Lessons from UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for Islamic Finance

It’s an informal governance mechanism that allows people to participate in a timely and systematic manner

By Marizah Minhat & Nazam Dzolkarnaini 

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof announced previously that the Parliament will establish “kumpulan rentas parti” or what is known in the UK as “All-Party Parliamentary Groups”. We very much welcome this initiative.

We were recently invited to a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Islamic Finance (APPGIF) in the UK.

This group was established to give the Islamic finance industry a voice in Parliament; to address issues as they arise — such as sukuk issuances, inclusivity, regulation and taxation — while positioning the UK as the European hub of Islamic financial services; and to play a wider role in promoting ethical finance.

The meeting on March 4, 2019, was attended by stakeholders from different backgrounds, including academics and practitioners with exposures to the development of Islamic finance industry in the UK.

As Malaysians, we were delighted to have experienced this “people friendly” parliamentarian system, while contributing our voice and scholarly knowledge in positioning the Islamic finance industry as a robust ethical finance option for consumers.

Group co-chair Lord Sheikh chaired the meeting with an open mind and encouraged participants to speak up without fear or favour.

There is much to learn from this experience and for Malaysia to build on it.

In setting a “people-friendly” Parliament, the “rentas parti” can be shaped as a channel where stakeholders from different backgrounds are given opportunities to exercise their freedom of speech and expression, and take part in influencing legislative and policy debates in a more organised fashion.

It can also be taken as an informal governance mechanism that would allow people to participate in a more timely and systematic manner.

This is a timely approach, given that Malaysians have produced intellectuals who are more than willing to contribute, but were sidelined from policy making or other key positions due to political or unknown reasons.

Inclusivity and diversity should be at the heart of any “rentas parti”. A “rentas parti” that is dominated by the few will not serve the needs of the many.

This initiative should not be abused to pursue the political interest or to preserve the hegemony of selected elites. It should be about counting on the voices of the many.

Dr Marizah Minhat is assistant director of International Centre for Management and Governance Research, and Dr Nazam Dzolkarnaini is associate professor in accounting and finance at The Business School, Edinburgh Napier University, UK. The views expressed are of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and its editorial board.