PETALING JAYA: More scholarships and a possible increase in the haj quota are among the direct benefits that Malaysians can look forward to as a result of the recent visit by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud (pic) of Saudi Arabia, said the Prime Minister.
The Saudi government, wrote Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in his blog, would triple the number of scholarships for Malaysians starting next year.
Currently, he said there were only 100 scholarships for Malaysians to study at the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
“This means that more students will be able to further their studies in top universities in Saudi Arabia,” said Najib, adding that this would complement the Government’s RM4.3bil allocation for scholarships under Budget 2017.
Saudi Aramco’s decision to take up a RM31.08bil stake in the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project in Pengerang, Johor, would also create many opportunities for Malaysians, he said.
These range from jobs to growth in support industries like retail, finance, construction, services and other sectors.
“Other industries such as the one related to the halal economy, Islamic finance services, and small- and medium-sized enterprises will also prosper,” said Najib, adding that more opportunities also awaited Malaysian businesses in Saudi Arabia.
He pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s aim to increase the number of its visitors conducting the umrah (minor pilgrimage) from eight million to 30 million would increase demand in many sectors, including tourism and hospitality, retail, health and communications technology.
“Unique opportunities will also present themselves for businesses in sectors such as e-commerce, renewable energy, financial services and many more,” he said.
Najib also vowed that he would do whatever it takes to help Malaysian Muslims fulfil their religious obligations.
“King Salman has given a positive response to my request to increase the haj quota and told me that this would be given due consideration,” he said.
This year’s quota for Malaysia is 27,900 pilgrims.
The Government, said Najib, had also submitted its request to set up two pilgrim centres – one in Mecca close to the Masjidil Haram (Grand Mosque) and another at the Masjid Nabawi in Madinah – which received a positive response.
“I hope and pray that our requests will be considered favourably for the benefit of Muslims in Malaysia so that more people can perform the haj and in a conducive manner,” he said.
Thanking King Salman and his 600-member delegation for the visit from Feb 26 to Wednesday, Najib said it was the Saudi ruler’s maiden trip as head of state to Malaysia and the region.
“We are honoured that he chose to make our country the first stop on his tour of Asia,” said Najib.