MIDA Dubai Forges Ahead With Heavy Responsibilities

10/6/2009 — BERNAMA
The Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) office in Dubai is located on one of the higher floors of an office tower along the busy Sheikh Zayed Road, enjoying a sweeping vista of the city and the surrounding areas.
From his perch, MIDA Dubai director Mohamad Ismail Abu Bakar is keeping an eye on the Middle East region as well as North Africa, with a special focus on Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“My priority is to make MIDA regionally known, to make it a brand,” he said of MIDA’s role as a one-stop agency and the first point of contact for prospective investors wishing to establish any manufacturing or services projects in Malaysia.
In the current tough economic climate where corporate cutbacks and downsizing are the norm, lesser souls may cringe at the prospect of convincing would-be investors to believe in “Malaysia: Your Profit Centre in Asia”, which happens to be MIDA’s tagline.
But not Mohamad Ismail who has been canvassing the region to promote Malaysia as an investment destination ever since MIDA Dubai was established in May 2008.
He is off to join a trade and investment mission to Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia this week led by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed.
He will also join the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC) roadshow to Qatar and Bahrain later on.
Earlier this year, Mohamad Ismail, who spent several years at the MIDA office in Chicago, was part of a mission to Doha, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait headed by MIDA director-general Datuk Jalilah Baba.
“I personally feel that there’s strong interest from this region to invest in Malaysia, especially in the manufacturing sector covering areas like energy, chemical and petrochemical, food, halal products and services, metal-based products as well as oil and gas equipment,” he said.
Besides manufacturing, Mohamad Ismail mentioned about what he described as “tremendous” opportunities for investment in hospitality, real estate, energy-related projects and Islamic finance.
Malaysia is also inviting Middle Eastern companies to set up regional entities such as operational headquarters, international procurement centres, regional distribution centres, regional offices and representative offices.
“We have more than 100 industrial parks, free zones, and the government is promoting the various economic growth zones such as the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) as well as the East Coast Economic Region (ECER),” said Mohamad Ismail.
Elaborating, he said some of the potential projects to be developed in the ECER included tourism, manufacturing and agriculture-based projects.
And choosing Malaysia for business does make sense, with the country being right on the doorstep of the Asean Free Trade Area with a market of over 500 million people.
According to Mohamad Ismail, Malaysia is currently home to more than 10,000 multinational companies from the United States, Japan and Europe, among others.
“Malaysia does have a track record of being an ideal place to do business,” he said of the Southeast Asian nation of 27 million people which touts a well-developed infrastructure, relatively lower cost of doing business and attractive investment incentive packages.
Other factors in Malaysia’s favour include the presence of an educated and multilingual workforce, liberal policies on employment of expatriates as well as political and economic stability.
Mohamad Ismail said being a modern Muslim country as well as having close ties with fellow Muslim nations were other plus points for Malaysia in courting foreign investment from the Middle East.
A case in point is the recent announcement of a US$2.5 billion joint venture between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia that will start with investments in oil and gas, renewable energy and real estate sector in Malaysia and overseas.
The initiative involves 1Malaysia Development Bhd, a company wholly-owned by the Malaysian government, and PetroSaudi International Ltd, a company based in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
And the good news is that there are likely to be more such investments coming from Saudi Arabia as well as other Middle Eastern countries with capital surplus, as hinted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Malaysia is also very much on the radar of the UAE when Najib announced in July a major initiative by the Abu Dhabi government whereby a sovereign wealth fund it wholly owns was set to make a US$1 billion investment in Malaysia in the energy, real estate and hospitality sectors.
“There is keen interest on the part of sovereign wealth funds, especially from GCC countries, in looking for investment opportunities in our part of the world,” Mohamad Ismail said.
According to him, the Iskandar Malaysia development project in southern Johor, banking as well as retail sectors, among others, have all attracted Middle East funds.
“The government has done a good job in putting Malaysia on the Middle East radar,” he said, adding that the country had put in place consistent and transparent business, and investment policies and guidelines.
Besides seeking foreign investment, MIDA is also tasked with promoting Malaysian investments in the region.
“We’re responsible for cross-border investment, trying to encourage Malaysian investors and producers to come to this region and invest for better market penetration, basically to garner a bigger market share,” he said.
MIDA Dubai is located at Unit 2205, 22nd floor, Tower A, Business Central Tower, in Dubai Media City and can be reached at Tel: 971-4-4343696/697.