Another avenue to promote personal savings

Venkat Raman

A Minister of the Crown has emphasised the importance of saving for a comfortable post-retirement living, and welcomed the choice offered by the new ‘Amanah KiwiSaver Plan.’

Speaking at the launch of the first Sharia compliant scheme (published in our January 15 and February 1, 2015 issues), Ethnic Communities Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga described retirement as the ‘beginning of a new journey,’ and said that it was often difficult for people to choose an investment scheme that would suit them best in their later years.

Another Avenue to promote personal savings- Gallery

“New Zealand is increasingly getting diverse and it is imperative that each of us takes the right decision to ensure a stable and comfortable retired life. My vision to the ethnic communities is that they should participate in schemes that are best suited to them. Amanah KiwiSaver answers the concerns of the Muslim population,” he said.

Restricted use

In his address, Gregory Fortuin, Chairman ‘Amanah Ethical,’ the Company that administers Amanah KiwiSaver, said that while the existing KiwiSaver plan was suitable to ‘Mainstream New Zealanders’, it did not include all communities.

“One of the problems with modern mainstream is the unintentional and sometimes deliberate exclusion of ‘non-core’ or ‘minorities.’ KiwiSaver is no exception. One group of New Zealanders (Muslims) was left out because no provider was prepared to understand their cultural needs,” he said.

Mr Fortuin said that the glib rhetoric about integration and good citizenship comes easy but unless people consciously take action and provide the means for inclusion, many sectors of the society will continue to miss out.

Commercial opportunity

Without naming either the government or any other organisation, he said that New Zealand’s label as a ‘multicultural society’ was a misnomer for eight years since the KiwiSaver scheme came into being because it excluded an important section of the community.

“Even if it was culturally deliberate or lacking in fortitude, what about the commercial opportunities presented for any provider to recognise and then in partnership with the community take steps to meet this important market,” he asked.

Tested Product

Dr Anwar Ghani, President of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), a crucial partner in marketing the Amanah KiwiSaver Plan to the Muslim population, said that people of Islam can now participate fully because they are assured of its complete Sharia compliance.

“Amanah KiwiSaver will stay out of the liquor and arms industry, there is assurance of no link to terrorists and there would be no investment in companies or organisations that involve child labour. FIANZ is happy to be a partner in this Scheme and bring the benefits of savings to the Islamic community,” he said.

“This agreement is the result of considerable deliberations and consultations with Sharia Law experts. We tested the Amanah product and the patience of those behind it,” Dr Ghani added.

Plan Challenges

Earlier, launching the Amanah KiwiSaver, Commonwealth Foundation Chairman and former Governor-General of New Zealand Sir Anand Satyanand said that the Amanah KiwiSaver Plan should meet its challenges in fulfilling the declared objectives (as reported in our February 1, 2015 issue).

“The traditional Kiwisaver investment schemes deal with the general community and do a good job.  As the KiwiSaver scheme has matured, it has been seen that there can be space for more specific needs to be catered for.  Many people, particularly the young, are concerned to see their money lodged in what are called ethical investments – not to do with arms manufacture or the liquor industries.  In an allied step, the prospect of investment in accordance with Sharia law has been thought desirable,” he said.

Sir Anand said that the promoters of Amanah KiwiSaver established an initial fund, an Islamic Advisory Board and an association with FIANZ.

“The way lies clear for this particular Fund to be promoted and endorsed, if that is to be the case, by people with a Muslim background.  It provides another way in which people of a particular background can feel engaged and connected with the mainstream in a way that recognises their individuality. The challenge is for this scheme to develop a credibility that will achieve the aims of the original stakeholders,” he said.

Pragmatic steps

Amanah Ethical Managing Director and popular Barrister Brian Henry said that there was a significant and valuable part of the community, who, for religious reasons, were not able to participate in the KiwiSaver retirement savings programme.

“We see the application of Islamic Financial principles as being a series of pragmatic and conservative investment principles. Because of this conservative approach, the companies held in the portfolio are generally considered to have less risk than those found in mainstream share portfolios,” he said.

Among the others who spoke at the event were Amanah Islamic Advisory Board Member Sheikh Mohammad Amir, Amanah Ethical Non-Resident Director Dr Faruk Balli, and Business Development Manager Maryam Bukhari.

More than 100 people attended the launch ceremony, including investment specialists and prominent members of FIANZ.

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