Gulf sovereign wealth funds are now looking East for opportunities as Western economies stumble, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak has told Arabian Business.
“Traditionally Gulf countries did prefer to invest in the West, but now I think they are beginning to look at our part of the world. I think they realise the strongest impetus for global growth is going to come from East Asia,” he said.
“There is a lot of global interest, including from this part of the world [the Gulf], because they see the potential, and they also see in terms of currency expectation that the ringit will get stronger.”
Razak, who was in Abu Dhabi to spearhead the Invest Malaysia conference aimed at encouraging Gulf investment in his country, said UAE investment in Malaysia currently stood at $2bn. He said this figure was up “sharply” on 2009, and that he expected it to increase in 2011.
“The stock market is at an all time high in Malaysia. So there is a lot of interest, whereas growth in the West is expected to be rather slow in the coming years. So traditionally, yes, [the Gulf did look West], but I think moving forward we will see much greater interest [in east Asia].
Razak said he did not have a specific financial target for his trip to the UAE, but said he had been able to discuss several investment opportunities with UAE officials and had seen an invitation to the UAE Crown Prince to visit Malaysia in June accepted.
He added free trade agreement talks with the Gulf would begin in March and would take “at a least a year” to finalise.