By Merve Aydogan
The recently-appointed D-8 Secretary-General has pointed out Turkey's significance in the economic bloc, saying its commitment is "exemplary".
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Dato' Ku Jaafar Ku Shaari said the organization could learn "a lot" from Turkey, which was "participating in all sectors, offering a lot of expertise, training programs to D-8 member states in different areas".
The D-8 organization was launched on June 15, 1997, after Turkey's then-prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, proposed the creation of an economic group consisting of eight emerging economies from the Muslim world, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.
Turkey currently holds the chair of the D-8 and will continue to do so for the next two years.
Shaari welcomed Turkey's chairmanship position.
"Turkey's contributions will be of immense importance for the upcoming two years. It is important to point out that Turkey's role in D-8 cannot be confined to this alone… It has also been one of the biggest contributors to the D-8 annual budget."
Describing his appointment as the bloc's new secretary-general as "a dream come true", Shaari said the organization had recorded considerable economic achievements since it was established, despite economic turbulences throughout the world.
"Intra D-8 trade, which was around $14 billion in 1997, has risen astronomically to over $100 billion today," he said, adding trade was the "clear indication of [how] successful and committed" the economic bloc remained.
"In 1997, 1998 and 1999, the D-8 intra-trade was $14 billion [3.4 percent], $14.3 billion [3.8 percent] and $14.5 billion [3.7 percent], respectively… In 2013, D-8 intra-trade reached $133 billion or 7.4 percent of total D-8 trade [$1.8 trillion]."
Regarding economic growth, the D-8 head said between 1997-2014, the organization had managed to secure an "impressive" 4.2 percent real annual economic growth.
"During the same period, other economies grew by 2 percent, European region by 1.4 percent and the world growth remained at 3.8 percent."
He reasserted the main focus of D-8 as "economic development and growth", and said all member states benefited from economic cooperation and had no disputes among each other.
D-8 seeks new opportunities
Shaari recalled the ninth summit which Istanbul hosted on Oct. 20, 2017.
"[Turkish] President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has set ambitious goals for the future of our organization. Creating new partnerships, developing means to trade in local currencies, setting up a Clearing House and expanding… We, hopefully, will see progress in these areas and many more under Turkey's chairmanship," he said.
As the new head of D-8, Shaari said he would meet government officials and other representatives in Turkey, adding he would listen to the "vision and guidance" of Erdogan and other member states.
He defined his roadmap as covering three major actions: listening to leaders of member states; welcoming all new ideas, initiatives, strategies and projects; and finally reaching out to all sectors, particularly to private sector.
"I am planning to increase public awareness and visibility of the organization and its activities, first and foremost, within the D-8 community and subsequently on a larger scale, during my term.
"I also want to expand cooperation with other economic and regional groupings, and multilateral institutions. Learning from others' experience is also important for me," he added.
In his final remarks, Shaari called on the Muslim world to stay united and stressed that the issue of Islamophobia had to be addressed as a "whole" as he underlined that Islam was a religion of peace.
He further said coordinated efforts against terrorism, security matters and other political issues were "a must" by all countries, both Muslim and non-Muslim.