GLOBAL AMBITIONS

Malaysia 2017 | IT & INNOVATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Muhammed Raja Talib bin Dato' Raja Mohamad Abdullah, CEO of OIC Today, on Malaysia's participation in OIC, Islamic finance, and the effect of the changing oil price on Malaysia's economy.

Muhammed Raja Talib bin Dato’ Raja Mohamad Abdullah
BIOGRAPHY
Muhammad Raja Talib bin Dato’ Raja Mohamad Abdullah is the CEO of OIC Today. His business knowledge is backed by years of experience as a senior marketer within this company. Furthermore, he has served as a bureau member of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, holding the position of deputy chairman of the Muslim World Business Association, and working as a youth leader for the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Central to his business and civic activities are the goals of sharing and increasing knowledge between Malaysian and international companies and promoting a positive image of Islamic countries.

As a founding member of the OIC since 1969, what role has Malaysia played in the organization?

In addition to the fact that Malaysia was one of the founding members of the OIC, the first Secretary-General of the organization was Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya before becoming Malaya's first Prime Minister after independence in 1957. The role played by Malaysia in the OIC has been salient not only in terms of formulating the organization's policies but also in leading the economic development of the 57 member countries. What distinguishes Malaysia is its stable social structure despite its cultural diversity.

What is your vision for Islamic finance, and why has it been gaining so much momentum in recent years?

Malaysia has had the first mover advantage in establishing a strong basis for Islamic banking and finance. Several commentators hold the view that the industry will be taken over by other countries. This should not be a reason to worry. We have the foundations and companies will eventually come to us. At the same time, we should be happy that such a comprehensively strong system is being practiced in Muslim and non-Muslim countries alike. In fact, people around the world have been looking for an alternative to the interest-based financial system, which unfairly maximizes the benefits of the lender and puts the borrower in trouble. The Islamic perspective, on the contrary, protects both parties in the sense that they should share profits or losses.

What are your thoughts about developments in the global halal industry and what needs to be done to ensure halal operations in the whole supply chain?

Halal is a word that describes any act or substance that complies with the teachings of Islam and is not merely confined to food and beverage products. Islamic finance can be thought of as the halal way to embark on financial transactions. The reason behind the rise of the global halal industry is again the assurance it provides of safety, cleanliness, and hygiene along the supply chain. However, ensuring that various products and services are halal is not an easy task. Certificates and logos are not enough, although they are a necessity. Continuous testing of processes and sufficient training for workers are extremely important in every stage of the production. Other sectors that increasingly focus on halal include fashion, cosmetic products, and holiday packages in addition to health services and pharmaceutical products.

What is your assessment of the volatility of the oil price, its challenges to oil-producing countries around the world, and Malaysia's relatively diversified economy?

The impact of low oil prices has been inimical on the global economy in general and specific countries in particular. Should a country's economy rely only on its oil transactions, its situation will definitely be less favorable. Diversity is the key strategy to avoid being in such situations. The variety of products and services offered by Malaysian corporations help safeguard its steady economic growth. It is not wise to base growth only on one product or service alone, no matter how large a company's production is. Oil-producing Malaysia does not only export crude oil; rather, there are many downstream activities taking place.

What are your ambitions for OIC Today?

OIC Today has the objective of disseminating information on business and investment updates and opportunities within the 57 OIC member countries. It was the first platform founded by my late father Dato' Dr Raja Mohamad Abdullah in 2003 before he established the Muslim World Biz annual event in 2010. Following in his footsteps, we work to expand the reach of the magazine all across the Muslim world. Currently, the magazine is widely distributed in Malaysia and in the countries where our partners operate. Our ambition is to make the magazine globally recognized, and for this we take great care of the quality and diversity of the content and distribution channels.