JAKARTA – Muslim nations need to forge closer ties to meet challenges posed by the global financial crisis, Indonesia’s president said Monday at the opening of the annual World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono proposed creating a Muslim support fund, noting that Islamic nations account for nearly half of the 50 least-developed and heavily indebted countries in the world.
He also said oil-exporting countries should help cushion the economic blow for developing countries by investing more in their agricultural sectors.
“Muslim countries with vast reserves but without a real agricultural sector can come to the rescue,” he told the delegates. “And since they are food importers, they will also be securing their own food supply needs.”
Yudhoyono said the financial crisis also opened up new opportunities for Islamic banks in oil-exporting countries, noting that they have not been as severely affected as their Western counterparts because they did not invest in “toxic” assets or in leveraged funds.
Yudhoyono also touched on climate change, energy security and food shortages. This is the fifth meeting of the World Islamic Economic Forum.
This year nearly 1,600 participants from 36 countries – including the leaders of Malaysia and Morocco, as well as senior government ministers and corporate leaders – are attending the three-day event.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi blamed “unbridled greed” for the global financial meltdown. Badawi called for a new financial system to replace the Wall Street model as he spoke at the opening of the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in Jakarta alongside Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“We have inherited a system where people can trade what they do not own and the resulting inflationary pressure in the global market has caused immense damage to the economic well-being of the world’s poor,” he said in a speech.
“Such is the impact of unbridled greed in the financial system where there is no accountability on money lending.... The world is beginning to appreciate the need for alternative financial arrangements.”
He said Islamic finance -- which shuns interest and avoids profiting from industries such as alcohol and gambling -- was “gaining credibility as an alternative.”
“I do believe that Islamic finance has a bright future in the global financial system. This is something that we can capitalise upon,” Badawi added, while noting the lack of harmonised standards in Islamic banking. – Agencies