WIEF ROUNDTABLE 2021
“Revitalisation and Reform: Catalysing Growth”
15 – 16 December 2021
SPECIAL ADDRESS BY
Tan Sri Dr Syed Hamid Albar, Chairman, WIEF Foundation
(Speech duration: 15 minutes)
Esteemed Role Players,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh and a very good afternoon.
On behalf of the WIEF Foundation, it gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to the WIEF Roundtable.
The theme for our Roundtable is Revitalisation and Reform, Catalysing Growth, a theme I feel most fitting in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic environment in Malaysia as well as the global community in the last two years.
Before I proceed further, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Ministers and leading corporate personalities from within and outside Malaysia, who have agreed to be with us in spite of their busy schedule.
ABOUT WIEF ROUNDTABLE
WIEF Roundtable was started in 2011, as an extension and inter-sessional event of the annual World Islamic Economic Forum. Due to its popularity, WIEF Foundation has been invited to organise the Roundtable in many cities across three continents with the first one held in Bahrain.
The WIEF Roundtable organises sessions for businesses, entrepreneurs and industry players to not only discuss economic issues within a regional and global focus, but also offers a window to explore new opportunities and strategic collaborations.
To date, the WIEF Foundation has held 17 Roundtables. In 10 years of its existence, the Roundtable has hosted discussions on diverse topics ranging from Islamic trade and finance during the first Roundtable in Bahrain, as well as in Tokyo a few years after that. Then it focused on investment opportunities during the roundtables in Cordoba, Gangwon as well as Kota Kinabalu and green economy in Jakarta.
If you were to pay close attention to those mentioned topics WIEF Roundtable has highlighted through the years, it is as if the sessions have been readying participants for this particularly trying moment.
THE PANDEMIC IMPACT
In the last two years since the outbreak of COVID-19, all countries across the globe have not been spared from devastation caused by the pandemic in term of loss of lives, and livelihood, severe economic contractions as well as unfavourable and catastrophic disruptions at every level.
This period has been a very steep learning curve for humankind to be mindful, endure and survive. I believe, as humans, we possess an innate capacity for adaptability and resilience.
Under prevailing circumstances, one of the goals of this Roundtable is to bring together private and public sectors, as well as those who influence policies and shape the economy such as the business community. As innovators and users of technology they are equally essential as policy makers in re-assembling and healing a degenerating economy.
TECHNOLOGY FOR ECONOMIC REVIVAL
It has been widely acknowledged that technological innovation is central to the development of many enterprises. It is indeed a vital tool needed for economic revitalisation and a catalyst for its growth.
We have witnessed how advancement in technology through greater focus, attention on research and innovation, has increasingly served as the driving factor for the success of economic growth in many countries.
Technology is sine qua non when it comes to digital transformation in a business. It has been proven that leveraging on digital technology can quicken the pace of an economic recovery process, boost global output, trade, commerce and employment.
A recent example can be seen among countries in Asia and the Pacific region. During the coronavirus pandemic, these countries leveraged on rapid technological progress in various areas to stay competitive and recover. Embracing new technology not only brings them new gains for businesses and economic opportunities, but also expands their global network for trade.
Related to this, the latest Asian Development Bank report highlights that business-to-consumer revenues of digital platforms reached USD3.8 trillion in 2019 globally, with Asia and the Pacific accounting for about 48 per cent of the total, which is equivalent to USD1.8 trillion. This is about six per cent of the region’s GDP. These figures, as expected, increased significantly in 2020 since more businesses migrated to the digital space due to lockdown measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
According to the ADB report, the use of digital technologies will create around 65 million new jobs in Asia and the Pacific until 2025, with regional trade to increase by USD1 trillion annually over the next five years.
Yes, the numbers are very encouraging, and it shows that technology is crucial for catalysing growth. This, I feel, should add some optimism into a somewhat dark period that we endured in the last two years.
COLLABORATION FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH
However, as we are all aware, technology is not the only ingredient for economic success. Collaborations between sectors, nations and individuals are important too.
We, the world population, have faced numerous health crises such as infectious disease outbreaks for the past 15 years. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented incident with the biggest consequences particularly on the economy.
During this pandemic, more than ever, any action taken by one country may have impact on others. Therefore, collaboration and cooperation among nations in dealing with the pandemic and its consequences is highly necessary to yield positive outcomes, rather than to act independently. Without a unified, coordinated and well supported global efforts and governance, containing COVID-19 will be difficult to achieve.
Numbers, as they say, never lie. And when it relates to COVID-19, it is quite frightening. Statistics show that, as of last month (November 2021), there were over 250 million global cases of COVID-19, a little over 230 million recovery cases and, sadly, more than five million deaths.
Reports from international organisations and media heavily criticised the critical imbalances between developed and developing countries when it come to the availability, as well as supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
This inefficiency, in a way, reflected a woeful failure in the existing multilateral system and speaks volume of the universal moral responsibility of the rich and powerful nations.
During this pandemic, collaborations such as multilateral cooperation on vaccine development, its deployment, information sharing and travel policies could have helped reduce the force of the virus spread as well as number of deaths, contain panic and slowdown economic devastation.
Today, almost two years since the start of the pandemic, we are still coping with its ongoing impact. And it looks like this will be the case for the next two years or so.
But it is time to dust ourselves off and get ready for an economic revival. It is time to develop a more collaborative effort when it comes to economic rejuvenation and reform.
All of you, as participants of the four sessions of this Roundtable will witness discussions on concerns brought on by the ongoing pandemic, how to manoeuvre the obstacles so that we can successfully achieve sustainable economic recovery, explore innovative strategies to accelerate its growth and ways to be ready for similar shocks in the future.
Most of all, I hope this Roundtable will materialise beneficial collaborations between organisations within the region and beyond, that will motivate and accelerate economic growth in your respective countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Now, more than ever, a platform such as WIEF Roundtable is necessary. It brings together likeminded professionals and compels a united stand as well as be a bridge among numerous global business communities. Most of all, it helps bring to light issues affecting the economy which in turn affects our livelihood and quality of life.
We have put in a lot of thought into the topics for today’s Roundtable, making sure they are relevant, engaging and will stimulate achievable solutions as well as generate synergetic partnerships for most of you.
I believe today’s sessions will set the path towards positive action. With that, I wish you a productive time at this Roundtable. And thank you for participating in an initiative by WIEF Foundation.