Munir: Embrace rising Asian economy

Only way to avoid so-called ‘threat’ is to participate in China’s road initiative’s infrastructure, says Bank Muamalat chairman


THE rising economy within the Asian region should be seen as “a sea of opportunities”, and not a form of potential threat, said Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd chairman Tan Sri Mohd Munir Majid (picture).

He said massive developments like the One Belt, One Road initiative, which some may see as a way of dominating, could also symbolise Asia’s mark on the world.

“The China’s road initiative is a great example of how opportunities can be seen as a threat by economic powers. The Asian-centric infrastructure project could easily define Asian’s significance in the world that Asean countries should be enthralled about.

“However, even India feels some trepidation about this initiative, mainly due to the China-Pakistan relations on the Gwadar Port,” he said at the Asian Business Leaders Conclave 2017 in Kuala Lumpur last week.

He added that such opportunities should be taken advantage of by other countries as “turning their back to such opportunities will only raise inferiority”.

Mohd Munir said Malaysia already has a fair share of the initiative that could be scaled up, as other countries are following similar steps in tapping into its infrastructure.

He said other countries such as India, which is well-known for its great talent in technology, could definitely leverage on such a cross-countries project.

“Instead of looking at the opportunities that we could grab, some naysayers are rather worrying about the dominance that China is seen to have.

“It will be a threat if we turn our back on it. The only way to avoid the so-called ‘threat’ is to have our own portion in the infrastructure,” he said.

Meanwhile, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who was also present at the forum in Kuala Lumpur, said Malaysia and India will continue to seek new investments that both countries can take advantage of despite the decline in bilateral trade that was registered in 2016.

“Despite being underperformed in our import and export markets with India, Malaysia will continue to seek further investment with the country.

“India has been one of the fastest growing major economy and forecast to grow 7.7% next year due to its higher infrastructure spending,” Mustapa said.

He cited Khazanah Nasional Bhd as an example, which has made technology investments in India with positive results.

Mustapa said the unachieved US$15 billion trade projection that the country had with India in 2015 is expected to be realised in 2020.

“We had targeted US$15 billion (RM61.35 billion) worth of trade could be achieved in 2015 between Malaysia and India, but it was not met due to the global economic slowdown and the decline in commodity prices.

“However, we have set this target to be achieved by 2020, backed by continuous engagement with India, particularly through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which India is part of,” he said.

Trade with India accounted for 3.3% of Malaysia’s total global trade in 2016, amounting to US$10.77 billion.

In 2016, India was Malaysia’s seventh-largest trading partner and seventh-largest export destination globally.

In the same year, Malaysia’s investments in India amounted to US$4.5 billion while investment stood at US$1.5 billion vice versa.

Mustapa added that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) could play a major role in future investments and trade activities with India.

“As you can see, Malaysia is really pushing our SME industry to any direction that we can, and India definitely can be one of the destinations,” he said.