File photo: Members of Shura Council in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: AP)
Sovereign Islamic bonds, or sukuk, could attract $15 billion in investments to Egypt annually from domestic and foreign investors, according to statements made by an advisor to the finance minister to the state-run MENA news agency.
Ahmed El-Naggar, who manages affairs related to Islamic bonds at the finance ministry, expects the government issue of Sharia compliant debt instruments to spur Egypt's economic growth and employment figures.
The law on issuing sovereign Islamic bonds was finally passed Tuesday by Egypt's upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, after members unanimously voted in favour of adopting amendments to the law suggested by the Council of Grand Clerics of Al-Azhar, Egypt's highest Islamic authority.
The Shura Council had passed the law 19 March without referring it to Al-Azhar clerics for review, to the objection of ultraconservative Salafist El-Nour Party council members who cited articles 2 and 219 of Egypt's new constitution that stipulates that all legislation obtain the prior approval of the religious authority.
The move provoked the ire of Egypt's leading Islamic authority, and forced President Morsi, whose Freedom and Justice Party had pushed the law through, to refer the law to Al Azhar for approval late last month.
Nevertheless, El-Naggar stated that the current political consensus around the law, within the different political factions in the legislature, as well as between it and Al-Azhar, would provide a strong impetus for the successful implementation of the law, on which discussions with banks and other stakeholders are due to begin next week.
Many projects are waiting to be financed through sukuk according to the official, including housing projects, construction of silos for storing grain, the construction of a railway line between Ain Shams in Cairo and 10th of Ramadan City, and the establishment of several power plants
Egypt's widening budget deficit reached LE175.9 billion in the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, or 10.1 percent of the country's GDP, according to the finance ministry's latest figures.