ISLAMIC DEVELOPMENT BANK GROUP: Statement of H.E. Dr. Bandar M. H. Hajjar, President of the Islamic Development Bank Group

Your Excellency Mr. Mladen Ivanić, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia & Herzegovina;  Excellencies, Members of the Presidency of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Mr. Bakir Izetbegović and Mr.Dragan Čović;

Excellencies, Ministers, and Former Ministers from Qatar, Kuwait, Indonesia, Croatia, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Montenegro, Czech Republic, India, Pakistan, and Malaysia.

Excellences, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great honor for me and the Islamic Development Bank Group to join this distinguished gathering and open Sarajevo Business Forum 2017, 8 years after its inception.

Perhaps there is no better proof of this Forum’s value to investors and entrepreneurs than its prestigious supporters. I must first recognize the Presidency of Bosnia & Herzegovina for their high-level patronage of the Forum. I am also inspired by the participation of leading international and regional leaders as well as many influential figures from the world investment community. Thank you for joining us. Your efforts are critical in supporting free trade and  lasting economic ties to this region.

We are here because of an unshakeable belief that business and a spirit of openness can be transformative for a region and its peoples. A tolerant mindset is critically important in today’s world climate. This mindset takes a practical form of free trade policies that create the very requisites for peace and mutual prosperity. Bosnia—and the SEE region as a whole—can use these tools to become an international corridor for business. Perhaps there is no better place to create a powerful example of interdependence and inclusion than here.

As facilitators of international business, the region can attract more foreign investment inflows to bolster its own development. FDI has significant positive effects. This goes beyond job-creation and economic opportunities. FDI offsets asset bubbles created by international short-term lenders and currency traders. It also ensures that sophisticated investors can share their know-how and technology. These advantages will rapidly increase domestic productivity, and in the long run, benefit peoples from the hypermarkets of Malaysia to the laboratories of Southeastern Europe’s EU neighbors.

At Sarajevo Business Forum, we know the results of FDI and inter-regional cooperation through the Forum’s 7 years of success: noteworthy examples include a credit line of 100 million EUR from the Government of the Republic of Turkey that continues to benefit thousands of people across Bosnia and real estate development projects in several of this region’s cities. More recently, a 100 million EUR commitment to agriculture by the Investment Corporation of Dubai has already increased employment through BBI-aided acquisitions of Bosnaplod and Hepok agriculture companies.

And then there are smaller, life-changing investments in local entrepreneurs and projects. These won’t make headlines, but they can be just as important to support families—to equip people in the region with nothing less than purpose, self-worth, and dignity.

Finally, let us not forget that FDI also benefits investors by diversifying their portfolios and strategies. By using this well-established approach, investors will both increase their returns and dilute risks. As the region harmonizes with EU standards, they can also benefit by introducing their products and services to other European countries.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bosnia’s efforts to create a business-friendly legal framework and environment for foreign direct investment are noteworthy. This includes its integration process with the EU. By adopting the Reform Agenda for 2015-2018, this government can speed up economic progress for itself, and by extension, the region. In staying the course of sound economic policies, a nation of diverse religious and ethnic traditions can forge a unified path to economic success.

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

IDB will continue to leverage its global and regional presence, extensive client base, and wide range of products and services to support Southeastern Europe’s position as an economic corridor between the East and West—a theme that embraces policies of inclusion and free trade.

We are proud to further investment among our 57 member countries. Our members can take advantage of investment guarantees and political risk insurance that reduce uncertainties for investors. How valuable is this support? The numbers speak for themselves: since our inception 42 years ago, IDB has backed its members with close to 100 billion USD in financing. The benefits are real, and I hope that Bosnia and Herzegovina will one day join IDB as a member.   

Of course, IDB’s presence is not new to Southeastern Europe. Albania, which enjoys member-status, has seen over 550 million USD invested in 37 projects, including the United Bank of Albania. Transformed with help from BBI’s consultancy services for international investors, it now offers interest-free banking solutions. In total, IDB has placed over 650 million USD in Southeastern Europe, including Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia.

Part of IDB’s 10-year plan is developing social and economic infrastructure. This pillar formalizes years of IDB investment in fundamental sectors like agriculture, healthcare, education and infrastructure.  It additionally develops an environment for Islamic finance institutions, capital markets, and insurance. Improving socio-economic infrastructure compliments another pillar of our 10 year plan, which is to actively involve private sector actors. IDB is a catalyst that can mobilize private companies to rapidly scale local activities and facilitate this region’s potential as a corridor for trade. SBF 2017 is a clear example.

Through IDB’s partnerships with the private sector, other NGOs, and governments, we shall continue to advance a spirit of tolerance and free trade in Bosnia and Southeastern Europe.

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let us all join hands and pray to ensure that the outcome of the Sarajevo Business Forum will exceed the expectations of the people of this region. Let us pray that this Forum will spur economic prosperity and bring interconnectedness to Southeastern Europe—and the many nations who will benefit by conducting business here.

Thank you