KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 (Bernama) — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), which also stresses on restructuring the banking sector including Islamic finance, has got the attention of foreign lawyers who are keen to learn more about Islamic financial instruments for business development and economic reconstruction.
Lawyers from premier firms from 18 cities in the region and from other major financial centers, who congregated here last week to attend the Asia Pacific Regional Meeting of Interlaw, acknowledged Malaysia’s specialised expertise in Islamic finance.
Rosli Dahlan, Partner with Lee Hishamuddin Allen & Gledhill, told Bernama today that through the government’s ETP, which included the creation of a K-economy, Malaysia’s expertise can be exported to other countries.
One Japanese lawyer, Shuichi Namba, senior partner with a major law firm in Tokyo, who attended the meeting when earthquake and Tsunami struck Japan, was positive Islamic financial instruments could help finance the economic recovery and reconstruction of Japan, which according to news reports, would cost a staggering US$180 billion.
Currently, the Japan Bank of International Co-operation had issued the Ijarah Sukuk worth US$300 million while the Nomura Holdings Sukuk was issued at US$100 million.
Islamic finance, including Sukuk financial instruments, is estimated at about US$1 trillion globally, with 60 per cent, especially Islamic bonds or Sukuk, issued out of Malaysia.
Rosli also said Islamic finance has gained much prominence with the failure of the conventional banking system as evident during the economic meltdown in the United States and Europe two years ago.
This followed the subprime credit crisis where banks indulged in risky financial products.
This year’s regional meeting of Interlaw from March 10-13 was hosted by Malaysia’s premier firm Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill, the firm where Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Onn practised before joining the Cabinet.
Rosli said top gun lawyers who attended Interlaw came from diverse geographical centres including Hong Kong, Chicago, Zurich, Frankfurt, Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Auckland, Sydney, Istanbul, Adelaide, Tokyo, New Delhi and Seoul.
This is a reflection of the growing prominence of Islamic finance, he said.
He believed professional advisers like merchant bankers, law firms and accounting firms would be instrumental in supporting the government’s ETP in developing Malaysia’s K-Economy.
Malaysia is the lead expert in Islamic finance and has attracted many foreign experts to the country who wish to learn more about the financial system.
They could either use Islamic finance in their home countries or help businesses from their countries to invest in countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.
The legal sessions at the Interlaw meetings were led by Malaysian lawyers, Megat Hizaini, Rosli Dahlan, Ooi Bee Hong and Koh Kek Hoe.
Panel speakers included Brett Hearnden of Sydney, Bong Sang Cho of Seoul, Dr. Ashraf Mohd Hasim of Bank Negara, Noraizat Shik Ahmad of the Securities Commission and Norfadelizan bin Abdul Rahman of Bursa Malaysia Bhd.
Based on feedback, the lawyers gave top marks to the Interlaw meeting and the topics discussed.
Jerry Biederman, Chairman of Interlaw and Managing Partner of a top Chicago-based firm, Neal Gerber Eisenberg, said “this meeting is amazing.
“Not only is the hospitality of the firm and of Malaysians impeccable, but also the substance of the programme is essential for lawyers to know about Islamic finance throughout this region, and throughout the world,” he said.
Michael Siebold, the Vice Chairman of Interlaw’s East, Middle-East and Americas Region, who also attended the meeting, immediately contacted Germany’s multinational sports clients to introduce the finance tool for funding new venues.
Shuichi Namba, a lawyer from Tokyo, Japan’s capital which is still reeling from the aftershocks of the recent earthquake, feels that Islamic financial instruments could be of benefit to rebuild Japan’s infrastructure after the recent earthquake and tsunami.
Rosli said the economic reconstruction of countries affected by disasters such as the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan was a noble act in Islam and provided a ready “halal” product for Islamic financial instruments.
He cited how, following the devastating Tsunami in Aceh in 2004, many Middle Eastern funds stood ready to finance the reconstruction of the area and its economy.
Rosli also commended Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala who has been instrumental in the government’s ETP which included the creation of a K-economy as it enabled Malaysia’s expertise to be exportable to other countries.
He said the success of the Interlaw meeting, focusing on Islamic finance, has spawned interest for the topic to be made the theme of other regional meetings in Cyprus for the European Region and in the Americas region as well as in the annual general meeting in Buenos Aires.