Malaysia: Sarawak To Promote Halal Hub

From Nasriah Darus

ABU DHABI, Jan 31 (Bernama) — Investors from the Gulf region should consider investing in Sarawak’s halal hub and heavy industries, said Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Currently, investments from the Middle East in resource-rich Sarawak was not significant, said Taib, who is on a mission here to promote the state as a choice investment destination for Middle Easterners.

Taib, who is leading a 30-member investment mission to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said currently there was only one investment from the Middle East, which was in the state’s palm oil sector.

“We’re in various stages of talks with Saudi Arabia and other countries (in the Middle East) as we want to capitalise on this region’s Islamic finance network,” he told the media Sunday on the sidelines of the “Invest Malaysia 2011” forum which was opened by Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Sarawak is eyeing investors for its Tanjung Manis Halal Hub (TMHH), an integrated development touted as one of the state’s largest development initiatives. Taib expressed the hope that the TMHH would pull in more Middle Eastern investors.

The TMHH signed three memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on Sunday comprising investments worth an estimated RM650 million.

The MoU involved Tanjung Manis Food and Industrial Park Sdn Bhd and Perigon Advisory WLL, a New York-based Borneo Agriculture and Focus International.

Invest Malaysia 2011 was attended by hundreds of Gulf businessmen representing 200 companies, sovereign wealth fund companies and government agencies.

The participants include Mubadala Development Company, Aabar Investment, Al Ghurair Group, Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation, Al Futtaim Group, Emirates Aluminium Company and others.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) groups the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.

The Sarawak investment mission was the first in the Middle East to woo investors from the GCC countries.

Taib told the media that the halal hub concept would be more attractive to Muslims in Europe and America as they appreciated the availability of syariah-compliant food.

“We’re trying to work out the branding for our halal hub products for the European market,” he said.

To a question, the chief minister said it was too early to set targets with regard to Middle East investments.

Nevertheless, he said, feedback received seemed to indicate that Middle East investors were more aware of investment opportunities in Southeast Asia, particularly in Malaysia.

The TMHH, a project under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), was mooted to ensure Sarawak attained developed state status by 2020, by working in unison with the vision and targets of the country’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

To date, the Sarawak state government has invested up to RM1.3 billion in Tanjung Manis to develop and modernise its infrastructure and public network, which have gone down well with the Middle East investing community.

It is a high economic impact project for food security and has been given full support by the state government, which has deemed it a priority project.

The project is slated to position Sarawak as one of the world’s most attractive halal investment destinations.

The TMHH foresees a RM10 billion investment over the next five years for the various infrastructures, development and industry business components from private investors.