SPEECH AT THE WORLD ISLAMIC ECONOMIC FORUM
We are just 13 years into this young century.
And in that short time we have seen all the old economic certainties turned on
First, in terms of financial stability.
When we entered the third millennium, economic systems seemed sound, secure
We thought financial crashes were just grim chapters in history books.
We were even told there would be ‘no return to boom and bust’.
And yet in 2008 we were plunged into the biggest recession since the Second
With markets collapsing, commodity prices rocketing…
…redundancies, bankruptcies, and terrible, tough times for millions of people.
The impact was so huge that we are only just beginning to set foot on the path
to prosperity once more.
At the same time, the global map of economic power was being redrawn, with
new markets emerging.
Britain found itself in a global race with new economic powers like Turkey,
Qatar and Indonesia.
Now 10 of the world’s 25 fastest growing economies are in the Muslim world.
Their rapid rise is staggering.
Back in 2000, 24 of the Fortune Global 500 companies were based in emerging
By 2025, it will be 230 – nearly half.
In the late 80s my father set up his own manufacturing business.
If you’d have told him then that in just three decades, some his biggest
competitors would come from China, he would never have believed you.
Nor would he have believed how technology could reshape the world.
How science could connect communities, empower consumers, link businesses
and make a very large planet a lot smaller.
There is no denying the extent to which the global economy has changed.
The question is: what role can governments play?
As a centre-right politician, I don’t believe it’s the job of government to create
I believe it’s the job of government to create the conditions for businesses to
grow and to thrive.
As an avid cricket fan, let me put it like this:
As politicians, we are the ones who roll the pitch, who create that perfect
It’s your job, as business people, to go and bowl that killer ball or hit that six.
And I think the UK government has chalked up an impressive tally:
Easing regulatory restrictions.
Cutting red tape.
Curbing interest rates by cutting the deficit.
And supporting venture capitalists.
Fast-tracking entrepreneurs’ visas.
Making corporation tax the lowest in the G7.
Leading internationally on tax, trade and transparency.
And restoring confidence to show, clearly, that Britain is open for business.
Let me fly the flag for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Because it is
government’s secret weapon.
When it comes to rolling the pitch and creating the conditions for business, we
are right there, creating the relationships.
As someone who comes from the world of business, I know it’s not just good
products and prices – it’s about good relationships.
My ministerial colleagues and I use our role at the FCO as a platform to create,
enhance and solidify our international relationships.
Every overseas visit is a potential opportunity for British business.
It is commercial diplomacy.
Because trade is based on trust.
And fostering lasting friendships creates the backdrop for business.
It was 18 months ago, on a visit to Indonesia and Malaysia, that I was
convinced of the potential for the growth of Islamic finance.
I made it my personal priority.
It’s why we set up the first ministerial-led Islamic finance task force, and it’s
been a real pleasure to lead it.
And from Malaysia to the Gulf, banging the drum for Britain, one thing came
across loud and clear:
The Muslim world wanted Britain to enter the capital market with an Islamic
bond – a sukuk.
And it wanted to see an Islamic finance market that never sleeps.
Now there were many that said this can’t be done.
But with pragmatism, political will, and downright Yorkshire stubbornness, I’m
delighted that Britain has committed to becoming the first country outside the
Muslim work to issue a sukuk.
Islamic finance should matter to everyone.
Because everyone can reap the rewards of a stronger, diversified, ethical
Napoleon once described Britain as a nation of shopkeepers.
I take that as a compliment – it demonstrates our country’s resourcefulness and
commitment to trade.
But I would add to that.
We are a nation of shopkeepers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, designers,
developers, academics, inventors, and now, Islamic financiers.
And we are very much ready to do business in a changing world.