Do Islamic Banking Financial Instruments Achieve Equitable Income and Wealth Distribution?
Keywords:Islamic Banks, Sharīʿah-based financing Contracts, Income and Wealth Distribution, Malaysia
The study investigates empirically whether the current practices of Sharīʿah-based financing contracts namely, Murabahah, Musharakah, Mudarabah, Istisna, Bai Bithaman Ajil, Ijarah and other contracts in the Malaysian Islamic banking industry achieved equitable income and wealth distribution. To do so, the study applied the bounds test and ARDL model to investigate the relationship between Sharīʿah-based financing contracts and Malaysian GINI coefficient index over the period from 1Q 2014 to 1Q 2019. In analyzing the long- and short-run implications, it was found that the practice of such Sharīʿah-based financing contracts in the Islamic banking industry achieved equitable income and wealth distribution in Malaysia using Murabahah, Mudarabah, Istisna, Bai Bithaman Ajil, and other (i.e., forward Ijarah) financing contracts. On the other hand, the findings indicated that Musharakah and Ijarah-based financing contract practices did not achieve equitable income and wealth distribution in Malaysia. This may be because the current practices of both contracts which seem to be handled as debts instruments and designed to the benefit of the banking sector only. To improve the Islamic banks’ financing practices in Malaysia, the outcomes of the study suggest that bank operators should strengthen the weight of Sharīʿah-based profit and loss sharing financing contracts with small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) instead of corporations. In other words, Islamic banks are able to achieve fair income and wealth distribution and uphold the concept of justice for all by gradually increasing Musharakah-based financing for SMEs that can potentially grow and create economic value. Further, to solve the problem of Ijarah contract practices, Islamic banks must take steps to enhance the requirements of Ijarah contracts, specifically ownership transformation, maintenance responsibility, default penalty, and the issue of legal treatment as well as bear the costs, risks and rewards related to the leasing asset instead of borne by the clint. The empirical findings of the study will provide valuable input for banks policymakers, particularly central banks, and Islamic bank management to evaluate the current practice of Islamic finance and proactively correct shortcomings to achieve equitable wealth distribution. This study is a pioneering investigation that empirically evaluates whether the current practices of Islamic banking financial instruments achieve the aims of the equitable financial system, and ensure that Islamic banks, as intermediaries, address the issue of inequality and attain equitable wealth distribution worldwide.