait with Islamic banking so it doesn’t violate the Sharia-based terms of the loan and forfeit the same. The strictness of the specific rules do vary from (Islamic) country to country.

Some of the rules we should already (hopefully) intuitively know because of our familiarity with local Islamic practices – for instance, the money can’t be used to buy or produce “haram products”. Thus, no funding of pig farms or producing molasses for distilleries!! Other rules may be counterintuitive to us because of our total immersion in the western model.

The most significant one is the prohibition of “riba” which literally means “excess or addition”, and in the context of money lending means “interest”, “usury”, “excess”, “increase”.

Now this sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Borrowing money without any interests? And that’s not all. There can be no charges for late payments or “murâba?ah”. Some countries have allowed late charges – but these must be donated to charities. Loans cannot also be used for “speculation” or “Maisir” sometimes called “gambling”.

Investing in oil blocks hoping oil will be struck won’t cut it.
But even more radical is the prohibition of transactions that are “Gharar” or characterised by “uncertainty” or “ambiguity”.

This of course rules out derivatives, options and futures – all schemes that provided most of the “wealth” in the West before it all came crashing down in 2008. Islamic banking institutions were spared.

So the question arises, as to how do Islamic banks support its activities? Well, the bank can act as the capital partner in “mudarabah” or musharaka accounts and share in the profits and loss.

Meaning, the Islamic Bank would be very heavily involved in execution of projects. Is the Government ready for these principles?

Not likely!!

…and health

Even before PM Nagamootoo touched down on his return from his overseas heart surgery, he precipitated a fierce debate in the local press between AFC supporters and a PNC partisan. The former wanted a mega welcome – 18 gun salute and hundreds of fawning big wigs? – at the airport while the latter questioned as to why this was necessary after the Government had already shelled out mega bucks for the American intervention?

And – your Eyewitness suspects –  why, Georgetown Hospital wasn’t good enough when it was good enough for the founder leader, Forbes Burnham.

So what if he died on an operating theatre there? Things haven’t improved?

But your Eyewitness is glad Nagamootoo is back – if for no other reason than Ramjattan wasn’t doing too good handling the pressure with his “haul yuh ass” riposte.

The Government announced that Nagamootoo jumped right into his job – which wasn’t surprising seeing as how he really does nothing but cutting ribbons and such like.

Ramjattan confessed how he’d missed Nagamootoo’s “words of wisdom” at Cabinet meetings.
Wished he’d mentioned even one!!

.…guns and corruption

Folks wondered about Zuma’s buying US$2.5 billion arms rather than dealing with South Africa’s social problems.

It was a clear case of literally choosing guns over butter.
Sadly, it’s now clear it was all corruption. A lesson for the PNC?

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