UAE to invest $32.7b after Jokowi’s visit, but no investment for Malaysia despite visits by Muhyiddin, Azmin, Agong

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Abu Dhabi’s refusal and reluctance to invest in Malaysia suggests that foreign investors are not interested in pumping serious dollars into the country.

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has made a fruitful visit to the UAE (United Arab Emirates), securing a whopping US$32.7 billion (RM136 billion) worth of investments from the Gulf state, including vaccine manufacturing and distribution. The investments, announced last Thursday (Nov 4), came after Jokowi visited Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Widodo visited the UAE from November 2 to November 4 and met with the country’s top leadership, including Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, to strengthen ties between the two countries.

The deepening relationship between the two nations will see Pertamina, Indonesia’s national energy company, sign a deal on floating solar panels with Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company Masdar. G42, an artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing company based in Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, will invest in smart city initiatives, genomics laboratories and telecommunications.

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The South-East Asia’s largest economy is also looking to boost bilateral trade through CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement), the UAE’s plan to open markets in fast-growing economies such as South Korea, Kenya, Ethiopia and Turkey. After several rounds of negotiations that started in September, President Jokowi expects the deal to be finalised as early as March next year.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi revealed 19 investment commitment deals involved cooperation between the Indonesian Investment Authority and Dubai-based multinational logistics company DP World. Other agreements will involve investment promotion, taxation, central bank cooperation, tourism and mangrove forest management.

In March, the UAE announced an investment of US$10 billion with Indonesia Investment Authority on infrastructure (roads and ports), agriculture and tourism projects in the country, effectively making the UAE the largest anchor investor in Indonesia’s sovereign wealth fund – surpassing even investments from Japan, Canada and the United States.

The UAE sovereign wealth fund – Abu Dhabi Investment Authority – is also currently investing US$400 million to lead a pre-IPO (initial public offering) fund raising round by Indonesia’s biggest technology company GoTo, joining investors like Alibaba, Facebook, Google and Temasek. This is Abu Dhabi’s first investment in technology business in South-East Asia and its largest investment in Indonesia.

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More importantly, both countries have discussed Jokowi’s ambitious project to build a new capital city in East Kalimantan, leading Abu Dhabi Crown Prince to head a committee that oversees the construction of the new city. Jokowi’s aggressiveness saw the setting up of members of the Indonesia Investment Authority’s Board to implement strategic projects in the new capital in Kalimantan.

The close relationship between both countries was evident when Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed named a road after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who reciprocated by naming a stretch of the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road after the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, who is popularly known by his initials as MBZ and has a personal fortune of US$30 billion (as of 2020).

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The stunning UAE’s investment in Indonesia has raised the question of lack of interest in neighbouring country Malaysia, despite multiple visits from Malaysian leaders to the Arab state. The same month the UAE splashed US$10 billion in Indonesia, then-PM Muhyiddin Yassin made his official visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Muhyiddin’s visit was arranged by then-Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who had flown there a month earlier (Feb 2021) to ensure the backdoor prime minister received the desperately needed recognition from the Arab world. The PM undertook a 4-day official visit to Saudi (from 6-9 March), followed by an official visit to the United Arab Emirates from 9 to 11 March.

Besides bragging that Mahiaddin’s (Muhyiddin) visit was on the invitation of Saudi King Salman, the Malaysian leader also said his visit to the UAE was to further strengthen the existing bilateral ties and explore new areas of cooperation with the view of elevating the partnership to greater heights, including technology, innovation, and economic partnership.

Muhyiddin’s official programme in the UAE included meetings with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ), and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Yet, the backdoor PM Muhyiddin brought home zero investment after wasting taxpayers’ money on the trips.

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Hilariously, Muhyiddin claimed that the UAE has pledged to increase investment and trade with Malaysia up to five times. He shamelessly declared – “In terms of trade and investment, the term used by the Crown Prince is ‘sky is the limit’. I discussed further on bilateral trade and he agreed to increase it by five times from the current figure of almost US$3 billion. But no deadline has been set.”

However, unlike the UAE’s US$32.7 billion investment in Indonesia, which was published by international news and Arab news media, there had been zero coverage over Muhyiddin’s so-called “sky is the limit” US$3 billion investment. It appeared that the Malaysian leader had lied just to cover-up his incompetence and lack of recognition even in the Arab Muslim world.

The next month (April), Azmin Ali, Senior Minister and Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI), made the same trip to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to follow up the earlier official visit of Muhyiddin. Azmin bragged that he was leading Malaysia’s trade and investment mission to explore new business opportunities and collaboration in the oil and gas, healthcare and retail industries.

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In fact, Azmin said he would conduct one-to-one business meetings with prominent Saudi and Emirati companies, as well as potential investors. Again, after the roughly one-week official business trip to Saudi and the UAE, the clueless and useless Azmin returned home empty-handed. The infamous traitor then said he wanted more collaboration with the UAE at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Of course, people were more interested in Azmin’s violation of the health SOP, where he deliberately ignored and skipped the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon returning from his official trips to Saudi and the UAE. Almost everyone didn’t realize he had wasted taxpayers’ money like his boss, failing to secure any meaningful investments.

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Both Jokowi and Muhyiddin visited the UAE, and both leaders had met with the powerful MBZ (Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed). But while the Indonesian president managed to attract US$33 billion investment, with the bonus of a road in the UAE named after him, the (former) Malaysian prime minister failed to attract anything – except the dubious US$3 billion investment.

Arguably, the most impressive of Jokowi’s leadership was his ability in convincing the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince to invest billions of dollars in the ambitious plan of relocating the Southeast Asian nation’s capital from Jakarta to the island of Borneo, which is scheduled to take place in the first half of 2024. Jokowi’s leadership reflects poorly on Muhyiddin, and even more on the current PM Ismail Sabri.

Crucially, Abu Dhabi’s refusal and reluctance to invest in Malaysia suggests that foreign investors are not interested in pumping serious dollars into the country that is plagued by political instability, economic mismanagement and Covid-19 mishandling. Foreign investors, including the rich Arabs, are spoilt for choice in the region. Under the current government, Malaysia indeed has gone to the dogs.

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To make matters worse, not even the King Sultan Abdullah was useful enough to influence and help bring investment from the Saudi or the UAE. When the Agong (King) made a special five-day special visit to the UAE, there were high expectations. But it was yet another failure as the trip did not bring back any investments. On the contrary, it brought back a humiliating scandal.

When Asia Sentinel exposed how the King – Sultan Abdullah of Pahang – and his family, along with Foreign Minister Hishamuddin Hussein and the Attorney General Idris Harun, were among several Malaysian VIPs who received the Sinopharm vaccine during a visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in January this year, all hell broke loose.

Not only Sultan Abdullah and his entourage secretly received the jabs after meeting the UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Nayan, the King’s classmate in the elite UK institution Sandhurst, the monarch also took home an additional 2,000 doses of the vaccine which has not been approved in Malaysia. Those extra doses were for his family, business partners, friends and friends of friends back home.

To add credence to the report, Raja Permaisuri Agong (Queen) Azizah Aminah stunningly replied “dengki ke?” (are you jealous?) after a commenter had asked if the chefs working at the Palace have been vaccinated after the queen posted several pictures of dishes that she and the chefs had prepared. The Queen subsequently deactivated her Instagram account.

So far, the Palace has not denied or acknowledged the report – suggesting that it was true that the King had indeed received the Chinese Covid-19 vaccine quietly and illegally. More importantly, the queen’s response and reaction after being grilled by several followers also proves that the royal house had received the Sinopharm vaccine while abroad in UAE.

Something is certainly very wrong when Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo could easily clinch US$33 billion investment after just one visit to the UAE, but zero investment for Malaysia despite three visits by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Senior Minister Azmin Ali and even King Sultan Abdullah. It seems the 1MDB scandal is still haunting Malaysia-UAE relationship. – Finance Twitter