Tun’s Acceptance Speech at the Crans Montana Forum


Sep  8th


Location Brussels, Belgium

Your excellencies,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening….

Well, not sure how i can begin expressing myself here. I feel a weird mixture of happiness and anxiety. Happy because obviously i got an award! But not just any award. As you can see, fellow recipients of the award are distinguished individuals who have contributed tremendously to the societies they live in and to the world at large. This makes the award a very special one for me.

I am happy because this award recognises the value of international collaboration based on very practical programmes towards economic development, particularly recognising the priority given to the ordinary human being in our globalised society, all of which are ingredients that are urgently needed to shape the future of our common humanity.

I am therefore humbled to be among these individuals and be acknowledged for the same principles in my capacity as the chairman of the world islamic economic forum foundation. The fact that i am receiving this award after merely 6 years of the forum’s existence is a huge encouragement for us to continue our struggle.

When we first started wief, we had a very simple idea – look on the bright side!
In wief, we go by this philosophy emphatically. Rather than dwell over the numerous problems of the muslim world such as terrorism, extremism and all things that invite negative stereotyping of the people of the muslim faith, which has so far brought us insignificant results, we instead choose to use business as a development tool against poverty and deprivation. We believe that it is high time that we look at business as not only a means of prosperity, but also a means to build bridges of understanding between peoples of the international community irrespective of religious differences and to break the barriers that divide them. Only by doing so can the business community be able to move together in unison to improve the livelihood of communities around the world.

There are so many things that we can do for the world with this idea. I think the root cause of most problems in the world is the lack of options. It is the lack of option in education that creates lost generations, our children today who are without any sense of direction and who eventually turn to desperate means to make sense of the world they live in. And with the lack of education comes the lack of economic opportunities that continue to consign them into poverty and deprivation.

But if we can simply offer them these choices, empower them and get them connected to each other, we stand a chance of changing the lives of millions under our leadership. This is why the forum that we convene every year has this philosophy embedded in its agenda. We believe that through business collaboration between different peoples, partnerships can be moulded, wealth can be created, the poor can be empowered and millions of people have the chance of putting food on the table for their families.

And this is why, at the same time i am happy, i am also full of anxiety. This is because the world is about the have and have nots. We live in a world where only 2% of the world population controls 50% of the world’s wealth, while 50% of the population own barely 1% of that wealth. This is something we cannot solve through humanitarian aid alone. Indeed humanitarian aid has its immense merits, and it is touching and comforting i must say, to see how catastrophes such as the tsunami in acheh and the earthquake in haiti can galvanise such huge support for funds from a variety of countries including poor ones.

But the aid framework has its flaws especially when we learn of the massive misappropriation of funds that were supposed to go to the people in need. Aid also does not empower people but rather continue to weaken people’s ability to stand up for themselves. Aid should therefore not be considered, in any way, as the main tool for poverty eradication.

Hence the only way to save impoverished communities is to give them the gift of life, the gift of exercising the god-given ability to think and create for one’s own society. Let’s begin with simple things like investing into local infrastructures, build schools so that children can develop into a competent workforce, set up local business models to generate economic activity from within the community. Most of these communities are resource rich. Thus once local projects are created, business models in place, communities can start harnessing and institutionalising these advantages. For countries without natural resources, their workforce becomes their main weapon for development. They therefore need to be trained and educated to become the main player of development.

I am the chairman of sime darby, the world’s largest producer of sustainable palm oil, in addition to a variety of businesses worldwide. We are proud because sime darby is a successful malaysian conglomerate with presence in 20 countries and employing 100,000 people, that has managed to galvanise resources to make sustainable palm oil into an indispensable commodity in the global supply chain. This happens because we gave a chance to farmers and small scale entrepreneurs the chance to make a comfortable living from what they produce. We empower them and gave them an opportunity to be part of the global supply and demand process.

And recognising their invaluable contribution into the business, we also provide schooling for their children, establish residences for their families, construct public amenities for their daily use. This is the measure of value that we put on them and their contribution.

In wief, we manage to get big corporations to contribute to human capital development under our internship and scholarship programme. In 2009, we managed to accord internship oportunities to young leaders from nigeria, somalia, sri lanka, indonesia, south africa and pakistan to work in reputable corporations such as the al ghurair group in dubai, ethos & company in malaysia and rio tinto alcan of australia. Such is the pivotal importance that we accord to the workforce and our future leaders.

I think it is high time that we look not only at building up material capital, but also social capital because ultimately, people can only operate efficiently when they are recognised as equal stakeholders in the process.

We then ask why is this important to other communities? Because we live in an interconnected world where problems in the muslim world which affect millions of lives would invariably have a huge impact on other communities as well. Empowering people in business takes their focus away from desperate measures and thus give them hope to make a better living. Business partnerships between nations are perhaps the only way of empowering communities to solve issues in their own backyard.

Thank you.

Tun musa hitam
9 april 2010