THE FOUNDATIONS OF PROGRESS

Malaysia 2017 | DIPLOMACY | INSIDE PERSPECTIVE

Y.A.B. Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, on global stability, the growth of ASEAN, and trends in the Muslim world.

Y.A.B. Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak
BIOGRAPHY
In 1976, following the untimely death of his father, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak was elected to fill the Parliamentary seat for Pekani (left by his father). At age 22 he became the youngest person ever elected as a Member of Parliament. In 1991, he was appointed as Minister of Defence. Four years later, he took on another challenge when he was appointed Minister of Education. In 1999, he won re-election to the Pekan Parliamentary seat and was then appointed as Minister of Defence for the second time. In 2004, he was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister. In 2009, before the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, he was appointed Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Without political stability and without peace and security, there can be no economic progress. There has been far too much turmoil in the Muslim world in recent years. The invasion of Iraq in particular set in motion a disastrous series of events, bringing possible destruction and the possible break-up of nation states such as Iraq, Syria, and Libya. The so-called Arab Spring yielded a harvest of instability across the region. Thousands have paid with their lives, and terrorists and armed militias now roam freely over once-secured lands. A Pandora's Box of sectarian conflict has been unleashed. Foreign interventions in Muslim countries have led to intended and unintended consequences that are still being felt today. By comparison, majority Muslim countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, which have not been subject to foreign intervention, are an oasis of peace and stability.

This is why the leaders must work to solve our problems and issues together and seek cooperation and collaboration. However, we must insist on respect for our own sovereignty, respect for our laws, and respect for our own democratically elected governments. We have seen the devastating results of foreign intervention in the Muslim world, often based on incomplete, wrong, or partisan information. We must make clear that we reject it, and we must reject those who out of political motivation call on foreign powers to intervene in their own country. As the ummah, we must take responsibility for ourselves, and we pray for the guidance to do so.
Why is the European scenario so different from that of ASEAN and the global Muslim economy? There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the pace of recovery in Europe since 2008 has been sluggish, and eurozone GDP is still below its pre-crisis rate. The euro weakened when the European Central Bank went ahead with quantitative easing to create more money after introducing negative interest rates in June 2014. Secondly, in contrast, ASEAN's economic growth has been rapid and stable since 2000, recoding a combined GDP of USD2.6 trillion in 2016, making it collectively the seventh largest economy in the world. The region has become a major global hub for manufacturing and trade, and it is also one of the fastest growing consumer markets in the world. Thirdly, the global Islamic economy is thriving. More Muslims are becoming increasingly active as investors, manufacturers, bankers, traders, competitors, and suppliers. Muslim consumer spending is also rising as demand increases for ethical finance, investment, and insurance services, for halal food, modest fashion, and halal tourism. Even non-Muslims are attracted to the Islamic economy's underlying socially conscious ethos. There is an opening here for dialog with the West, which has longed in some sectors for a just and compassionate economy of its own. I am glad to say that in Malaysia, since 2009, we have created 1.8 million jobs, increased GNI by nearly 50%, capped inflation, and boosted FDI to record levels. We continue to record good economic growth despite the steep drops in the price of oil and commodities.

The Muslim world has some serious issues to address. Education, poverty, and female participation in the workforce remain challenges and only 2% of GDP is spent on R&D. All of this is despite the fact that collectively the Muslim world holds 70% of the world's energy resources and 40% of global natural resources. While we acknowledge the issues we must address, we believe it is good to focus on vital topics relating to sukuk infrastructure development, halal industries, female empowerment, and disruptive technology. We must encourage more merit-based economic opportunities in the Muslim world. We seek a world that includes all our citizens and shares the proceeds of growth with all. One that educates all our children; one that supports all our entrepreneurs and SMEs; one that prizes knowledge and innovation, and one that appreciates that our diversity is also our joy and our strength.