Tunisia plans to issue Islamic bonds early next year as the North African country seeks to reform its banking sector and diversify sources of funding, the central bank governor said on Saturday.
"Tunisia will begin issuing sukuk (Islamic bonds) early next year ... This is part of the draft budget for 2013," Tunisian central bank governor Chadli Ayari told Reuters on the sidelines of a banking seminar.
"There are studies under way for Islamic finance in the country, including issuing Islamic bonds."
Committees set up by the finance ministry, religious affairs ministry and the central bank are currently working on an Islamic finance law in order to establish Islamic banking in Tunisia, where there are only two Islamic banks.
Ayari said the total assets of those two banks was 1.4 billion Tunisian dinars ($893 million), or 2.5 percent of the total assets of Tunisian banks.
Nadia Kamha, Director-General of the Tunisia central bank told Reuters the law would be ready "within weeks" and that it will be presented to the government for approval.
The moderate Islamist Ennahda movement is leading Tunisia's government after winning elections last year that followed the ousting of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
Tunisia's budget deficit should narrow to 6 percent next year from 6.6 percent of GDP expected in 2012, Ayari said on Friday, indicating economic recovery in the cradle of Arab Spring revolts may take longer than anticipated.
The Tunisian economy is gradually recovering from last year's political turmoil but faces problems as a result of the crisis in the euro zone, the main market for its exports and the source of a majority of tourist visitors.
Morocco, also led by a moderate Islamist party, is in a race with Tunisia to become a regional hub for Islamic finance.
General Affairs and Governance minister, Najib Boulif, told Reuters in March the government would submit to parliament a draft bill with a set of regulations for the introduction of Islamic finance products in the country.
"We are keen to capitalise on the stability we enjoy here to turn Morocco into a regional Islamic finance platform," Boulif said in March.
(Reuters Africa / 29 Sep 2012)
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