Sultan joins leaders to give Muslim economies a boost
By Waleed PD Mahdini in Kuala Lumpur

The Muslim world will be focussing their attention on Malaysia with expectations of a boost for economic revival from the sixth World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) that officially opens today in Kuala Lumpur. His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam joins other world leaders to help steer Muslim economies towards a better future.

Themed 'Gearing for Economic Resurgence', the forum is being attended by over 1,700 participants that include heads of state, governments and economic entities.

His Majesty will deliver a titah during the opening ceremony this morning, which will also be attended by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, President Fatmir Sejdiu of Kosovo, President Mohamed Nasheed of Maldives and President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal. It will be moderated by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Sri Najib Tun Abdul Razak.

According to the programme, there will also be signing of agreements at the end of the leaders' session.

His Majesty arrived in capital yesterday afternoon. On arrival at the Subang Airforce Base, His Majesty was greeted on arrival by Datuk Seri Anifah Hj Aman, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia. Also present at the airport was Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awg Halbi bin Hj Mohd Yussof, Brunei's High Commissioner to Malaysia.

Earlier, His Majesty was bid farewell at the Brunei International Airport by His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Malik.

The forum is being held at a time when the world economy is on a careful road to recovery. The gathering of Islamic economic leaders will meet to discuss ways to forge stronger business ties and create more sustainable opportunities for the 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, which Tun Musa Hitam, Chairman of the WIEF Foundation highlighted has "one compelling factor that matters most and that is the impetus to be peaceful and prosperous".

The forum will also deliberate on leadership challenges for the new era and help identify socioeconomic challenges that should be tackled by generating more commercial synergy with non-Muslim economies. This can be seen with the UK's Special Trade and Investment Representative, HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York presenting a talk on boosting trade between the Islamic world and the UK.

Meanwhile, with close to 2,000 business representatives from the Muslim countries, the forum is expected to provide a timely platform for deals and mergers. According to the WIEF chairman, during its last meeting in Jakarta in 2009, US$3.4 billion in business deals were signed between businessmen from countries "who would never have had the opportunity to do so otherwise".

The 6th WIEF also serves to support the increase in trade between the members of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), which is also holding its meeting of foreign ministers in Dushanbe, Tajikistan that are focussing on finding a shared vision of a more secure and prosperous Islamic world.

With a growing market populated by 1.5 billion people worth more than a trillion dollars, with an appetite for Islamic products and services, such as Islamic banking and Halal products, the forum will also incorporate talks on other opportunities such as in the tourism, logistics and water industries. This is evident with the value of the Islamic financial services industry that has reached a volume of US$1 trillion last year, a five-fold increase since 2003 that has recorded an annual growth rate of 15 per cent.

Other sessions will discuss the burgeoning marketing potential of Islamic branding, leveraging technology to improve human resource capability and education standards in the Muslim world, the emphasis on good governance and maintaining ethics in business and assuring the planet's future through greener socioeconomic efforts. - Borneo Bulletin (19th May 2010)