This publication is part of the journal ISRA International Journal of Islamic Finance (English Journal) (2012-2)
Evidence has been mounting that the interest-based debt financing regime is under increasing distress. Evidence also suggests that financial crises—despite the various labels assigned to them: exchange rate crisis or banking crisis—have been debt crises in essence. At present, data suggest that the debt-to-GDP ratio of the richest members of the G-20 is expected to reach the 120% mark by 2014. There is also evidence that, out of securities worth US$ 200 trillion in the global economy, no less than three-fourths represent interest-based debt. It is difficult to see how this massive debt volume can be validated by the underlying productive capacity of the global economy. This picture becomes more alarming considering the anemic state of global economic growth. There is great uncertainty with regard to interest rates. Although policy-driven interest rates are near zero, there is no assurance that they will not rise as the risk and inflation premiums become significant. Hence, a more serious financial crisis may be in the offing and a general collapse of asset prices may occur. This paper argues that the survival of the interestbased debt regime is becoming less tenable, as is the process of financialization that has accompanied the growth of global finance over the last four decades. It further argues that Islamic finance, with its core characteristic of risk sharing, may well be a viable alternative to the present interest-based debt financing regime.
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