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Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank Of The Philippines

Republic Act No. 6848, otherwise known as “The Charter of the Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines” outlines that the primary purpose of the Islamic bank is “to promote and accelerate the socio-economic development of the Autonomous Region by performing banking, financing and investment operations and to establish and participate in agricultural, commercial and industrial ventures based on the Islamic concept of banking.” In addition to allowing the bank to act as a universal bank capable of offering both conventional and Islamic banking products and services, the Sections No. 10 & 11 of the charter respectively provide incentives in the form of investor protection, and grant the bank the ability to accept grants and donations (Congress of the Philippines, 1989).

Dimapunong (2006) provides background information and commentary on the rules and regulations governing the Al-Amanah Islamic Bank. A founding chairman of the bank, the author also wrote about the role of former senator Mamintal A. Tamano’s role in the establishment of the original Philippine Amanah Bank, the precursor of the current Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines. A rare representative from Muslim Mindanao, the late senator was supposedly the first to envision a Muslim bank in the Philippines, at a time when modern Islamic banking was at its infancy. According to the author, the original PAB was not properly Shariah-compliant leading Ulama counsels to complain about the institution misleading the public. By 1988 it had been deemed a complete failure having already gone bankrupt (Dimapunong A. A.).

Sandra Isnaji (2003) conducted a SWOT (Strength-Weakness-Opportunity-Threat) analysis of the Amanah Bank and prescribes a rehabilitation plan for the institution involving infusions of capital from the government in order to get rid of the bank’s debt and to invest in new infrastructure. Her paper was aimed at answering three questions with regard to the beleaguered bank’s status: (1) “Where are we now?” (2) “Where do we want to be?” and (3) “How do we get there?” To that extent, Isnaji looked at the state of Islamic banking industry as a whole, the state of the Philippine financial system, and the state of the Amanah bank itself.

With regard to the Amanah Bank’s operations, Isnaji (2003) states that (at the time of writing) it operates on a “two-window system” in which it offers both Islamic and conventional financial products and services. And while the institution faced no competition from other Islamic banks, it faced stiff competition from the country’s conventional financial institutions, both formal and informal. With regard to the Philippine banking sector, the author used Porter’s Five Forces framework to analyze the AB’s competition within it. The author findings are as follows: (1) With regard to the bargaining power of suppliers: the tight control of the Bangko Sentral affords it high bargaining power, to the advantage of state-owned banks such as the Amanah Bank; the bargaining power of multilateral and bilateral aid organizations(USTDA, WB, ADB, JBIC) is high due to their involvement with micro-finance and development banks; the large size and unorganized nature of the labor sector affords it little bargaining power; bargaining power among depositors is highly skewed towards the higher income deciles who’s deposits account for 88.3% of the savings in banks, with the lower deciles having nor bargaining power. (2) With regard to the bargaining power of buyers, the higher income deciles belonging to the middle and upper classes resided and/or did business in the National Capital Region (NCR) and demand services such as “…electronic banking, payroll services, and bill payments.”; The power portions of the population find it difficult to obtain financing from formal banks due to their situation, and thus do not have much bargaining power, but their sheer numbers offer a potentially large market. (3) With regard to the threat of new entrants, any new Islamic banks allowed by the BSP could actually benefit the Amanah Bank by providing much needed visibility for the beleaguered Philippine Islamic banking sector. (4) With regard to the threat of substitute, notable alternatives that customers may opt for are informal financial institutions, employers that provide loan programs, or complete abstinence from banking entirely. Another threat is the outflow of capital from the country. (5) With regard to rivalry among existing players, the tendency of banks to be large tends to lead them to avoid small borrowers and savers, as such the government has had to develop the banking system so as to include such institutions as thrift and rural banks which cater to the needs of small borrowers and savers who would otherwise resort to informal institutions. In order to counter the threat of oligopoly the government competes in the financial sector via the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP). (Isnaji, 2003)

As a requirement of the Development Bank of the Philippine’s (DBP) acquisition of the Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines (AAIIBP), the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) required the DBP to submit a 5-year rehabilitation plan for the bank. The initial plan, submitted on 23 April 2008, was deemed inadequate by the BSP. As such a draft of the revised plan was submitted on 18 March 2009. The revised plan was divided into four parts: (1) a brief background elaborating on the institution’s legal basis, purpose, and present situation, (2) a summary of its business plans, (3) details on the implementation of said business plans, (4) and five-year financial projections. (Panganiban, 2009)

The revised rehabilitation plan of the Amanah Bank centers around “4Rs,” specifically:

Recapitalization – via capital infusions from the DBP and domestic and foreign investors; this is aimed at covering the expenses of the bank’s rehabilitation

Restoration of financial viability – focused on “…aggressive marketing efforts to introduce AAIIBP’s new products and services, liquidation of non-performing assets and the sourcing of contingent funds…”

Reorganization – focused on building up institutional capacity, particularly with regard to Sharia compliance; involves organizational restructuring, relocation and refurbishing of bank offices, expansion and automation.

Reforms institutionalization – involves “strengthening of corporate culture and governance, monitoring system, risk management and audit system, and review of product and operating manuals.”

Particular emphasis has been given to the recapitalization strategy which would provide the funds needed for the other three points of the rehabilitation. (Development Bank of the Philippines, March 2009)

Islamic Banking

Chong and Liu (2006) attempted to determine how different Islamic banking is from conventional banking by examining Islamic banking practice in Malaysia using the Engle-Granger error-correction methodology. In their study they find that despite being theoretically different, in practice Islamic banking in Malaysia is “not very different from conventional banking.” According to their study, “only a negligible portion of Islamic bank financing in Malaysia is based on the profit-and-loss (PLS) sharing paradigm” and that Islamic deposits are not interest-free, but are based on non-PLS modes that are permitted under Sharia law, but ignore the spirit of the usury prohibition. This parallels Islamic banking experience in other countries. The authors conclude that Islamic banking practices cannot differ too greatly from conventional banking practice due to stiff competition that makes interest-free Islamic deposits closely pegged to conventional deposits. This conclusion can have implications for the “brand” is Islamic banking, particularly with regard to its often touted non-interest-based character. However, it also has analytical and regulatory implications; the similarity of Islamic banking practices to conventional banking practices would simplify the task of both studying and regulating Islamic banking.

The findings of this study mirror an earlier paper by Movassaghi and Zaman’s (2002). In it, they attempt to re-examine the concept of riba in light of Islamic jurisprudence. In that paper they compare Islamic banking practices with conventional banking practices in order to highlight that neither all conventional practices are usurious, nor are modern Islamic banking practices significantly different from those of conventional banks. They also assert that many differences between the profit/loss sharing paradigm of Islamic banking and conventional interest-based merely superficial.

In addition to questions of practice, Chong and Liu’s study also asked the question of whether or not the growth of Islamic banking over the past several years was due to the comparative advantages of the Islamic banking paradigm, or to the Islamic resurgence that began in the 1960s. Based on their findings, the authors are inclined to adopt the latter view.

This view is also compatible with the findings of a study cited by Isnaji (2003), done by the Meezan Bank of Pakistan which identified several “key success factors” in the experience of Islamic banks in other countries: (1) strong religious consciousness among the Muslim population, (2) support from the government in the form of financial infrastructure and favorable regulations, (3) “promotion”, (4) “[increases] in individual wealth”, and (5) a wide variety of financial products and services.

Public Enterprises/Public Enterprise Reform

Basu (2005) gives an overview of the background and concept of public enterprise, highlighting the particular experience of India in this matter. distinguishing it from the broader term public sector by adopting the definition adopted by the International Centre of Public Enterprises (ICPE): “Any commercial, financial, industrial, agricultural or promotional undertaking – owned by public authority, either wholly or through majority share holding – which is engaged in the sale of goods and services and whose affairs are capable of being recorded in balance sheets and profit and loss accounts. Such undertakings may have diverse legal and corporate forms, such as departmental undertakings, public corporations, statutory agencies, established by Acts of Parliament or Joint Stock Companies registered under the Company Law”. The author then goes on to elaborate these three categories. Basu further elaborates on the theory of public enterprises by elaborating on four types of economic activity based on the concept of remuneration as well as that of natural monopoly. (Basu, 2005)

Basu highlights the equal importance of accountability and efficiency in the management of public enterprises, stating the important role of institutional arrangements in this matter. The author then elaborates on the creation of public enterprises with regard to government policy in terms of the strategies of nationalization or introduction of a new activity and states that most post-independence cases consisted of the latter. Basu emphasizes the idea that neither the state nor the market is immune to “failure” and that current emphasis should be on the idea of public-private “synergy”, and that attention should be put on both on public-private partnership and competition to achieve the objectives of “efficiency” and “welfare”. He then highlights the link between public finance and public enterprise, stating that “shortsighted approaches of several developing countries including India to reduce fiscal deficit by selling public enterprises- which follow from inadequacies of public finance management – could be disastrous in the long run (Basu, 2005).”

Stiglitz (2000) identifies two major categories in which public enterprises may systematically be more inefficient than private enterprises: organizational and individual. Under the former are sub-categories regarding “organizational incentives,” “personnel restrictions,” “procurement restrictions,” and “budget restrictions.” These pertain to public enterprises’ organizational rules and procedures which may hamper those enterprises’ efficiency and performance. The nature of public firms can mean that they may not necessarily need worry about incurring losses in their operations since any such losses may be covered by public funding. The bureaucratic nature of these enterprises may also entail strict procedures with regard to the hiring and firing of employees and the appropriation of needed materials, increasing transaction costs for both the demanding firm and possible suppliers (private forms and individuals). Lastly, there is the issue of budget restrictions due to governments having to allocate limited financial resources among various agencies and projects. (Stiglitz, 2000)

The latter category pertains to the behavior of individual bureaucrats under the incentive structure of public enterprises. Low wages and security of tenure may provide disincentives for bureaucrats to perform efficiently. Bureaucrats are also argued to be budget maximizers in that they seek to maximize the size of their bureaucracies by encouraging increased expenditures on their respective agencies. Stiglitz cites Niskanen with regard to principal-agent problems in bureaucracies “wherein government bureaucrats act in their own interests and not necessarily in the interests of the citizens whom they are supposed to serve. (Stiglitz, 2000)”

Chang (2007) presents a discussion of the issue of state enterprise reform. Chang argues that theoretically there is no clear case with for or against state-owned enterprises (SOEs) by citing arguments for (natural monopoly, capital market failure, externalities, equity) and against (principal-agent problem, free-rider problem, soft budget restrains), the author also points out that large SOEs and large private sector firms often face similar (principal-agent) problems.

This mirrors Stiglitz’s statement that” “Principal-agent problems arise in all organization, whether public or private and are particularly acute in large organizations. In both private and public cases, managers often have large amounts of discretion allowing them to pursue their own interests. (Stiglitz, 2000)”

In citing the issues of public enterprises in comparison to private enterprises, many often assume away the agency problems of private firms, thus comparing "idealized private firms with real-life SOEs", the former of which would obviously “come out on top (Chang, 2007).” Chang 92007) points out that privatization is not the only solution to the problems of many SOEs, and that many intermediate “third way” solutions exist. The author elaborates that privatization as an option has its costs and limitations and should only be taken on certain conditions, many of which are not met in reality leading to many failed attempts at privatization that cause more problems than they solve. As such, the “third way” options (organizational reform, increasing competition, political and administrative reforms) ought to be considered before privatization. (Chang, 2007)

Rational Choice Theory/Institutional Economics

Rational/Public Choice Theory

Rational Choice Theory refers to those theories of the social sciences which utilize the analytical tools of neoclassical economics, particularly, the core assumption of rational (utility-maximizing) and self-interested individuals. (Hindmoor, 2006)

Hindmoor (2002) states that rational choice theorists employ an instrumental conception of rationality in which actions are judged as being rational to the extent that they constitute the best way of achieving some goal. He identifies two conceptualizations of rationality: The first (the ‘axiomatic’ approach) conceives a rational person as someone “who’s preference-ordering over bundles of goods and services is reflexive, complete, transitive and continuous.” The second (the ‘optimizing’ approach) conceives the rational person as one who “possesses optimal beliefs and acts in optimal ways given those beliefs and desires.” (Hindmoor, 2006)

Hindmoor writes that rationality is a controversial assumption in political science, particularly in light of the concept of “bounded” rationality. As such, he says that such an assumption must be justified and looks at the two approaches in order to determine which is more defensible.

Under the umbrella heading of rational choice theory can be found the sub-theories of public choice, which, in turn, constituted transplanting the general analytical framework of economics into political science. (Tullock, 2002)

Tullock’s primary contribution to rational/public choice theory is his theories on rent-seeking, which he defines as “the use of resources for the purpose of obtaining rents for people where the rents themselves come from some activity that has negative social value.” Tullock continues: “The concept of rent seeking as popularly perceived refers to legal and illegal activities to obtain special privileges such as seeking monopoly status, special zoning, quantitative restrictions on imports, protective tariffs, bribes, threats, and smuggling.” (Tullock, 2002)

Indeed, rent-seeking has actually come to ‘dominate’ the literature of rational choice theory. Hindmoor (2006) cites the plethora of studies done on various countries, on various topics to emphasize this point. He looks to three possible explanations for this: (1) the name-recognition of the term “rent-seeking” itself, (2) the adaptability and extendibility of Tullock’s argument which “…can be extended to cover the analysis of any and all special economic privileges…”, and (3) the fact that it offered a “hostile theory of state,” which could be used to counter welfare economists arguments for government intervention. On the second reason, Hindmoor supplement’s Tullock’s original argument by pointing out that interest groups also spend resources to prevent rivals from obtaining rents and to secure their own and that governments may also practice “rent-extraction.” (Hindmoor, 2006)

Tullock (2002) identifies several costs involved in rent seeking: The first being the actual cost of obtaining the special privilege. Of which the author provides the example of the costs of lobbying in Washington D.C. Greater costs are incurred from the distortion of the voting process, wherein public officials who are elected to pursue certain policies or projects often also pursue other less beneficial projects of which the true cost cannot be typically counted due to those politicians not disclosing the details of deals they have made. The greatest costs, however, are the indirect costs caused by rent seeking behavior. In particular, the involvement of “intelligent and energetic” people in an activity that contributes either nothing or negatively to society. The opportunity cost of such activities, he argues, far exceed their direct costs. (Tullock, 2002)

Tullock (2002) argues that the development of rent seeking activities is influenced by many factors, in particular the structure and design of government. In general, he argues, “any rule that complicates and makes the functioning of the government government decisionmaking process less smooth will lower the amount of rent seeking.” He concludes his discussion on the topic by emphasizing that there are as of yet no good measures of the costs of rent-seeking (Tullock, 2002).

Hindmoor (2006) cites Von Mises in defining bureaucracy as “…any organization which ‘specialises in the supply of those services the value of which cannot be exchanged for money at a per-unit rate’.” “Such organizations, Von Mises suggests, find themselves effectively exempted from the demands of economic calculation and are, as a result, usually inefficient.” He also cites Tullock: “…the crucial feature of bureaucracies is not simply that they are hierarchies, but ‘pyramidal’ hierarchies with fewer people at the top than in the lower ranks.” This leads to a principal-agent relationship, with all its problems of information asymmetry (Hindmoor, 2006).

In his section of Public Choice, Tullock also discusses bureaucracy. He writes that: “Bureaucrats are much like other people and, like people in general, are more interested in their own well-being than in the public interest.” The problem is in designing institutions in such a way as to harness bureaucrats’ self-interest to serve the public interest (Tullock, 2002).

The core problem with bureaucracy is encapsulated by Tullock in one paragraph: “In most bureaucracies the executive – whether in General Motors, the Department of State, or the Exchequer – is in a position where only to a minor extent is his or her own interest involved. Bureaucrats will make many decisions that will have little or no direct effect on themselves and hence can be made with the best interests of General Motors or the American or the British people at heart. Unfortunately bureaucrats, in general, have only weak motives to consider these problems carefully, but they do have strong motives to improve their status in the bureaucracy, whether by income, power, or simply the ability to take leisure while sitting in plush offices. They are more likely to be more concerned with this second set of objectives than the first, although they may not put very much effort into it because not much effort is required (Tullock, 2002).”

Tullock then further draws parallels between public and private bureaucrats. He argues that both will attempt to maximize gains for their respective employers “if it pays off for them.” But in neither case does the institutional structure lead bureaucrats to “maximizing the well-being of their superiors.” He qualifies, though, that private corporations have a much easier time in pursing their goals efficiently than do governments. He cites three reasons for this: the comparatively simple objective of stockbrokers (profit maximization), the “reasonably accurate methods” of measuring the performance of corporate managers (bureaucrats) in the form of accounting, and the difference in the ownership of benefits from the efficient management of bureaucracies (private profit vs. public interest) (Tullock, 2002).

Lastly, Tullock elaborates upon several proposals with regard to bureaucratic reform: decentralization, depriving bureaucrats of the vote, and downsizing the size of bureaucracy. He discusses how it is often in the interest of bureaucrats to increase the size of their departments , although in some cases downsizing does occur without the objection of senior bureaucrats due to such measures not affecting them aversely or even benefiting them by, for example, leading to more highly paid positions at the top while cutting down from below. Most intriguing is his characterization of bureaucratic behaviour as resembling that of people with hobbies, albeit with two major differences: “...it does not cost bureaucrats very much since they are predominantly using other people’s resources...” and that “...most bureaucrats honestly think that whatever it is they do is not for their benefit alone, but for the country or their bureau.” (Tullock, 2002)

This mirrors Niskanen’s theory on bureaucracy, wherein he asserts that bureaucrats find it in their interest to maximize their budgets and that they are often successful in doing so. Niskanen, himself defines bureaucracies as “…non-profit-making organization whose revenues derive from periodic grants (Hindmoor, 2006).” Niskanen also “…follows Downs in assuming that bureaucrats value a range of goods including power, monetary income, prestige and security. Yet he cuts through the complexities o Downs’ argument by suggesting that nearly all of these variables are positively related to the size of the bureaucrat’s budget (Hindmoor, 2006).”

Tullock (2002) elaborates goes on to the relationship between bureaucrats and two other major groups of political actors: politicians and pressure groups. Tullock focuses on the ability of bureaucrats to often lord over their “superiors” thanks to their security of tenure. Two bureaucratic tactics are discussed: the use of leaks to undermine or embarrass superiors, and the use of essential programs as proverbial shields in the fact of budget cuts. With regard to pressure groups, the collusion is the cited issue, wherein bureaus and interest groups work together to gain mutual benefits from government. (Tullock, 2002) With regard to this relationship Niskanen argues that the bureaucrats have two advantages over politicians which allow them to increase their budgets: (1) greater information on the costs involved in their bureaucracies’ provision of goods, and (2) the ability to “…make ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ offers to their political patrons (Hindmoor, 2006).” Politicians on the other hand are attributed four capacities: (1) the ability to select the bureaucracy’s overall output, (2) the ability to ensure that bureaucrats fulfill their promises in return for an agreed budget, (3) the ability to ensure that “…the total benefits individuals derive from consuming whatever output it is that the bureaucracy provides are equal to or greater than the total costs of providing it (Hindmoor, 2006)” and (4) the ability to ensure that “…the marginal benefits of any output are not negative (Hindmoor, 2006).”

As Hindmoor points out, however, Niskanen has accepted the argument of Jean-Luc Migue and Gerard Belanger (1974) that bureaucrats do not so much maximize the size of their budget, but rather that of their discretionary budget, defined as the difference between their budget and the minimum costs of supplying their expected output. They argue that though this discretionary budget cannot be used by the bureaucrat for personal profit, it can be used to gain “greater power, patronage, prestige, and so on (Hindmoor, 2006).” Regardless of this distinction, however, the conclusion is still that the bureaucracies are inefficient because their budgets are too large. (Hindmoor, 2006)

Hindmoor further critiques Niskanen’s argument by citing several works by multiple authors who point out that (1) politicians actually hold great power over bureaucrats, so much so that “…bureaucrats can be deterred from making excessive demands…” (2) politicians can trick bureaucrats into revealing information on minimal costs by “…asking them how much output they would be willing to provide at various per unit prices.” (3) constituents and interest-groups may raise alarms about with regard to ineffective bureaucracies, (4) “administrative rules and standard operating procedures” keep bureaucracies in line, and (5) that “…Congressional Committees have the formal power to hire and fire senior bureaucrats, ‘ring-fence’ particular investments and hold investigations and public-hearings into an agency’s performance (Hindmoor, 2006).”

In his discussion, Tullock concludes by emphasizing that bureaucrats are not necessarily bad people, but that the institutional arrangement often “frees them of the constraint of efficiently carrying out the tasks to which they have been assigned.” The author then iterates that both large governments and large private corporations necessitate bureaucracies, and that such bureaucracies can be both conducive and/or obstructive to good government. (Tullock, 2002)

Now, while rational choice theory certainly dominates discussion of government inefficiency Field (1979) argues that while it provides an easy framework for analysis, it is incapable of providing explanations. He argues that since rational choice models are as incapable of providing “sufficiently restrictive predictions”, which provide accounts which tell why a certain outcome was reached instead of another. He points to the inability of neoclassical economic analysis in explaining oligopolies, citing that “Economists can analyze an existing cartel by pointing to the benefits which participating companies receive as the result of restricting output and raising prices. But economist can equally well analyze the absence of a cartel by pointing to the benefits individual members would obtain by violating such an agreement.” (Field, 1979)

Field goes on to critique the idea of explaining social outcomes based on the conception that they spring from economic forces. He mentions that while rational choice models have the comparative advantage when it comes to understanding outcomes which are caused by economic forces, they do not take into consideration the ways in which social forces affect the operation of markets. (Field, 1979)

Field thus argues that the inherent limitations of rational choice/economic models in explaining systems of rules mean that they are no replacement for institutional economists’ qualitative approach, which holds historical understanding of the “…laws and customs organizing the process under investigation…” as essential. However, he does make the consideration that while rational choice models cannot satisfactorily explain institutions by themselves, they can help. (Field, 1979)

Institutional Economics

R.A. Gordon (1963) attempts to outline the characteristics of institutional economics in the form of several propositions: (1) "Economic behavior is strongly conditioned by the institutional environment (in all its manifestation) within which economic activity takes place, and economic behavior in turn affects the institutional environment. (2) This process of mutual interaction is an evolutionary one. The environment changes, and as it does, so do the determinants of economic behavior. Hence the need for an “evolutionary approach” to economics. (3) In this evolutionary process of interaction, a key role is played by the (largely conflicting) conditions imposed by modern technology and by the pecuniary institutions of modern capitalism. (4) Economics is more concerned with conflict than with a harmonious order in which unconscious [cooperation] results from the free play of market forces. (5) Since conflict underlies so many economic relationships, and since these relationships are not immutable, there is room and need for social control of economic activity. (6) We need to learn all that we can from psychology, sociology, anthropology, and law if we are to understand why human beings act as they do in their economic roles. People are not maximizing automata reacting mechanically in an institutional vacuum. (7) Granted the preceding assumptions, much of orthodox economic theory is either wrong or irrelevant because it makes demonstrably false assumptions and does not ask the really important questions. A new, broader, evolutionary theory – based on behavioral assumptions derived from the other social sciences and on detailed knowledge of the evolution and present characteristics of the institutional environment – needs to be constructed. A wide variety of empirical studies must precede the attempt to construct such a broader, evolutionary, and more realistic corpus of theory (Gordon, 1963).”

“Thorstein Veblen is commonly…regarded as the founding father or guiding spirit of American institutionalism.” (Ayres, 1964) In “Institutional Economics”, Ayres argues that the central idea of Veblen’s works was a call for a completely different ontology of economics with a completely different conception of what constituted the economy. Whereas the conception of mainstream economics has been that the economic system is centered on the concept of the market and tied together by individuals’ self-interest. Instead, Ayres asserts that Veblen took on an anthropological conception of the economy. One where in it is “the state of industrial arts that gives occasion to exchange, so the extent of the market must always be limited by the state of the industrial arts.” This was the direct opposite of the thinking of mainstream economics at that point: that the various aspects of civilization’s development could be attributed to market forces. (Ayres, 1964)

Ayres puts Veblen’s conception of the economy as such: “as the system of related activities by which the people of any community get their living. This system embraces a body of knowledge and of skills and a stock of physical equipment it also embraces a complex network of personal relations reinforced by custom, ritual, sentiment, and dogma.” (Ayres, 1964)

John R. Commons’ major contribution to institutionalism has been the notion of collective action, which he uses to refer to what he calls “going concerns”, “…performing specific functions, containing conflicts of interests within themselves (among their members) and also opposing the conflicting interests of other such going concerns (Chamberlain, 1964).” Also included under the banner of collective action are the laws of the state, common law, and unorganized custom, “…the bundle of patterns of conduct which a society sanctions or compels its members (Chamberlain, 1964).” It is these laws and customs which structure and shape relations among members of society, but at the same time are created, shaped and modified by the interactions of those same entities. “Collective action thus controls the individual; but the individual has some power (especially in concerted effort with others) to modify the nature of collective control (Chamberlain, 1964).”

“But collective action is more than control of individual action. By controlling the actions of some,, it makes possible the actions of others; it frees them from coercion and forms of competition which have been branded as “unfair.” By controlling the actions of some, as through the working rules of organizations, it enormously expands the capabilities of those who manage such organizations beyond the powers which they would have been able otherwise to wield on their own (Chamberlain, 1964).”

“It is thus that Commons comes to his definition of the subject matter of his brand of economics. “We may define an institution as collective action in control, liberation and expansion of individual action.” (Chamberlain, 1964)”

In this context, individual actions are actually “transactions”, which he takes as the “lowest common denominator of all economic activity…” Transactions are characterized by “three inescapable social relationships”: (1) conflict of interests (arising out of scarcity), (2) interdependence of interests (arising out of need for exchanges), and order (or compromise, arising out of the need for establishing a system of working rules and expectations as the basis for exchange). (Chamberlain, 1964)

Commons identifies three types of transactions: (1) bargaining, which is a transaction between individuals of roughly equal status, who have alternatives open to them, of the terms on which ownership will be transferred and are thus voluntary in nature (2) rationing, which are a means of redistributing scarcity values and are based on authoritative relations between a “legal superior” and a “legal subordinate” and (3) managerial, which also involve authoritative relations, but involve “…production decisions which follow the bargaining or rationing…” and “…involve the organized use of the property or assets over which command has been acquired (Chamberlain, 1964).”

With regard to the question of what brings about transactions Commons rejects the traditional economic notions of “self-interest” and “utility” as explanations for human conduct, considering such notions as being “…too simplistic to be considered determinants of economic behavior (Chamberlain, 1964).” Commons instead emphasized that collective action is characterized by “purpose” and “willingness” due to the ability of human beings to change their environment to suit their needs. “This implies purpose – volition, again to use Common’s special term – and substitutes what he called an “artificial selection” for the natural selection of the prehuman stages of development (Chamberlain, 1964).”

“The end result, the “artificial mechanism,” is not so much an equilibrium (a term Commons considered more appropriate to the physical world) as a social order infused with purpose and subject to continuing tinkering to effect that purpose more completely. “Thus a volitional or economic theory starts with the purpose for which the artificial mechanism in question was designed…Then it inquires whether the artificial mechanism in question accomplishes that purpose in an efficient or economical way, and, if not, what is the limiting factor, out of the thousands of cooperating factors, that obstructs the operation, and to hat extent that limiting factor can be, and requires to be, controlled in order to facilitate the mechanism and accomplish its purpose (Chamberlain, 1964).”

“In other words, volitionalism implies both purpose and concentration on the strategic obstacles to its achievement. It distinguishes between the contemporary factors (routine transactions) and the limiting factors (inhibitors of goal achievement) (Chamberlain, 1964).”

Richard Langlois (1986) collected a diverse set of essays on what he identified as “new institutional economics” and attempted to identify several common themes among them. The themes are as such: “(1) Although definitely rational in a true sense, the agent of economic theory is not best conceived as rational in the narrow sense of maximizing within a framework of known alternatives. (2) Economic phenomena are in large measure the result of learning over time by economic agents; economic explanation should thus be a dynamic exercise – dynamic not merely in the sense of dynamic classical modeal, but in a sense best rendered as evolutionary. (3) The coordination of economic activity is not merely a matter of price-mediated transactions in markets, but is supported by a wide-range of economic and social institutions that are themselves an important topic of theoretical economic inquiry (Langlois R. N., 1986).”

Langlois (1986) characterizes this “new” institutional economics as not so much derived from the old institutional economics, but rather from its opponents. Whereas the original intuitionalists rejected neoclassical economics, new institutional economics works within a neoclassical framework. Langlois cites the disagreement of the earlier debate as such: “The problem with the Historical School and many of the early Institutionalists is that they wanted an economics with institutions but without theory; the problem with many neoclassicists is that they want economic theory without institutions; what we should really want is both institutions and theory – not only pure economic theory informed by the existence of specific institutions, but also an economic theory of institutions. (Langlois R. N., 1986).”

Research Gap

In the discussion of specific topic of this proposed study, Islamic banking, particularly of the case of the Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank, there is a distinct dearth of literature. While the official sources provide formal legal structure of the institution as well as some background information on its establishment there is actually very little published information on the history of the financial institution’s operations.

From the perspective of Common’s volitional approach, Isnaji’s study was aimed at the limiting factors preventing the Amanah Bank from fulfilling its intended purpose. As such, Isnaji’s work identifies certain limiting factors which hampered the institution at the time if her writing.

Indeed, it is Isnaji’s study which clearly illustrates the research gap with the major questions it seeks to ask: “Where are we now?” “Where do we want to be?” and “How do we get there?” Notice that a question that goes unasked is “How did we get to here we are now?” Thus, there has yet been a study seeking to explain why the Amanah Bank had come to underperform and incur perennial losses, or even to systematically analyze the institution’s past operations so as to draw a bead upon issues or weaknesses the institution may have had, although Isnaji’s study does provide some leads in its analysis of both the Amanah Bank and the economic, social and political contexts surrounding it.


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