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.