Qatar, the World Cup and Islamic finance
"WE go to new lands!" exclaimed Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa in unveiling Qatar, over the US, for hosting the 2022 Fifa World Cup. Now, how does Islamic finance and Malaysia "ride on the coat-tails" of this incredible opportunity, having missed many opportunities over the years?
The opportunity to build awareness of Islamic finance and have it reach the shores of the 200 plus countries which tune into the world’s only true global event.
The two weeks of exposure in the World Cup event is comparable to two decades of marketing and promotion.
Qatar’s "brash" (as in confident) bid, sleek (as in PR) and bold (as in investments) victory should send a message to many of the economically established Muslim countries, like Malaysia and Turkey, that they can compete on the world stage.
Fifa bought into the vision of new markets, notwithstanding the oppressive heat of the summer (when the world cup games are played), big vision of small sized Qatar (population of about one million and one major city), and the perceived instability of the region.
Obviously, its helps that Qatar is an extremely wealthy country, led by an exceptional leader, the Emir, Sh. Hamad Khalifa Al Thani, who has embarked upon a 21st century vision of a Muslim nation-state that is an integrated responsible global citizen.
The World Cup should be seen as a new beginning for (economically established) Muslim countries, and the Olympics, once considered a distant dream in hosting, may now be within reach for potential host like countries Turkey and Kazakhstan.
Islamic finance needs to establish an industry body dedicated to real and professional marketing and public relations of the industry.
The present way and manner of promoting Islamic finance is inefficient, redundant and varying messages, and, at times, self serving (misleading) cheerleading.
Although, 2022 is 12 years away, it is imperative the industry start the process in establishing this industry body today.
The egos must be left at the door, and it must be comprised of the savvy stakeholders of Islamic finance that establish working committees that create a blue-print for the future beyond screening, structuring, and products.
A number of stadiums need to be built, infrastructure to connect, and accommodations to house participants, hence, an ideal situation for financing via ‘FIFA World Cup sukuk’ programme series.
The initial cost estimates of the public works is estimated to be nearly US$50 billion (RM157.15 billion), and some of this will be financed Islamically, adding to Sukuk supply and (hopefully) secondary market liquidity.
Islamic institutions in Qatar, like Qatar Islamic Bank or Mashraf Al Rayan, will naturally be considered early leaders in financing for the 2022 World Cup, and, now, Malaysia, as part of national agenda, should encourage its Islamic banks to be active financing participants.
There is an unsaid and unwritten rivalry amongst the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, notwithstanding the recent Wiki-Leaks, and Malaysia has an open doorway to do more on many fronts.
Gulf-based entities have tapped the Malaysian market for (Islamic) financing, and, now Malaysia should expand the financing pipeline. Malaysia, having proved itself domestically and regionally, and, now, needs to think larger and globally, and should be encouraged and inspired by Qatar’s victory.
Beyond the bidding for financing for the stadiums, infrastructure and accommodations, Malaysian Islamic banks should look into merits of naming rights for the stadium, and it should be viewed as an investment, not a cost, in the Malaysian brand.
This builds the brand awareness for not only the fans attending, but, more importantly, the international community viewing the games on television.
The World Cup will have not only hundred of thousands of Muslims fans attending, but a number of Muslim country participants (in 2010), like Nigeria, and Muslim players who are conscious of the quality of foods. Additionally, many non-Muslims will also be attending and enjoying the games, hence, an incredible opportunity to showcase the US$640 billion (RM2.01 trillion) halal Industry.
The state of halal certification in the GCC is fragmented, hence, a captive opportunity to raise the overall profile of the halal industry, show Malaysia’s leadership in the space, encourage Malaysian certification standards and companies, and so on.
It is not too early for halal Industry Development Corporation to start thinking about a game plan here, or else, say, Brunei halal may just beat them to the cup, and "eat" their lunch!
WiIl Malaysia, having sent an astronaut, Muszaphar Shukor Sheikh Mustapha, into space, will it be able to put together and train a team that qualifies for the 2022 World Cup? This is the needed inward investment that produces a return on investment beyond the usual numbers.
Qatar’s award for the 2022 World Cup is a Goliath victory for all emerging markets and people, and, now, the ball in Malaysia’s pitch! Do something!