Russia eyes Brunei's Islamic expertise

Top; Russian Ambassador, Victor A Seleznev speaking to The Brunei Times in an exclusive interview yesterday, at the Russian embassy located at the Holiday Lodge Hotel in Jerudong. Picture:BT/Rachel Thien

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

RUSSIA hopes to collaborate with Brunei economically in halal food production, Islamic finance and banking and in infrastructure development, outside of the oil and gas industry.

The ambassador of the Russian Federation to Brunei, Victor A Seleznev, said that this year, there are many Bruneians visiting Russia, and because Brunei will be the chair of ASEAN, it would mean that a lot of the Russian delegations will also be making a trip to Brunei.

One of the strengths that His Excellency noted about Brunei the Sultanate's devotion to Islam. "From a religious point of view, this is an Islamic country with a lot of traditions where the population is very devoted," he said. He added that from his personal point of view, he has seen that Brunei is a country that is "not against modern life and development" and that it is not against changes. "It is a country that can adopt change to arrange it according to national interest," he said.

Halal Industry

The ambassador said that Russia has a Muslim population of between 25 to 30 million people, and that the continent has already started halal food production "unofficially".

He explained that the halal food production in the country has already started in Astrakhan City and they are also currently organising a special halal exhibition in Moscow.

"I believe we must learn from Brunei how it should be done, so that people are absolutely sure that it is halal and it is done in a proper way," he said.

His Excellency said that Russia is also keen on learning how to trade their halal production internationally and how to market it and that he believes they should start soon. He added that the halal industry should not just be restricted to food and beverages but that it can expand and diversify to cosmetics and other halal products such as fashion. "In Islamic fashion, ladies must be given the best of the best, and from this point of view it could be very interesting," he said. He added that this could be an opportunity for people to understand how Islamic garments could be diversified and be "very beautiful".

Islamic Finance and Banking

His Excellency said that Russia has also started to tap into the Islamic finance and banking sector last year.

"We could enjoy our experience and be very successful and for us it is a new thing so it is important for us to come to the countries that is successful, who knows how to enter the modern finances and oragnisations and at the same time work correctly according to the principles of Islam," he said. He added that with Brunei's experience in the field, both countries could benefit. "Although Russia is big and Brunei is smaller, that is not the point, we can learn from each other and we have a lot of common interests and common fields which can be used," he said.

He added that the Brunei Embassy in Russia and the Russian Embassy in Brunei could work together for one common bilateral preparation for the interest of the two countries.

Investing in Russia

The city of Yakutsk is one of the places of interest for the Russian Government. He explained that geographically it is one of the most difficult regions in Russia mainly because of its severe climate, but that it is a "very diversified" region.

Recently, Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Datin Paduka Hjh Adina Othman, went on an official visit to hold talks with the Vice President of the Republic of Sakha, His Excellency D E Glushko, at the vice president's office in the city of Yakutsk, Russia, on July 6.

"This is an absolutely rich region where you can find everything from oil, gas, coal, timber and all kinds of ores," he said. He said that the region is developing so it demands good hotels, roads, railroads and the arrangement of ship connections.

His Excellency added that there are a lot of possibilities for Bruneian companies to invest in these areas. "We have a lot of preparations with quite a lot of countries in this region and it could be interesting for Brunei because revenues from investments could be a good donation to the state budget and to the social budget of the country," he said.

At the moment, the Russian Embassy in Brunei has already approached several local companies and they have met with the local chambers of commerce. "It was wonderful and we are going to continue it, and we are discussing the possibility of organising a business forum which may be in Russia," he said. He added that the aim to hold the business forum in Russia is to bring more people to the country to understand more about what Russia has to offer.

"One of the problems is that there is a lack of knowledge between our countries, and seeing it one time is better than listening about it 100 times," he said. He added that Brunei has made an impact in the Russia-Brunei bilateral ties also because it was the first country in South East Asia that the Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a visit to in 2000.

"It created a special atmosphere in our bilateral ties and that was a really big stimulus of our bilateral relationship," he said. The Brunei Times