PUTRAJAYA: THE government has agreed to set aside RM500 million in stages for the setting up of the RM1 billion Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) Education Fund.

In announcing this yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the funds would be used for training programmes, education, creating entrepreneurship opportunities, and research and development to empower Bumiputeras.

"Under the national framework to become a developed country by 2020, the government will continue to ensure the interests of all communities are taken care of, including Bumiputeras.

"Any groups left behind in terms of income, education, mental and physical capabilities, and those living in rural areas, shall continue to be included in the development and modernisation of this nation," he said after the launch of the corporate identity rebranding of Pelaburan Mara Bhd (PMB) and the setting up of PMB Tijari Bhd here.

Muhyiddin said the education fund would be managed by PMB while an additional RM500 million would be borne by Mara.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced the fund in the form of a matching grant, worth RM1 billion, when he launched the Bumiputera Economic Agenda last year.

Muhyiddin also witnessed the signing of a shareholders agreement between PMB and Saudi-based Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) on the setting up of a joint venture PMB subsidiary known as PMB Tijari Berhad.

"The agreement signed between PMB and ICD will allow the latter to own nearly one-third of the equity for PMB Tijari.

"This shows that ICD is confident about continuing its investment in Malaysia. This is also in line with the corporation's policy of aiding the development of Islamic capital and finance in member nations of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC)."

Muhyiddin expressed hope that the joint venture would enable PMB Tijari to expand its services to the other OIC member nations.

"With the excellent performance shown by PMB and its subsidiaries, coupled with the initiatives recently introduced, I hope this organisation can contribute further to the financial market and Islamic capital in the country."

PMB chief executive officer Nazim Rahman told Bernama that the fund would be managed as a waqaf (eternal) fund that would still be worth RM1 billion, even after the existing fund was completely spent over the next seven years.

"All returns will be used for educational activities organised by MARA," he said, adding the distribution of the fund would take three years to complete.

"In the first year, RM200 million will be distributed, followed by RM150 million each in the second and third year. Among the areas to be focused on are innovation, commercialisation of R&D products and training programmes for teachers."

New Straits Times - 30 April 2014