Musa Hitam (1)

This conference to serve the interests of Indonesia

"Halal industry has improved so much, before nobody cares but now everybody interested."

01 Agustus 2016 16:20

Six months ago, I met with Tawfik al-Mathlouthi, founder and also Chairman of Mecca Cola World Company in Jakarta. He told me that he was having so much desire to bring his products into market in Indonesia.

Regarding Indonesia is the largets muslim country in the world - almost 90 percents of 250 million populations are muslim - he has believed that there is a huge opportunity to develop his business in Indonesia.

Mecca Cola, the halal soft drinks, was founded by Mathlouthi in 2002 in France. Its products has entered markets in 64 countries.  

Tun Musa Hitam, Chairman of World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Foundation, has also commented on similar belief. He said halal industry particulary in Indonesia as well as globally are moving very fast.   

"I want to say It is going to grow in term of importance, it is going to grow in term of acceptability," he said yesterday in an exclusive interview with Faisal Assegaf from Albalad.co at Fairmont Hotel, Jakarta, prior to the 12th WIEF meeting in Jakarta 2-4 August 2016. "Halal industry has improved so much, before no body cares but now everybody interested."


What is the main focus of WIEF this year?

This is 12th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) but very interestingly this is the second time we have in Jakarta. The 5th WIEF was held in Jakarta about six years ago. I am very happy personally that we are having here because in the first place it was by the invitation of the Indonesian government through the previous Indonesian Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro.

Secondly, it is also held and we happy to know at the time when Indonesia just about to launch the ambitious national economy development program.

What is the focus this time, I can only tell you that the Indonesian government, normally when we deal with the host country, they tell us, "These what we are interested in."

The focus for 12th WIEF is firstly, infrastructure. Secondly, halal tourism. Thirdly, micro, small, and medium enterprises. Fourhtly, modest fashion or islamic fashion. The fifth one is islamic finance. That the five focuses that Indonesians would like to discuss.

Beside that, the Indonesian government have identified ten different parts of the country. These ten areas will be interested in one of these things. For example, on halal tourism. This is one area we would like to concentrate on halal tourism which means those who want to invest on infrastructures about tourism, come. Those who want to talk about financing, come. Those who want to have an opportunity to lend money or to borrow, come.

All these will be represented at this coming meeting with thousands of business people will be given opportunity to look, talk, discuss, to find out what interested are.

The second thing is the subject of this conference is simply that is decentralizing growth and empowering business. Whats is the meaning of decentralizing is very simple. Most of developing countries when they embark on national development, they always tend to focus on the cities, on the urban areas, because in urban areas the infrastructures already there.

But my personal view is that this is at the expand of wider part of the country which need development more than urban areas. In order to spread development to other countries, it means we must have special program to give incentives, to give opportunities, and to facilitate legally in term of infrastructure, in term of environment, so that investors will be interested in investing there.

Experience from other countries has demonstrated that this is the only way to go. So that, the issue of fair distribution of wealth really goes nationwide rather than only in Jakarta, Bandung, etc, but it reaches very far of the country concerns.

Then we talk about empowering business, it means that if you have only in the cities, for example, the big corporation on the one to get in. But here, the coverage of we look at of the all Indonesian economy from the big corporations to the medium businesses to the small and medium enterprises (MSME).

I feel that in Indonesia we got something like 56, 57 million of micro, small, and medium enterprises. They found the backbound of your economy. They contribute to GDP (Gross Domestic Product), they contribute to the growth, but they need help most. I mean where do they get financing, how they grow that always been at themselves.

So, the idea is to inspire, to make sure, to finance, to explain how they can improve themselves. That's why the third day of the conference is dedicated to MSME.                        

Do you mean this conference only to serve the interests of Indonesia?

Yes, very much to serve the interests of Indonesia. It is tailed to serve the Indonesian environment, to serve Indonesia's requirements. At the same time, I must say that those people who see it will realize the business opportunities in the process Indonesia is growing, then the international business community can participate, collaboration, and investment.

What about the interest from other muslim countries?

They all here. There are 100 countries represented will come. Nearly 3,000 people will be here. They will not come if they know there is no opportunity. They are coming, they heard about Indonesia's very ambitious program. They said there is the opportunity. Indonesia will see wthat they can bring and also the business can see how much opportunities they have here.

What do you expect from this conference?

I expect all these to develop. If Indonesia takes the opportunity, learn as well as get investment on halal, Indonesia will become much more attractive, efficient, with the full of requirement modern tourist.

Number two, you can see the growth plan of Indonesia. I hope that by doing that, we are able to add one percent or a half percent for the Indonesian growth rate. Not immediately of course, this is a long term planning.         

Indonesian president himself seems to be very hang on to make sure this conference succeed. I noted many ministers already dedicated to it. I think Indonesia is very seriously.

Comparing with other muslim countries, like Malaysia, Turkey, aand United of Arab Emirates, how important the position of Indonesia in halal industry?

For halal industry, Indonesia is still behind. But for other things, like facilities or whatever inside, who does not know Bandung, who does not know Bali, who does not know beautiful Lombok we have for examples. They know. What we will do to make it more attractive.

Don't forget, halal tourism does not mean eating only. Many things that relate to halal. Then we got to Indonesia, we don't need to worry at all for any muslim. For non-muslims, they know what is halal actually when look at it. It means cleanliness even in bar halal.

Indonesia will be able to compete, in certain areas they will improve. Halal industry at the moment being mentioned, being declared very open. But to focus on really improve is the challenge now of business community. And I think we can do it.     

In the last two years the image of Islam already damaged by the terror attacks in the name of Islam. Do you think that could harm halal industry?

I want to say WIEF does not touch, does not discuss politcs or religion. So your question, I don't answer. One of the reasons why we were so successful for 12 years because we don't touch it. Because once you touch itu, it will split from our experience. Our rule is always be no politics, no religion.

In some cases there were cheated practices in halal certification. How the WIEF address this issue?

That is an issue faced by muslim world for the a time. At the moment, certain countries have got the certification system which is internationally accepted. Certain countries are not accepted. Certain countries just put it while even they don't really practice it.

This is a challenge, this is being tackled what we call it standardization of certification. This takes a long time. Each country got the system, even China has got halal, Korea has got halal.

But it's good that we learn then we improve it. The important thing is by using using they know to put halal is good for business as well. So, once they know and they accepted that, they know is good and benefit them. We are working very hard and many countries are beginning to accept.

Halal industry has improved so much, before nobody cares but now everybody interested. I am sure we get that very fast.

How much the value of halal industry in the next five years?

We are moving very fast. We get together very fast.

Could be reached US$ 300 billion by 2020?

I am not talking about the figure. I am not qualified to talk about the figure. I want to say It is going to grow in term of importance, it is going to grow in term of acceptability. Everybody agree, when it is halal you don't need to doubt.   

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