Mideast bizmen keen to invest in Indonesia, banker says

Jakarta (Antara News) - Middle Eastern businessmen are keen to invest in Indonesia without any hidden agenda, the chairman of the Indonesian Syaria Bank Association (Asbisindo), M Riawan Amin, said here Thursday.

"With their huge funds, they will leave the US and the European Union, and are ready to enter Asia, including Indonesia, for business without any political agenda," Riawan told ANTARA.

As the world`s largest Muslim country with the same cultural background Indonesia should take the opportunity, he added.

Citing an example, he said the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) had provided US$10 billion in funds for poverty eradication through payment of tithes.

IDB is a stakeholder in Bank Muamalat Indonesia (BMI).

However, the Middle Eastern businessman`s plan to invest in Indonesia could not be realized soon due to the absence of a law on Sukuk (obligation in Islamic law), rampant corruption and double taxation risks.

"We will have to do many things to attract them. Moreover, syariah banking has yet to become a national agenda," Riawan said.

Some Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong had become main competitors to Indonesia in attracting investment from the Middle East, he noted.

Singapore and Hong Kong which had different cultural background with the Middle East, are planning to be centers for syariah banking.

Malaysia had offered facilities, including tax incentives, to lure Middle Eastern investors.

To date, Indonesian investment in the Middle East is made through third parties such as Singapore.

Riawan , who is also president director of Bank Muamalat Indonesia (BMI), said the bank`s presence was expected to lessen investors` doubts about Indonesia`s business potentials and prospects.

The bank`s customers had increased from 1.2 million in 2006 to 1.7 million in 2007.

Individuals` savings at the bank increased from Rp6.8 trillion to Rp8.2 trillion during the same period. (*)
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