Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I first of all say what a great pleasure it is for me to be with you this morning. I really am delighted to be able to join this special conference to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Development Bank and to congratulate you on the positive difference it has made throughout the world in its years.
But before we continue with the business of the conference, and while others have already done so, may I also add my tribute to those already paid to Zaki Badawi, who should have been here today. It is particularly fitting that I should do so here, for it was Zaki who first introduced me to the Islamic Development Bank. Zaki's brand of wisdom scholarship, far sightedness and, above all, humour has ensured that Zaki played an extraordinarily important role in the life of this country and amongst our Muslim communities, not least for the role he played in encouraging the development of Shariah - compliant financial products and services. His presence will be sorely missed, but his hard won legacy will, I hope, provide a fitting tribute to a truly remarkable and warm-hearted man. For me, it was an immense privilege and joy to have known someone as special for whom I had the greatest possible admiration and affection whose advice and friendship I valued most highly. May God rest his dear soul.
As some of you may know, I have taken a special interest in Islamic financial services ever since I met Iqbal Khan of HSBC in 2001 – and I am delighted to see that he is here today. Since we first met, I am so very pleased with the progress which has been made to promote Islamic banking products more widely, both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. One milestone of which I am particularly proud is my Prince's Trust's success in developing a Shariah - compliant framework for Muslim entrepreneurs.
I am also delighted to note that since I last shared a platform with both the President of the IDB and Professor Rifaat Ahmed Abdel Karim in 2004, there have been further legislative changes in the United Kingdom to ensure a level playing field, such as the elimination of double stamp duty in 2004. I am amazed to learn that the value of the Sharia - compliant home finance market is likely to exceed £1.4 billion by 2009 and I hope that, where appropriate and where it is possible, the Islamic Development Bank will play a constructive and innovative part in facilitating the growth of this market.
I also hope that the City of London, as one of the World's leading financial centres, will live up to its reputation for leadership and innovation and grasp the great potential of such an opportunity.
The Islamic Development Bank's commitment to fostering economic development and social progress is, of course, entirely appropriate for an organization founded upon the basic principles of Islamic law, with its emphasis upon justice and fairness. If I may say so, Mr President, the Islamic Development Bank's approach reflects the famous verse in the Qu'ran: “that wealth may not merely circulate between the rich among you” (Qu'ran 59:7).
The Islamic Development Bank also recognises what individuals and small communities can achieve if they are in a position to help themselves, with its emphasis upon programmes which promote smaller scale enterprises and provide microfinance. Time and time again, I have seen the dramatic improvements which result from such initiatives, assisting communities achieve a degree of self-sufficiency in places where their prospects would otherwise be bleak. Assistance of this kind enables people to fulfil their true potential and take their futures into their own hands. This, I believe, is the real way to create the conditions for truly sustainable development. I know that later today you will hear more about these issues and the role the Islamic Development Bank is playing in Africa and I am only sorry I cannot be with you to hear what will be, I am sure, some interesting and thought-provoking speeches.
The Islamic Development Bank's approach in many ways reflects my own views about these issues and, in particular, helping people fulfil their potential and encouraging their self-esteem has, in various ways, been one of the guiding principles of my various charities. I hope that you might be aware of the ways in which my Prince's Trust has provided practical and financial support to help young people realize their potential. This not only enables them to transform their own lives, but also to make a real difference to the wider community. By way of example, over the last twenty two years The Prince's Trust business programme has supported 65,000 entrepreneurs and created 100,000 new jobs. And I am certain that, with the support of the Islamic Development Bank, my charities will be able to increase their efforts to address the challenges we face in Britain's cities and help those younger British Muslims who feel they have little or no stake in society, to play a fuller part in the country's affairs by promoting community and entrepreneurial development.
I particularly hope that the Islamic Development Bank's role as a leading provider of microfinance will also be able to make a significant contribution to Youth Business International, one of the programmes led by my International Business Leaders' Forum, an organization which is, I think, well known to the Islamic Development Bank. Youth Business International has successfully built on the concepts behind my Prince's Trust in this country by establishing initiatives in over thirty countries. It already has programmes in Saudi Arabia and Syria and it is working with potential partners to develop similar youth business initiatives in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine.
I hope that Youth Business International will be able to play a greater role in the Middle East and, indeed, all the member states of the Islamic Development Bank, to address the huge challenge of creating the millions of jobs which are required if there is to be any chance of reducing the alarmingly high levels of youth unemployment in those countries.
Given the importance, sometimes I fear underrated, of small and medium sized enterprises in creating new jobs, I believe it is so important we encourage young people to set up their own businesses and give them extra skills. However, as I am sure you are all aware, young people face many challenges in doing so, not least of which is access to start up money, and this is why the availability of microfinance will be vital if these young entrepreneurs are to have any chance of creating the jobs which are so desperately needed. I am certain that if it is possible to harness the Islamic Development Bank's resources with YBI's experience and skills, we will have created a powerful combination, properly equipped to address these challenges.
I am, therefore, delighted that the Islamic Development Bank has entered into an agreement to work with my charities in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world to address these issues of common concern and I hope that this will be a successful and proactive partnership for many years to come.
Mr President, my charities are greatly looking forward to working with you and your colleagues in the months and years ahead to make the most of this remarkable opportunity to help address serious and important challenges which Britain and the Islamic world face today.
Moreover, I very much hope that what we achieve together in the future, as a result of this agreement, will be a fitting and lasting tribute to Zaki Badawi and the values and principles he stood for.
Mr President, may I conclude by thanking you for your timely and generous support for my charities, by observing that it must be highly auspicious that both my Prince's Trust and the IDB are celebrating their 30th Anniversaries, and by wishing the Islamic Development Bank my very best wishes for a successful conference and for its work in the future.