‘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

New Straits Times - - News -

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.

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