Posted by Yasemin Hurcan and Gregory Horman
Sukuk is an Arabic word that is used to define borrowing instruments issued in line with Islamic norms, the sharia. Sukuk are not limited to private sector borrowers. Increasingly, these instruments are being issued by governments to finance the public sector. Although there is already a sizeable body of literature on the capital market aspects of sovereign sukuk issuance, the public financial management (PFM) dimension of sukuk has not been widely discussed. The implications for areas such as budgeting, reporting, and accounting are not insignificant.
Malaysia is recognized as one of the pioneers of sovereign sukuk issuance, and these instruments make up a significant share of the total public sector debt. Qatar and Bahrain are also notable issuers of sukuk, and in recent years Pakistan has added sukuk to its borrowing mix. In October 2012, Turkey, too, joined the group of countries issuing sovereign sukuk. Although sovereign sukuk issuances have so far been made only by countries where sharia is the governing law, or the population is predominantly Muslim, other countries have investigated sukuk as an opportunity to broaden their sources of financing. In 2008, for example, the UK Debt Management Office consulted with the market to find out the possibility of issuing sukuk as an additional borrowing instrument. These developments suggest that the use of sukuk instruments for sovereign borrowing is likely to increase in the coming years.