WIEF -SEACO Foundation Roundtable Regional Collaboration: Transforming Economies


Oct  29th


Good morning,

His Excellencies Salman Fazlur Rahman, M.P., Private Sector and Investment Adviser to the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh,

Ambassador (Retd) Mohammed Mohsin, Chairman, SEACO Foundation, Former Foreign Secretary and Former Assistant Secretary General of OIC

Brother Salahuddin Kasem Khan, Executive Chairman of SEACO Foundation, Bangladesh and Member of the International Advisory Panel of the WIEF Foundation


Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am please to read this speech by the Chairman of World Islamic Economic Foundation, the Honourable Tun Musa Hitam in my capacity of the Member of Board of Trustees of WIEF Foundation.

On behalf of the WIEF Foundation, let me welcome you to this WIEF-SEACO Foundation Roundtable in Dhaka, this morning.

We are pleased to hold a Roundtable for the second time in Bangladesh, this time in collaboration with the SEACO Foundation.

I thank the SEACO Foundation, and in particular Brother Salahuddin, for hosting and co-organising this Roundtable with the full support and cooperation of the Government of Bangladesh.

Dhaka never fails to amaze visitors, and I am personally delighted to be able to visit this bustling and rapidly growing city, again.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The theme of the Roundtable is Regional Collaboration: Transforming Economies.

Regional cooperation or collaboration, as a concept, is not entirely new. The benefits of regional collaboration are well recognised. Countries within a particular region find it useful to come together and go beyond their boundaries to resolve conflicts, to attain regional peace and stability, and to cooperate on mutual issues of common interests for the socio-economic well-being of their people.

Regional collaboration becomes increasingly important in enabling individual states to address cross-border issues that cannot be otherwise resolved on their own. Regional collaboration could be an important determinant to promoting national resilience. Indeed, the process of national economic transformation can be better achieved with the benefits of regional collaboration.

It was against such a backdrop that we saw the birth of various regional organisations in Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and South East Asia. Indeed, no region today is without their own organisation. And more regions are in fact witnessing the establishment of new organisations, to deal with specific multinational issues of common interest.

The organisational structure and legal framework established by each organisation, accompanied by specific programmes, have been instrumental in allowing enhanced collaboration to take place across a wide spectrum of issues, as collectively envisaged by the member countries concerned. The success achieved by these organisations have enabled them to shape their own regional identity and destiny, to the need and pride of their citizens.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Muslim countries have the added benefit of being members of non-geographic-based organisations like the OIC, of which eight members subsequently took the initiative to establish a smaller grouping of OIC Member States, in the form of D8.

While these two organisations, or groupings, are striving hard to function well to serve the purposes and objectives for which they were established, I believe that the establishment of additional sub groupings is not necessarily an exercise in redundancy. Nor would they be a case of unnecessary proliferation of organisations. What is more important is to ensure that they are properly conceived and nurtured for the benefit of their member countries.

It is in this context that I commend the initiative by Bangladesh to establish the long-drawn sub regional organisation, namely SEACO, comprising five Muslim member countries which are Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Maldives, to cover the South and Southeast Asian regions.

To its credit, Bangladesh has already made a good start by setting up its own SEACO Foundation in Dhaka to proceed with this initiative. This is in line, I believe, with the aspiration of Her Excellency Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to position Bangladesh as a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia, and as a hub for connectivity in the regions.

Like all new initiatives, the road ahead to achieving its declared objectives may be full of challenges. There is certainly no guarantee of early success in all fields. But given a clear sense of purpose, implementation of practical programmes, provision of adequate resources and the support of both the public and private sectors in the member countries concerned, I believe that progress can be achieved on a step by step basis, as we move together ahead.

This Roundtable is an important milestone for the development of SEACO, as it proceeds in its long and arduous journey towards formal acceptance and recognition as a new sub-regional organisation. The presence of the relevant Ministers and Senior Officials here today, is indeed a good beginning, and as a measure of the support and endorsement that is being extended by the countries concerned towards the establishment of SEACO.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The WIEF Foundation is happy to play a modest role in this regard, by collaborating with the SEACO Foundation, in bringing together the right group of policy cum decision makers and role players to take the organisation further to the next level.

We hope that the specially crafted programme of this Roundtable to enable detailed discussions to take place on issues of common interest to participants, like infrastructure development, Islamic finance and the development of halal industry. Along with a special session on the idea and promotion of SEACO itself as a new sub-regional organisation, would provide the impetus in promoting collaboration for the economic transformation of the SEACO member countries concerned.

While Government support and endorsement are crucial, the role of the private sector is equally important, especially at this early stage to bring the SEACO idea to fruition.

In this regard, I am pleased to see the strong presence of the private sector at the Roundtable to discuss and explore the prospects of collaboration that could be undertaken for their mutual benefit. I believe their presence would also serve to add content and substance to the SEACO idea, so as to be increasingly attractive to the member states concerned.

In conclusion, let me once again thank you for your attendance.

I wish all participants a productive Roundtable, and we look forward to your continued support of the WIEF’s future programme, in the years ahead.

Thank you and wassalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.