Bismillah Hirrakhmaan Nirraheem
H.E. Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib Tun Abdul Razzak, Prime Minister of Malaysia
H.E. Mr. David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Distinguished Heads of State and Government
Honourable Delegates & Guests
Ladies and Gentleman
I am honored and delighted to join this august gathering of world leaders and businessmen.
I am extremely pleased to note that the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) has emerged as a prominent gathering of government leaders, scholars, Practitioners, Corporate Managers and Civil Society representatives, all motivated to promote trade and investment and exchange ideas on issues of global significance. I commend the efforts of organizers of the Forum to have achieved such remarkable success within a short period of 8 years since its inception.
Our contemporary world is witnessing unprecedented change. Human civilization is moving from Industrial revolution to Knowledge based economic and social development. Computers, telecommunications, robotics, new man-made materials, Bio and Nano technologies are emerging as frontiers and drivers of economic growth.
Most significantly, the information and communications technology has provided real time connectivity to the entire world as people are becoming more informed and consequently, more empowered. On the economic front, in the past two decades, the world has seen massive and unprecedented movement of goods and services as well as flow of capital.
Not surprisingly, all these developments have had positive impact on the world output and expansion of global trade, thus greatly improving the standard of living of a large number of people.
A recent report suggests that since 2000 the global wealth has more than doubled, reaching a new all-time high of US $ 241 trillion.
However, empirical evidence also suggests that globalization has had inequitable impact across nations and even within. While the developed economies have made significant gains, many countries of Asia and Africa have lagged behind and the absolute number of poor in these countries has actually increased. Inequalities have widened across the board and within the developed world as well.
Reportedly, at present the bottom half of the global population owns only 1% of the global wealth. On the other hand, the richest 10% own 86%, and the richest 1% own a staggering 46% of the global wealth.
Three things lie at the core of this downside of globalization. First, the national and sub-national governments, and international development institutions have not done enough to ensure that the gains from globalization are evenly distributed.
Second, financial markets have not been sufficiently regulated to ensure safety of depositors’ money as well as inclusion of a very large population that has little or no access to such services. Third, free trade has been confined in such goods and services that have excluded labor, thereby denying opportunities available for their movement across national jurisdictions that would be otherwise justified due to massive wage differential in different parts of the world.
Alongside these developments, we may also note that universal connectivity has increased vulnerabilities for the entire global economy, with bad news and problems in one part of the world rapidly affecting other parts and amplifying their adverse consequences. Events surrounding the global financial crisis of 2008 provide empirical evidence regarding the expansive impact of these vulnerabilities and distortions.
Today, we see a world that offers unprecedented opportunities and promises to transform the lives of people.
At the same time, it also poses challenges that may be the basis of friction and conflict, both existing and new. Accordingly, as much as we would like to promote the promising world we must also guard against its associated ills.
There are not many choices open to us. None would be inclined, nor will have the ability, to reverse the inevitable march of knowledge based revolution and globalization.
Islamic nations have much to offer to the world, both in economic contributions as well as socio-political philosophies. These countries are inheritors of rich traditions of trade and cultural exchanges through the centuries, from highlands of north-eastern Eurasia to vast boundaries of Europe and Africa, both through the historical silk route and deep waters of Arabian and Mediterranean seas.
The Islamic world comprises a population of more than 1.5 billion people which is 23 % of the world population, including more than 835 million youth under the age of 24 years.
It has a combined GDP of $6.6 trillion, which is only 8 percent of the world GDP. Our countries are spread over a landmass which is 1/3rd of the world and possesses vast amount of world’s natural resources. We connect East with the West yet our exports are only 14 % of the global exports. Average GDP per capita in 57 Islamic countries is $ 4,900 which is slightly less than half of the global average of $10,400. Despite sporadic efforts over the last 50 years, we have failed to realize our true potential.
We need to make sustained efforts for rapid social and economic development of our people and contribute towards growth in the world economy.However, we need to identify the factors, which are inhibiting growth in Islamic countries and also learn from the experiences of those who have spearheaded the journey of development in the last few decades.
In my view, there are five important transitions for which we need to make accelerated progress in our countries.
First, apart from responsible exploitation of our physical resources, we need to focus on Human Resource Development and scientific advancement. Today only 1% of scientific research articles are produced in Muslim countries while according to European authors of History of Science, almost ninety (90%) percent of scientific literature during Middle Ages was published by Muslim scientists.
Second, we need to quickly move from mere consumption to increased production of economic goods and services.
Third, we must transform our natural resource and cheap labor-based economies to private sector-led and value-added economies.
Fourth, we need to adopt inclusive and collaborative growth models to provide for a wider spread and benefits to our people.
Last, we need to focus on transparent and merit based governance with greater focus on performance and service delivery. We must remember that information revolution has exposed our people to global benchmarks in development and quality of life.
Islamic countries will also serve as the gateway to economic opportunities hitherto untapped in the vast hinterland of central Asia and Southern China. Countries of the region are presently working on landmark projects of road-connectivity and economic development that will open up these areas to wider opportunities of trade and commerce.
Islamic system of finance may provide answers to the multi-faceted problems of an interest based financial system.
The assets of banks and financial institutions practicing Islamic finance have now reached an impressive US $1.3 trillion. 375 banks and financial institutions practice dedicated Islamic finance while another 110 conventional banks and financial institutions offer Islamic finance windows. The globally listed and traded Islamic Sukuk market has expanded rapidly in the last 7 years to reach nearly $500 billion mark. These are very encouraging signs as Islamic finance explores new markets and is no longer confined to Muslim countries.
There are no inhibitions that prevent the Islamic countries from cooperating with the rest of the world. Our problems and challenges are no different than those faced in other parts of the world. We need energy, water, infrastructure, trade and investment for bringing economic development to our people. Poverty remains a major concern that can only be addressed through rapid economic growth which, in turn, requires foreign investment and expanded trade markets within the developed world.
We must remember that future of all mankind is now interdependent and no part or region of the world can achieve sustained progress in isolation. Religions and cultures, in fact, provide the much desired diversity to mankind. Technological and scientific advancement should serve as tools for human development rather than conflict and destruction. It is a sacred duty of all leaders of the world to strive for sustainable human development irrespective of all other considerations.
The economic pursuit in this world should not be viewed as a zero-sum game, which inevitably will promote antagonism and destructive competition. Allah has bestowed provisions for all mankind in the resources of this world. Together we can lead the world to a life of peace and prosperity. We need to reject divisive ideologies and pursue our common destiny. I sincerely believe that this forum continues to provide a platform for constructive and innovative thinking in this regard.
I thank you all for giving me an opportunity to share my views on this Forum.