SINGAPORE — The World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) not only benefits Syariah-compliant businesses, it also seeks to connect all enterprises, including those from beyond the Islamic world, said WIEF Foundation chairman Musa Hitam yesterday, expressing hope that more Singapore companies would consider participating in the event.
Speaking to TODAY ahead of the 11th WIEF in Kuala Lumpur early next month, Mr Musa said one of the positive facets of WIEF is that “it doesn’t touch (on) religion but seeks to go further” in enhancing linkages among all companies.
The annual forum, organised by the non-profit WIEF Foundation based in Kuala Lumpur, seeks to showcase business opportunities in the Islamic world and strengthen partnerships and knowledge exchange between Muslim and non-Muslim communities across the globe.
More than 2,500 delegates — including Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla — from more than 100 Muslim and non-Muslim countries will take part in the upcoming forum, under the theme of “Building Resilience for Equitable Growth”.
Mr Musa recounted how many governments and businesses had initially kept their distance from WIEF events “with the assumption that Islamic (finance) is not their cup of tea. But we kept building up the WIEF in a
non-dramatic fashion and showed that we could deliver”.
The ex-Malaysian deputy premier pointed out that the WIEF platform has been successful in several ways.
First, the number of attendees has increased, from about 400 people during the initial years to more than 2,000 today. Mr Musa said the event has also become “more acceptable” to non-Muslim businessmen, including those from the United Kingdom and South Korea.
The 9th WIEF was convened in London in 2013, where the intention to launch £250 million (S$536 million) worth of sukuk Islamic bonds was announced. The bonds have since been 10 times oversubscribed. South Korea has also offered to host the 13th WIEF in 2017, after Indonesia next year, while more countries are taking part in the WIEF to showcase their products.
Mr Musa noted Singapore has not been particularly active in the WIEF, with the exception of the 8th WIEF held in Johor Bahru in 2012 when Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam led a high-level delegation to explore business opportunities.
“I hope Singapore companies will be confident about how the WIEF will not touch on issues of race, religion and politics and will provide them with an opportunity to do business in a globalised way,” he said.
Originally published on www.todayonline.com