KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Feb. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi takes his re-election campaign to the conservative Muslim heartland in the north of the country, an area that has benefitted from the government's high-growth and pro-investment economic policies. Mr. Badawi will be calling for enhanced efforts to foster Malaysia's uniquely successful blend of progressive and modern Islam together with economic and social development, the results of which today saw economic growth figures for the fourth quarter produce a 7.3 percent jump in gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2007, the highest growth quarter since he won his first election in 2004. For all of 2007, growth in Malaysia was 6.3 percent, against 5.9 percent growth in 2006. Speaking whilst on the campaign trail in the state of Kedah, located in the northwestern part of the Malaysian peninsula, the prime minister spoke of the critical importance of "developing human capital" through investment in education and vocational skills programmes and special incentives for companies that bring job-creating investment to the region and the nation. The most high-profile initiatives he has introduced in recent years are a series of Special Economic Zones, known in Malaysia as "development corridors," that have already begun to produce billions of dollars of new capital flows from international investors in Asia, the Middle East and the United States. Among these is the Iskandar Development Region in the South of Malaysia, adjacent to Singapore and covering nearly 2,200 square kilometers, which has already attracted high-profile investments such as a US$1.2bn project from a consortium of sovereign wealth funds and others in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Dubai, and new investments from General Electric of the United States. The Iskandar project has already raised US$10bn over the past year, about ten percent of total aims. Other zones include one in the Eastern states and involve 112bn Malaysian ringgit (US$35bn) over the next 12 years in sectors as varied as tourism, oil and gas, petrochemicals and manufacturing. The Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER), which is expected to boost economic growth and income levels in Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Northern Perak and to transform the region into a major logistics, food-processing and tourism powerhouse by 2025, with the creation of over 1 million new jobs and a subsequent projected increase in the region's GDP from 52.7bn ringgits (US$16.5bn) in 2005 to 214bn ringgits (US$66.9bn) by 2025. "Through the growth and expansion of the NCER we plan to improve education, reduce unemployment, eradicate the already low poverty levels completely and give people the tools with which they can lead prosperous, fulfilled lives," said Mr. Badawi. This approach is very much in keeping with Prime Minister Badawi's belief in Islam Hadhari, a set of principles aimed at underscoring the notion that economic and social progress, modernisation, and education are compatible with the teachings of the Koran. The development corridor strategy is thus consistent with his broader strategy of ensuring development and economic progress go hand in hand with Islam. "But we don't just want to keep the benefits to ourselves," the prime minister noted, adding that "if we can help our fellow Muslim nations, and learn from them in turn, then we can all profit from this shared success." The idea of developing human capital has been at the heart of Malaysia's chairmanship in recent years of the Organisation for the Islamic Conference (OIC), and Mr. Badawi has devoted considerable time and energy to his ambitious plans to encourage the Muslim world to unite to help tackle the root causes of poverty and even social unrest and extremism by putting an economic face on the OIC. His creation of the World Islamic Economic Forum has helped to highlight the need to foster programmes to combat poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. The Muslim world with its population of 1.2 billion people has a disproportionately high level of poverty when compared to other societies. Of the 57 countries that make up the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), some 31 are classified as among the world's least developed. Together they account for some 20 percent of the world's population but only five percent of global GDP. As Prime Minister has said, "Alienation and disenchantment must be addressed by removing its causes not just addressing its effects. We have to tackle the economic roots of poverty, ignorance and unemployment because these are the real threats to Muslim societies around the world. It is urgent and vital that the prosperous and moderate nations of the Muslim world unite to provide self-help solutions to tackle the economic causes of poverty." At home in Malaysia, Mr. Badawi's progressive Islamic agenda has already produced strong economic success. His campaign pledge of "security, peace and prosperity" means that in order to provide these opportunities it is essential to maintain a stable and growing economy at home. That is why among Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's highest priorities -- as set out in the Barisan Nasional manifesto on Monday -- is making sure Malaysia remains a high-growth economy that is competitive enough to make it attractive to international investors and to continue fostering Malaysia's role as one of the most stable and successful economies in the ten-nation ASEAN block of nations.