During his visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to participate in the Meeting of the Central Banks and Monetary Authorities of the OIC Member Countries, Dr. Savas Alpay, Director General of SESRIC, delivered a seminar on “Challenges and Prospects for the Socio-economic Development in the Islamic World” at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) on 14th November 2011. The seminar held at Kulliyah of Economics and Management Sciences of IIUM and attended by more than a hundred of both undergraduate and postgraduate students from different faculties in the university as well as professors and other staff members in the Kulliyah of Economics and Management Sciences of IIUM.
In his comprehensive presentation on the subject of the seminar, Dr. Alpay, first highlighted the recent developments in the world economy and, then, in the light of these developments, he presented detailed information on the economic performance of the OIC countries, as a group, in a comparative manner with the performance of the non-OIC developing countries, the developed countries and the world average. In the last part of his presentation, Dr. Alpay highlighted the main findings of the recent study prepared by SESRIC titled “SWOT Outlook on OIC Member Countries”. In this part of the presentation, Dr. Alpay informed the audience that the SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is an analytical planning tool which provides information that is helpful in assessing the impacts of major factors (internal and external) on the performance of an entity, and that this entity could be a company or an industry or even a country or a group of countries with a common objective like the OIC countries.
In this part of the presentation, Dr. Alpay provided a detailed SWOT profile on OIC countries, as a group, in different socio-economic fields and sectors. He highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the OIC countries with a view to enhancing their competitiveness globally as well as the level of their cooperation. In this context, Dr. Alpay mentioned that having a young population, possessing a significant portion of the world’s crude oil and natural gas reserves, accumulating increasing international reserves and being among the top producers of agricultural commodities are major strengths of the OIC countries, as a group. On the other hand, he mentioned that high unemployment rate, weak participation in labour force, inadequate agricultural mechanization and inefficient use of water in agriculture, and lack of adequate funding for scientific development are weaknesses that should be overcome.
Dr. Alpay also indicated some major opportunities to be utilised for further growth and development in OIC countries as well as some potential threats that they may face in the future. In this context, he mentioned that the increasing trends in foreign direct investment, intra-OIC trade, and tourism receipts together with the declining trend in external debt burden are opportunities for OIC countries that should be transformed into higher economic growth and development levels. On the other hand, he mentioned that water scarcity, low agricultural productivity, high trade deficit in food, low access to improved water resources and sanitation facilities and inadequate information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure are threats that are likely to impose serious challenges and, thus, necessitate urgent countermeasures.
Overall, Dr. Alpay emphasised that the OIC countries, as a group, have a significant potential for enhancing their competitiveness both at the regional and international levels, and that this could be achieved not only by pursuing the more lucrative opportunities, but also by identifying a fit between their strengths and upcoming opportunities. He also emphasised that the OIC countries need to overcome major weaknesses in order to prepare themselves to pursue compelling opportunities, and, meanwhile, they should develop a practical cooperation strategy and associated plan of action through which they can use their collective strengths to make use of the existing opportunities and to reduce their vulnerability to the external threats.
Following his presentation, Dr. Alpay answered the questions raised by many participants on various aspects and issues related to his presentation on “Challenges and Prospects for the Socio-economic Development in the Islamic World”.