Last week I attended a meeting held by the Islamic Foundation for Developing the Private Sector (an affiliate of the Islamic Bank for Development) in Bahrain that brought together [Islamic] businessmen with Rustam Minnikhanov, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Tatarstan. This meeting was held in order to introduce the Tatarstan International Investment Company [TMIK] – an investment company that operates in compliance with Islamic Sharia law. Its main goal is to search for suitable investment opportunities in the Republic of Tatarstan and to make them marketable to Muslim investors.
Perhaps many of us have never heard of this Muslim republic that is rich in natural resources such as oil and natural gas and which is home to many Russian factories that deal with a range of products from automobiles to helicopters. Tatarstan also accommodates a large number of micro-technological industries, and is one of the most important republics of the Russian Federation.
The capital of Tartastan is Kazan, and it is considered to be a city with one of the best business environments in Russia, and this is something that has positively affected the lives of Kazan’s residents. Tatars comprise around 52 percent of the overall population of the republic, which has an overall population of 3.8 million people. Russians form around 39.5 percent of the population, with the rest of the population being made up of a mixture of ethnic minorities including Ukrainians, Chuvash and others ethnic minorities who lived under Soviet rule. The policy of the Soviets was to blend all the different ethnic minorities together through forced displacement in order to counter the separatist tendencies of these peoples, which is why we find that today more than 7 million Tatars live in Russia outside of the Republic of Tatarstan.
The Tatars are considered an extension of the Volga Bulgars who were introduced to Islam in 922 AD by an embassy that was sent from Baghdad and headed by Muslim writer and traveller Ibn Fadlan. The Republic of Tatarstan marks this occasion as an annual religious holiday. Tatars embrace the Muslim faith and share the creed that binds us together. Following the collapse of the Iron Curtain that separated us for so long, the Tatars now require us to interact with them. By virtue of these [religious] ties, we are invited to seize the investment opportunities available in this promising republic, rather than leaving them for Western companies. One of the most important of these promising opportunities is the opportunity to invest in the Islamic financial sector. Such investment in this Islamic republic has received great interest due to the religious devotion of its population; this religious devotion helped the Tatars preserve their Islamic identity throughout the Soviet era. This of course, is in addition to investment opportunities in other sectors, such as energy, communications, transport, industry, technology, and the food industry.
The Prime Minister of Tatarstan made it clear at this meeting that the republic is completely economically independent from Russia with regards to decision making, and that it does not impose any restrictions on financial transfer coming in or going out of Tatarstan. Tatarstan has a free economic system and welcomes any financial institution that complies with Islamic Sharia law to work and invest in it and I believe that the republic’s contribution to the establishment of TMIK is the best example of this welcome [offered to Islamic businessmen and companies].
Likewise, by entering into this partnership with the Tatarstan government, the Islamic Foundation for Developing the Private Sector wanted to facilitate Islamic businessmen and companies in seizing these investment opportunities in a manner that results in their rights being secured by an international financial organization from any illegal practices. This is something that increases the confidence of the [Islamic] investors who are investing in Tatarstan.
There can be no doubt that this initiative by the Islamic Foundation for Developing the Private Sector should be reciprocated by Islamic businessmen and companies, as this will result in them being presented with investment opportunities on a silver platter, and all they have to do is take the decision to invest. Credit must definitely go to the Islamic Foundation for Developing the Private Sector and those in charge of it. I certainly intend to write an article in the coming days in order to profile this Foundation and its activities, and explain how businessmen can take advantage of this institution to expand their business.