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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

10 Time Management Tips

Managing your time and using it wisely is a journey, and not something that can be easily mastered overnight. Implementing a plan will help, but it is not going to be a sure cure. Time management requires a significant amount of self-discipline.

Here are some tips to assist you with time management...
1. Set Goals 
Set both short-term and long-term goals for your work day, work week, and work year. Take the time to make a written list of your goals, which will allow you to refer back to the list when you need some guidance. Keep in mind that it is okay to adjust the goals as your business needs or your role changes. Use them as a tool to guide you.

2. Mini-Rewards
All work an no play is a difficult concept to sustain for very long. Build rewards into your schedule. If there is a task you really dislike, follow it with a task that you greatly enjoy. Build "mini-rewards" into your schedule to increase your productivity.

3. Keep Lists 
Keep a running "To Do" list. The To Do list should contain both daily tasks as well as longer-term tasks. Having a To Do list will help keep your attention on the projects that require attention, and prevent some items from slipping through the cracks and being forgotten.

4. Be Realistic 
Keep your expectations realistic. No one can do everything, and with that it mind, try to set realistic expectations of what you can hope to accomplish.

5. Prioritize 
Prioritize the list of things to do. Some items might require immediate attention, while others may be necessary but not as urgent. And after prioritizing, try not to become a "firefighter" and only react to the urgent items. Be sure to still give proper attention to non-urgent items as well, as they are important too.

6. Use Time Wisely 
If there are blocks of time that you spend waiting or commuting, figure out ways to use that time being productive! Reading, writing, proof-reading, reviewing your schedule, planning for your next activity, etc, are all things that can usually be done remotely to fill in some of the unavoidable "dead" time in your schedule. Try to find interesting and unusual productive things to do during those periods of downtime.

7. Set Limits
Set reasonable time limits for tasks. When working on those tasks, monitor the time that each item is taking.

8. Organize Work Space
Organize your work space, and remove any excessive clutter. Spending time looking for something is a waste of time... and time is a precious commodity. Both your computer files and your physical working area should be organized so that you can easily locate anything you need in a moments notice.

9. Minimize Distractions 
If you find yourself consumed by social media, facebook, instant messaging, or other social mediums, set aside a specific and timed period of the day for participating in the online social community. Other than those specific periods of time, set your status to "unavailable" so that you are not interrupted throughout the work day. Minimize interruptions and distractions as much as possible.

10. Reflect 
At the end of the day, reflect on what you accomplished. If you were unable to account for a specific period of time, or you found a given day to be particularly unproductive, take an inventory and try to determine where your time management system broke down.

Keep in mind that not every day is going to be as productive as you would hope. Unexpected things always come up, and no matter how hard you try, your expectations just might not be realistic. Do not become discouraged. Instead, simply stay focused and make an effort to increase your productivity the next day.
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Indonesia: Islamic Banks Keen to Get Behind Government Infrastructure Projects

Indonesia’s Shariah-compliant banks are teaming up to take advantage of the government’s $40 billion annual budget for development projects, the biggest in five years.

Bank Muamalat Indonesia, the country’s second-largest Islamic bank, wants to boost syndicated loans five-fold this year to $250 million by funding two power plants, the bank’s president director, Arviyan Arifin, said on Wednesday.

Bank Maybank Syariah Indonesia, a unit of Malaysia’s biggest lender, estimates that shared financing to build toll roads, bridges and railways will rise to 60 percent of its total credit. Banks in Indonesia must limit loans for a single customer to 20 percent of their capital, putting Islamic lenders at a disadvantage because of their relatively small size.

Opportunities to invest deposits are limited, as four local companies sold sukuk bonds that comply with Islam’s ban on interest last year, compared with 37 in Malaysia, the world’s biggest market for such bonds.

“There are a lot of roads to be built; power, oil and gas plants,” Baharudin Abd Majid, president director of Maybank Syariah, the unit of Malayan Banking, said on Wednesday. “These are big projects and Islamic banks don’t have the capacity to fund them alone, so we need to come together.”

Indonesia passed a law in 2008 to allow financial institutions to offer Shariah-compliant services, 25 years after Malaysia. Lenders had total paid-up capital of Rp 5.97 trillion ($684 million) as of December 2010, compared with Rp 105.52 trillion at non-Islamic banks, according to data from the central bank.

Indonesia has 11 full-fledged Islamic lenders and 23 that offer services through tellers at bank branches. Islamic banking assets rose to Rp 100.3 trillion last year from Rp 67 trillion in 2009, about 3 percent of the total, according to central bank data.

“We need to look beyond the retail sector if we want to grow Indonesian Islamic banking assets,” Baharudin said.

Bank Muamalat is in talks with local and overseas Islamic banks to jointly finance two power plants, Arviyan said.

CIMB Niaga Syariah is looking for partners and allocating funds for projects, U Saefudin Noer, head of Islamic banking at the bank, said on Tuesday, declining to reveal how much it is setting aside.

Syndicated Islamic loans in Indonesia totaled $31 million last year, compared with $1.05 billion in Malaysia and $4.45 billion in Saudi Arabia.

“We’ll leverage our office in Malaysia to attract partners, the likes of Kuwait Finance House Malaysia, to participate in these projects,” Arviyan said.

“We’re also in discussions with the Islamic Development Bank and two local Shariah banks to fund these projects. We hope to close the deal by the third quarter,” he added.

There is a shortage of corporate Islamic bond sales in Indonesia because of a lack of understanding of the taxes applied to different types of structures, Etty Retno Wulandari, director of the Accounting Standards and Disclosure Bureau at the Capital Market and Financial Institution Supervisory Agency (Bapepam), said on Tuesday.

Total sales of Islamic bonds in Indonesia rose 56 percent to Rp 26.2 trillion last year.

The capital-market regulator is working on recommendations for two new types of Islamic bonds this year, which will bring the total number of sukuk structures to six in an effort to give companies more options, Etty said. The new regulations may boost sales to at least six, from four in 2010.

“Companies aren’t selling sukuk because they’re still not clear on what kind of taxes are imposed on certain structures, and the structures that are allowed are limited,” Baharudin said. “Let’s not just wait for sukuk to come in, but boost syndicated financing to support these construction projects.”

Indonesia’s government is inviting the private sector to bid for the projects as it seeks to boost economic growth to 6.5 percent this year.

Government spending to construct toll roads, airports, railroads, electricity generators and oil and gas plants may reach Rp 126 trillion in 2011, from Rp 108 trillion last year, Eric Alexander Sugandi, an economist at Standard Chartered, said.

The government will offer 16 projects for bids valued at $32.4 billion this year, local media reported on Feb. 24, citing Dedy Priatna, deputy minister at the National Development Planning Ministry.

“Companies will bid for these projects and they would need to raise funds by either selling bonds or through bank loans,” Sugandi said.
(Bloomberg/24March 2011) 

Alfalah Consulting:

Malaysia Market Able to Absorb USD16 b. Railway Sukuk

Chief executive officer of CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd. comments on the government’s plan to raise funds for a 48 billion ringgit ($16 billion) railway project in Kuala Lumpur. He made the remarks in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

The government may sell ringgit-denominated Islamic bonds to help finance construction of a mass railway system in Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Najib Razak said on March 29. The project will be the country’s single biggest infrastructure development, said Najib. 

On sukuk demand:
“All huge infrastructure projects in Malaysia have always been funded by Islamic bonds, because Islamic bonds would attract a wider investor base and therefore increase the opportunity for any issuance to raise a larger pool of funding.”

On where the demand comes from:
“From the typical investor base that comprises of takaful companies, insurance companies, banks, whether it’s Islamic banks or conventional banks, and you have corporates with large treasury operations and the asset management companies, and foreign investors that look at the ringgit market as part of their portfolio management. Islamic papers have proven to be able to tackle the long-term nature of infrastructure projects.
“There’s always a concern whether or not the market can absorb all the issuance but the market is mature enough.”

On sukuk sales from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries:
“This market in the Far East can make up for any shortfall of issuance in the GCC. There are GCC issuances that will also be tapping the Malaysian market. They may not be able to tap the GCC market because of the unrest, but quality issuances from the GCC are still looking at tapping the Malaysian market because it is more established and mature market. Quite a number of them are already slated to come to the market anytime this year. Notwithstanding the unrest in GCC, sukuk activities continue.”

(Bloomberg/1 Apr 2011)

Alfalah Consulting:

Address shortage of talent in Islamic finance, wealth management and investment advisory services said Bank Negara governor

KUALA LUMPUR: The shortage of talent remains acute in high growth areas such as wealth management, Islamic finance and investment advisory services, Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said the failure to arrest the issue would result in low productivity, slow pace of innovation and lost opportunities.

“In a fast changing and increasingly complex financial landscape, our workforce in the financial sector must not only rise above current challenges but be equipped to excel in the significantly changed environment,” she said at the opening of the Asian Institute of Finance (AIF) International Symposium 2011 here on Thursday.

The AIF was initiated by Bank Negara and established jointly with the Securities Commission in 2009.

(9 Apr 2011)

Alfalah Consulting:

Islamic finance industry needs more experts

Islamic finance might be on a dizzying growth trajectory but Sharia scholars qualified to make rulings on complex banking and investment products remain a scarce commodity.

Often referred to as the industry's gatekeepers, scholars must give their approval before Islamic banks can launch savings schemes, offer financing and make many other business decisions.
They evaluate the compliance of all sorts of investment products including Islamic bonds and mortgages, and hold vast sway over an industry now estimated to be worth more than US$1 trillion (Dh3.67tn).

Yet observers say a shortage of qualified scholars is squeezing further growth in the industry.
According to a study in January by Funds@Work, an investment industry consultancy based in Germany, only 20 scholars occupy 54 per cent of all Sharia board seats at Islamic financial institutions globally. The top 100 scholars occupy almost all of them.

"As far as scholars go, there is definitely a lack of qualified people available," says Dr Mohammad Omar Farooq, the head of the Centre for Islamic Finance at the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF).

"One of the biggest challenges we face is that there's no structured programme to qualify them that is recognised by the industry."

But institutions such as the BIBF and the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance in Malaysia are trying to correct that problem with a variety of new courses and degrees.

The BIBF is preparing to launch a programme for young scholars in which they take an advanced course in Islamic commercial jurisprudence followed by a period of service under the tutelage of an experienced scholar.

"There need to be programmes that are suitable and effective for the industry, and train the future generation of scholars," Dr Farooq says.

Juhaina Kasimali, the head of Islamic finance at Zawya, a regional financial information provider, says the trouble is not so much the lack of suitable scholars, but more that banks do not realise there is a growing pool of available talent.

"We've been able to identify over 300 scholars," Ms Kasimali says. "… There is a bottleneck, but that's why we want to focus on transparency and on how many scholars are really out there."
Even with more information about the entire pool of scholars, many observers say it is not clear whether banks and investment companies would choose less-experienced people.

While the top scholars are stretched thin, having one on the board, such as Sheikh Nizam Mohammed Yacoubi who sits on 85 boards, or Sheikh Dr Mohammad Ali Elgari who sits on 71, is widely seen as desirable.

"There are lot of people who are available but are not necessarily in the top rank, … [and] the demand might not be as high," Dr Farooq says. "Many banks feel that a bigger name they can display on their list of scholars somehow enhances their credibility."

With prominent scholars in demand, prices for their services can be steep. Mr Yacoubi says that in 2007 international banks paid scholars between $20,000 and $50,000 a year to sit on their Sharia boards. Industry insiders say fees vary widely depending on the experience of the scholar and the type of service offered.

"They're doing well by scholar standards," says Atif Khan, the managing director of the Ethica Institute of Islamic Finance, a school that offers Sharia training in Dubai.

"There may be three or five scholars who are millionaires but how many HSBC or Morgan Stanley bankers are millionaires? Probably every single one of them."

Efforts to strengthen the pool of qualified scholars come as educational programmes for Islamic banking professionals mushroom.

Zawya recently teamed up with Ethica to offer training in Islamic banking, joining a growing list of institutions across the globe beefing up educational standards in the sector. Ethica offers a Certified Islamic Finance Executive qualification for bankers and other financial professionals.
"The basic thing we need to focus on is the need for education," Mr Khan says. "A lot of the problems we see in the industry are symptoms of the root problem of the lack of standardised, fatwa-based education."

(The National/11 Apr 2011)

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