‘KL-RIYADH CAN STEP UP
In the second part of an interview on TV3’s ‘Soal Jawab’, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan tells of how he believes stronger ties between Riyadh and Kuala Lumpur can open up new opportunities
Alhamdulillah. Saudi Arabia sees us as a nation that succeeds in dealing with extremism. At the same time, however, we have not expressed commitment in putting our men in the coalition to be involved in wars or militant operations. We did discuss Saudi Arabia’s assets that it no longer uses — something that we could collaborate on. We offered to share our know-hows in operating submarines. Basically, it’s an equal give-and-take between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
The halal industry is a US$2trillion business globally. As two esteemed countries in the Muslim world, why can’t we collaborate more? Islamic finance is worth US$2.3 trillion. This is an area in which we can improve our bilateral ties.
Tourism and information technology are two areas we can collaborate on. RM14 billion is a meagre sum, but with a better understanding between the governments, especially among our ministers, more can be done.
When the Saudi delegation left Malaysia after their four-day visit, some of them called us to express their gratitude. Some had even apologised for not being able to drop by my office. This shows the extent of our warm friendship, which is leaving us with a positive impact.
Regarding Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, I had the chance to meet its deputy prince, who has been given the role to transform Saudi Arabia’s economy. Bear in mind, 90 per cent of their revenue are from oil and gas, and when (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib (Razak) came to power in 2009, we were about 41 per cent dependent on oil and gas. After seven years of being the prime minister, this dependency went down to 14 per cent.
Many moves that the Saudi Arabian government had taken in recent times were made based on the Malaysian experience. For example, in rationalising subsidies, it had recently increased petrol prices by 50 per cent. They also recently launched a “Citizens Account” programme whereby cash is given to the poor — a project similar to our 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M). They will introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST). These are moves we had implemented. Claiming that the GST is non-permissible (haram), which is what certain opposition leaders have done, is shallow thinking.