JOHOR BARU: The 8th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) kicks off today in Iskandar Malaysia the first time it is held outside the capital city of the host nation since the inaugural forum in 2005.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will open the three-day forum at the Persada Johor International Convention Centre, where 1,500 delegates and 78 speakers from 50 countries will be attending the event.
“It is an honour for Johor to host an international economic forum, and the event is also the best platform to showcase Iskandar Malaysia to the world,” says Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim.
Ismail says that because of the debt crisis plaguing Europe and the economic slowdown in the United States, attention has shifted to this part of the world. He adds that the theme of this year's forum Changing Trends, New Opportunities aptly describes the economic prospects and opportunities offered by countries in the region, including Malaysia.
“Investors can have a first-hand look at the development and progress that have taken place in Iskandar Malaysia,” he says.
World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation chairman Tun Musa Hitam says that staging the forum in Iskandar Malaysia provides the host with the best opportunity to show what Malaysia's first economic growth corridor has to offer investors.
He says the completion of catalytic projects within a short period of six years since Iskandar Malaysia was launched reflects the strong commitment of the Federal and the Johor governments to ensure the success of this economic region.
Among the projects which will be of interest to the visitors are the new state administrative centre Kota Iskandar; the EduCity Iskandar Malaysia education hub in Nusajaya; the Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios; Nusajaya as the pilot region for a smart city model for Malaysia; the Iskandar Malaysia Corridor and City Transformation Programme; LEGOLAND Malaysia; the Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park; and the Johor Premium Outlets retail centre.
The WIEF Foundation is a not-for-profit international organisation based in Malaysia. The forum is an annual event which brings together world and business leaders from the Muslim and non-Muslim World to meet, network and discuss economic opportunities.
The 8th WIEF will feature key sessions on topics such as the role of the private sector and its contribution towards disaster management; Islamic banking and its economic value; wakaf funds; the business of nanotech; renewable energy; and nurturing leaders of the future.
Meanwhile, the WIEF Young Leaders Forum will conduct a business start-up master class in Islamic microfinance and risk mitigation, and an iGovt session on developing a new generation of technocrats as the new wave of governance and public policymaking.
The parallel WIEF Businesswomen Forum will focus on women in leadership and entrepreneurship as well as empowerment in business and technology.
The first WIEF was held in Kuala Lumpur in 2005, followed by Islamabad (2006), Kuala Lumpur (2007), Kuwait City (2008), Jakarta (2009), Kuala Lumpur (2010), and Astana, Kazakhstan (2011).
Ismail says that IRDA will utilise the three-day forum to promote Iskandar Malaysia to the delegates, especially the first-time visitors to Johor, and to engage them in investment opportunity sessions.
He reiterates that Iskandar Malaysia welcomes all investors big and small, foreign and local.
“Investors are invited to support the key economic sectors that are being promoted in Iskandar Malaysia, to transform the region into an international metropolis as outlined in its Comprehensive Development Plan (2006-2025),” he says.
“But more importantly, we want to ensure that Iskandar Malaysia continues to be an attractive investment destination regardless of the global economic situation.”
The key economic sectors of Iskandar Malaysia are electrical and electronics; petrochemical and oleochemical; food and agro-processing; logistics and related services; tourism; health; education; financial services; and, ICT and creative industry.
However, Ismail says the 8th WIEF is not only about Iskandar Malaysia, it is also about investment options in Johor, notably the upcoming multi-billion ringgit Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) to be sited on a 8,100ha-area and will house oil refineries, naphtha crackers, petrochemical plants, liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal and a regasification plant and the development of Desaru into an international tourism and leisure enclave.
“Although the PIPC and Desaru are in the Kota Tinggi district and not within Iskandar Malaysia, IRDA and its partners are ready to share with the WIEF participants the opportunities offered by these two projects,” he says.
Since its inception on Nov 4, 2006, Iskandar Malaysia has attracted strong interest from domestic and foreign investors, even during periods of global economic unrest.
Until September this year, total investments in the various sectors in Iskandar Malaysia stands at RM99.79bil. Of this figure, 63% (RM62.7bil) are domestic investments while 37% (RM37.09bil) comes from foreign investors.
Iskandar Malaysia is located in southern Johor and covers a 2,217sqkm area three times bigger than Singapore and twice the size of Hong Kong.
It is divided into five flagship development zones: Johor Baru City Centre, Nusajaya, Eastern Gate Development Zone, Western Gate Development Zone, and Senai-Kulai.
Iskandar Malaysia was initially known as the South Johor Economic Region. The name was changed to Iskandar Malaysia on April 2008, in honour of the fourth ruler of modern Johor, the late Sultan Iskandar ibni Almarhum Sultan Ismail who passed away in January 2010.
Iskandar Malaysia's integrated development is set amidst landscaped gardens and parks. The region aspires to be the role model for a smart city development which provides the highest possible quality of life.
Ismail says the gala dinner for the WIEF delegates tonight will be an al fresco event at the Dataran Mahkota, “because we want to show the delegates how beautiful Kota Iskandar is.”
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