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Islamic banking is relatively new to Phuket and has some refreshingly different approaches, too.

Bank Not Like a Dentist

Sunday, November 25, 2007
THE IMAGE of banks has always been a bit like that of dentists and mothers-in-laws. You need them, but you don't always like what you have to go through to escape feeling better.

Banks in the West have often been criticised for making obscene profits and for charging excessive fees, even on mundane transactions.

The Islamic Bank of Thailand isn't like that.

New this year to Phuket, the bank with the delightful green logo doesn't go along with obscene profits and excessive fees.

Interest? Well, in the Islamic world, it is not considered right and proper to charge interest.

Muslim communities everywhere operate on the principle of collective good. And it's the same with banking.

A relatively recent phenomenon in banking and investment has been the concept of ethical investment.

People who don't want to see their money go into cigarette manufacture, or arms-making, or chemical products that pollute, can now nominate to invest only in socially beneficial industries.

Funny thing, that ???? Islamic banking has always been about investment in areas that deliver only good and cause no harm. So the green in the logo is entirely appropriate.

Go into any Muslim village on Phuket and you will find a strong community where comon values are paramount and where most of the effort is directed towards the common good.

The same values are found in Islamic banking, where membership delivers loans that differ from those of other banks.

Under the Islamic system, free of interest, your repayments are calculated over long periods and can be clearly understood for years to come. There is no sudden rise because of fluctuations in interest rates, no built-in margin to boost the profit to the bank.

While there are no obscene profits, there are also no obscene repayment rates.

The closest equivalent in the overseas banking system is probably the credit union, which sprang from groups of like-minded people who found banks dificult to deal with so structured their own places for investment and loans.

These days, many of the credit unions have amalgamated into much larger organisations that continue to resist large profits and keep interest rates low.

In most respects, the Islamic Bank of Thailand's Phuket branch, in Yaowarat Road close to the Fountain Circle, offers conventional services.

The bank offers deposit and withdrawal, payment of bills, credit cards, financing, ATM services and currency exchange, and the tellers all smile. People of any religion are welcome. It just won't charge you interest.

The Islamic Bank of Thailand, 5,7 Yaowarat Road Talad Nua, Phuket City. Tel: 076 214053-4.

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