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Monday, 5 August 2013

Thailand and Malaysia Hit Their Stride 1 撈油元、賺綠金 東盟雙雄馬泰爭鋒 1

While recession continues to hobble Europe and North America, and economic growth is slowing in China and India, business is still brisk in Southeast Asia. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the world's second largest unified market, is growing faster than any other region in the world and boasts the youngest consumers. That is why ASEAN members Thailand and Malaysia have become hugely attractive investment destinations. The countdown is on. Who will be able to cash in on lucrative business opportunities on the Thai-Malay peninsula?

Malaysia, the Petrodollar Magnet

In late January, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak proudly told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that his government believes that Malaysia can post a growth rate of above 5 percent per year and that the goal of annual per capita income of US$15,000 by 2020, which would turn Malaysia into a high-income nation, is achievable.

Malaysia's economic transformation has not really followed the government's script, which focused on the development of the biotech and electronics industries. Instead, the predominantly Muslim country rather unwittingly turned into the favored investment destination for "petrodollars" from the oil-producing Middle East thanks to its huge advantage resulting from the country's ethnic mix, dominant religion, languages and culinary tradition.

The most striking experience when visiting the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur is the highly visible presence of people from the Middle East. At least five of the nine core industries that are the focus of Malaysia's Economic Transformation Program depend on the influx of petrodollars from wealthy Arab investors. So it is only natural for Malaysia to play the role of "petrodollar catcher."
The five petrodollar-hungry industries are: financial services, tourism, education and medical care, food and agricultural products processing, and fairs and exhibitions. The other four industries singled out for priority development are electrical and electronics manufacturing, petrochemicals and oleochemicals, the creative industries, and logistics.

Devout Muslims follow a distinct lifestyle that includes all areas of life including dress, diet, entertainment and travel. Products and services that do not comply with Islamic doctrine are therefore not marketable to Muslim communities.

Last year, a tour group from the Middle East nearly went without eating during a trip to Taiwan because halal restaurants and foodstuffs – certified as permissible to eat under Islamic dietary guidelines – proved hard to find.

"If they don't see a halal certification sign, Muslims won't step into a restaurant," explains Ho Yoke Ping, general manager for sales and marketing at Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau.
Arab tourists already account for 40 percent of Malaysia's foreign visitors. And 66 percent of the local population is Muslim.

A Trade and Travel Hub for 1.8 Billion Muslims

In late November last year, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (KLCC) hosted Intrade Malaysia, an exhibition for exporters. Almost half of the visitors wore traditional Islamic clothing – head scarves and long, flowing robes.

Aside from the Arab countries, Malaysia is the only nation in the world where the government controls Muslim affairs. Foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals can only be imported into the country if they have been certified as halal by one of fifteen government-authorized institutions.

Once a product obtains certification in Malaysia, Muslim markets around the world recognize it as halal, notes Abdullah Fahim, chairman of the Islamic Food Research Center (IFRC) in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia issues the largest number of halal certificates in the world.

Multinational food giant Nestle has chosen Malaysia as production base for its halal products. Revenue in the Muslim food segment has been growing at a double-digit rate for several years in a row.

While Arabs account for 40 percent of Malaysia's recreational tourists, more or less the same Arabic presence is found at conferences, exhibitions and in medical tourism, notes Australian Peter Brokenshire, KLCC general manager. "In these sectors, Malaysia has no competitor," he asserts.

The Face of Modern Islam

Kuala Lumpur's glitzy department stores swarm with Muslim customers wearing colorful, stylish head scarves and lavishly spend their money.

City Center Park right next to the Petronas Twin Towers is packed with Muslim families enjoying the day. Fathers take snapshots of their frolicking children, watched over by mothers in head scarves, plucking up the hems of their long flowing dresses.

"In their own countries they probably wouldn't be able to dress that way," remarks Ho Chia-chun, a Taiwanese physician living in Kuala Lumpur. Suddenly he breaks into laughter, noting that Malaysia, as a less strict Muslim society, has certain unspoken incentives for Arab visitors. Since the weather is hot in Malaysia, the local women dress lightly and fashionably. "Haven't you noticed the Arab people sitting around in department stores, watching people come and go?" Ho asks rhetorically.

KLCC communications manager Kuzalmah Idris frankly admits that Malaysian women dress differently, in a more Westernized manner. "Right, we are modern Muslims," she quips. Idris wears a short skirt and her face is carefully made up.

At the time of the reporter's visit in late November it was not yet high season in Malaysia, yet occupancy in big hotels and smaller pensions invariably exceeded 90 percent. "We are booked that full during the whole year, it's been like that for a few years now," confirms the receptionist at our hotel.

During breakfast time, children with curly black hair and full dark eyelashes run around the hotel restaurant.

In disbelief, the reporter looks at a young couple from Abu Dhabi with their seven-year-old daughter in tow when she hears that they are visiting Kuala Lumpur for the ninth time this year.

Malaysia's popularity in the Muslim world seems unchallenged. The Global Islamic Finance Report 2012, published by Edbiz Consulting in cooperation with CIMB Islamic Bank, names Malaysia, not Singapore or Indonesia, as the gateway to the world's 1.8 billion Muslims.

Islamic Banks Post Fastest Growth

U.S. ratings agency Standard and Poor's also confirms that Malaysia controls the second largest amount of Islamic financial assets, right behind Saudi Arabia, and serves as the true transaction center of the Muslim world, issuing seventy percent of Sukuk Islamic bonds.

Standard and Poor's points out that global Islamic financial assets are worth US$5 trillion, about ten times Taiwan's GDP, and growing at the pace of 17 percent per year. In the past seven years, the average growth rate of the Islamic wealth management market reached 36 percent, making it the fastest growing financial service market worldwide.

Asian countries are competing for the petrodollar-based fortunes of wealthy Muslims. In addition to Singapore and Malaysia, China and Hong Kong have begun to aggressively enter the Islamic finance business. China has already designed a training program for Islamic wealth management planners.
Taiwan, however, seems to sit on the sidelines as others seize the business opportunity of Islamic finance.

Liu Tsung-sheng, president of Yuanta Securities Investment Trust Co., recently attended a seminar on Islamic finance in Kuala Lumpur. To his surprise, "the financial supervisory officials from Hong Kong and China were all there, but I didn't see anyone from Taiwan."

Mah Siew Keong, chairman of the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), notes that although Taiwan is Malaysia's eighth largest trade partner and investor, both trade and investment between the two countries have stagnated in recent years. "Taiwanese businesses should not miss out on the new direction Malaysia is going in development," Mah warns.

By Monique Hou
From Taiwan CommonWealth Magazine
Published: March 06, 2013 (No.517)

Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz

撈油元、賺綠金 東盟雙雄馬泰爭鋒 1





















  “拿到馬來西亞的認證,全球伊斯蘭教市場都承認你,”認證機構IFRC總經理法信(Abdullah Fahim)指出,馬來西亞已成全球第一大清真商品認證國。


  馬來西亞不只四成觀光客是中東人,會議、展覽、觀光醫療,“中東人的生意也占差不多的比例,”吉隆坡國際會議中心,澳洲籍CEO柏肯夏爾(Peter Brokenshire)指出,“這幾塊,沒有人拚得過馬來西亞。”








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