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Islamic Davos” in Astana Produces Valuable Initiatives, Practical Deals

Astana, June 10: President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan put forward a series of initiatives calling to modernise the Islamic world at the 7th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) at the Palace of Independence in Astana on Wednesday. An extensive business dialogue platform of the Muslim world or the so-called “Islamic Davos” took place in the Kazakh capital on June 7-9, having gathered more than 2,000 government representatives, academic scholars, heads of industry, professionals and corporate managers from across the globe. The forum’s main theme was “Globalising Growth: Connect, Compete, Collaborate”.

 The event, held for the first time in Central Asia, gained particular relevance ahead of the late-June Astana Ministerial of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The remarkably diverse list of participants and invitees who came to the Kazakh capital to discuss most pressing issues related to the Organization’s activity involved President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh, Vice-President of Indonesia Professor Boediono, Prime Ministers Dato Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak of Malaysia and Oqil Oqilov of Tajikistan, as well as Islamic Development Bank (IDB) President Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al Madani and Chairman of WIEF Foundation Tun Musa bin Hitam.

In his address to the participants of the Forum, President stressed: “Islam as a religion is not experiencing any kind of crisis. This is one of the most dynamic religions of the present-day world. It is only some regions of the Islamic community that experience the crisis”.

The necessity to modernise the Muslim community is obvious. And modernisation of society doesn’t stand for distortion of fundamentals of Islam itself, Nazarbayev said: “We must work together to build a positive image of Islam as a religion of peace, kindness, tolerance and justice”.

In this respect, Kazakh leader proposed a series of initiatives which the OIC countries could implement together. Among them was the suggestion that a dialogue platform of the group of ten major Muslim economies was established, given that the resources of Ummah afford to form a massive financial pool for investment cooperation.

In view of the Islamic countries’ technological gap, Nazarbayev also encouraged the establishing of an International innovation hub with the participation of interested OIC states. Another initiative to support small and medium enterprises (SME) implies convening a WIEF ad hoc working group and discussing on the forum platform the creation of a special fund of SMEs under IDB.

We are interested in the cooperation with the Islamic countries in terms of attracting Islamic finance instruments. According to expert estimates, growth potential of Islamic investment in Kazakhstan in the short term may reach dozens of billions of US dollars”, Kazakh President underscored.

Taking into account the main condition for expansion of cooperation is the availability of the transport and communication schemes, and that today Kazakhstan is extensively using its geo-economic position by developing “Western Europe – Western China” international transit corridor, Nazarbayev invited IDB to increase its involvement in financing the construction of “Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran” railway stretching 963 km with the value of project totalling US$ 1.5 billion.

The last proposal is aimed at consolidating food security, and for that end requires elaborating a system of food assistance in the OIC region.

Setting up a regional fund similar to FAO under IDB Group and food pool of the OIC Member States may become a basis for such system. I propose to allocate its headquarters in Kazakhstan, in a country which actively develops its food export potential”, Nazarbayev said.

The Kazakh leader’s remarks found warm welcome among a diverse audience at the Astana WIEF which included leading politicians, business people, and experts from all over the Islamic world and beyond.

On the forum’s first day Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov explained his view of the Kazakh economic development to the participants.

We want to increase the contribution of small and medium businesses up to 40 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) by the end of the decade,” he said. “To achieve this goal, we are improving education, reducing the administrative burden on business and making more free access to elite resources.”

The diverse agenda of the WIEF sessions included the development of financial infrastructure, the problems of the Islamic banking, the Halal industry, small and medium-sized businesses, alternative sources of energy, as well as food security and economic potential of Kazakhstan.

Like the event’s previous editions, this time the dialogue platform was followed by the forum of businesswomen and young leaders, as well as the 2011 WIEF expo.

Following the sessions of the forum, a number of agreements between Kazakh government agencies, business structures and Islamic financial institutions were signed, including the one on the Islamic Development Bank’s allocation of US$ 10 million to support farming in Kazakhstan. The corresponding agreement was signed by President of IDB Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al Madani and CEO of the “Fund for Financial Support of Agriculture” Gulnaz Atamkulova. In addition, Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Industry and New Technologies Asset Issekeshev and President of IDB group Mohamed Ali Al Madani signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Kazakh government and IDB.

Agreements and contracts covering banking and financial services, information, communication and technology, food industry, education and training sectors were also signed during the event. The list of MoUs signed within the forum involved that between JSC “NAEI Kaznex Invest” and Malaysian chamber of trade, JSC National Holding Zerde and MIMOS Berhad, as well as JSC “National informational technologies” and My E.G. Services Berhad. As for the AmanahRaya Group Capital of Malaysia and JSC “Fattah Finance” of Kazakhstan, the parties concluded the agreement on strategic partnership.

Another supply and license agreement was signed between Director of the Fattah Shop Company Yerlan Zhansayitov and Chief operations Director of the Halagel SDN BHD, Malaysia Muhammad Azhar bin Abdullah.

The forum concluded with final remarks by Asset Issekeshev and Chairman of the WIEF Foundation Tun Musa bin Hitam. The speakers emphasised the Forum had become an important and effective mechanism for maintenance and development of socio-economic and cultural-humanitarian cooperation between the Islamic states. The increasing number of the agreements and contracts signed within WIEF reflects the advancement in cooperation between its members, Musa bin Hitam said.

WIEF Secretariat will review in details all the initiatives set forth by Kazakh side and will exert every effort to create the required conditions for their implementation”, he stressed.

Final resolution of the 7th WIEF adopted following the results of the forum provided an extensive list of recommendations for the member countries on key areas of the institution’s activity.

Full speech of the President of Kazakhstan

Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Japan©2011