RIYADH, 20 January 2006 — Saudi-Malaysian cooperation in the fields of trade, joint ventures and higher education are among the topics that are expected to figure during the visit of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to Malaysia.
The Saudi monarch will meet Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi to discuss various issues of mutual and international concern.
In a joint interview with Arab News, Malaysia’s Ambassador Ismail Haji Ibrahim and Deputy Head of Mission Nekmat Ismail said that though the agenda for the talks has not yet been finalized, the keenness of both countries to expand and diversify their relations has characterized their interactions in the past.
Trade between the two countries registered a substantial growth from $1.298 billion during January-November 2004 to $1.761 billion in the previous year. The number of Saudi visitors to that country went up by 31 percent during the first nine months of last year.
The ambassador said the Saudi-Malaysian Business Council would be hosting a lunch in honor of King Abdullah and his accompanying delegation.
It will be a significant event, according to the Malaysian news agency Bernama, which said Malaysia has expressed an interest to work together with the Kingdom in producing bio-diesel for the world market.
Malaysia-Saudi Business Council (MSBC) Chairman Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Tengku Ismail said a joint venture should not be a problem as Malaysia and Saudi Arabia have expertise in crude palm oil and crude oil.
“This industry can still be developed further to include the production of bio-diesel, which is now in demand by the world market. Together we can match the supply of crude palm oil from Malaysia and the capital inputs, in the form of investment from Saudi Arabia, to produce bio-diesel, particularly for the European countries,” he said.
The ambassador said other areas that are likely to come up during the high-level talks include education, tourism, infrastructure and construction. The Kingdom’s Water and Electricity Company has already awarded a major contract to a Saudi-Malaysian consortium for the construction of the Independent Water and Power Project at Shuaiba, on a build, operate, own basis.
The consortium will own 60 percent of the share capital, with 32 percent owned by the Public Investment Fund and eight percent by the Saudi Electricity Company. Another Malaysian company is the prime contractor for the construction of Alfaisaliah University coming up in Riyadh.
Malaysia, he said, intends to promote educational ties with the Kingdom, so that more Saudi students could pursue higher education, especially in the fields of IT, medicine and engineering. Another field of interest is manpower training, which has been accorded a high priority in this year’s budget.
Referring to this year’s Haj, Ambassador Ismail said some 25,000 Malaysian pilgrims performed Haj without incidents. He also referred to the Tabung Haji (Haj Fund), said to be the only one of its kind in the world.