Business leaders emphasized on the cooperation between South and Southeast Asian Muslim nations and adaptation of emerging technologies to face off upcoming fourth industrial revolution (4IR) in a two-day roundtable on “Regional collaboration: transforming economies” organised by World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Foundation and South East Asian Co-operation (Seaco) Foundation at Radisson Blu Dhaka.
They said the cooperation will increase business and regional connectivity. The halal food industry in Muslim countries holds huge potential, a market non-Muslim countries can take advantage of, said Salman F Rahman, prime minister’s private industry and investment adviser.
Salman F Rahman said that Bangladesh has identified the ways to achieve the goals, first to focus on developing skilled manpower, secondly to attract investment from public, private and foreign sources and thirdly to focus on regional and international cooperation.
He also informed that the government is investing a lot behind technical education to generate graduates who would be the skilled manpower necessary for the industry.
Regarding success in agriculture, Rahman said despite having a limited amount of cropland, Bangladesh has been able to ensure self-sufficiency in food production. Now the government has undertaken a plan to set up 100 economic zones which would house industrial units in a coordinated manner, saving cultivable land and stopping unplanned industrialisation.
Salahuddin Kasem Khan, executive chairman of Seaco Foundation, said regional cooperation, connecting national economies, could help develop communities socially and economically through trade, investment and tourism.
He said Islamic finance was a burgeoning sector with assets estimated to grow to $3.8 trillion by 2023 from $2.4 trillion in 2017. Bangladesh’s strategic location gave it trade advantages in the South and Southeast Asian regions, he added.
Khan also said, with a GDP worth $300 billion, Bangladesh’s economy would gradually turn stronger with rising purchasing power.
Indonesia and Malaysia can take advantage of this by increasing investment as domestic consumption in Bangladesh is increasing, he noted.
Wan Mohd Zahid Bin Mohd Noordin, chairman of WIEF Education Trust, said regional cooperation was increasing connectivity among member countries which would help boost business and national economic development.
Zahid said their organisations as well as OIC member states should work for the common interest, in a way the European Union does, which would benefit regional cooperation. He called for taking up practical programmes for implementation under regional cooperation to develop private sector.
Mohmmed Mohsin, chairman of Seaco Foundation, said the OIC members need to take initiatives to enhance regional trade, investment and overall cooperation in South and Southeast Asia. He said Seaco Foundation was basically a private sector platform giving emphasis on regional cooperation and investment for economic development.
The speakers in the roundtable also stressed that the private and public sectors from South-South East Asian economies would have further understanding of Islamic finance and banking as an alternative to conventional banking, as well as financing infrastructure investment such as sukuk in the power, transport and social infrastructure sectors.
A sukuk is an Islamic financial certificate, similar to a bond in Western finance.
Around 300 representatives from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives, Singapore, the UK, the UAE and Turkey are participating in the event.