Prince Turki al-Faisal asserts Saudi Arabia can sustain neighboring countries

International experts believe Iranian crisis is global stability’s obsession, the new year’s challenge

Saudi justice minister says terrorism declines inside kingdom

Saudi prosecution accuses member of the 49 cell of practicing takfir against Arab leaders, financing terrorism

Prince Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, said that the culture of Islamic finance contributed mainly to maintain Saudi resilience in the face of global economic downturn.

The prince was delivering the keynote address at the Sixth Global Competitiveness Forum — “The Entrepreneurship Imperative”.

“Saudi Arabia’s success and resilience in the current global economic downturn was due in large part to the Kingdom’s culture of Islamic finance — most notably Islam’s insistence on debt being tied to real equity and real assets,” said Prince Turki, recalling that there was a genuine connection between risk and reward that forced participants to maintain reasonable levels of leverage.

“The same technocrats and wizards who absorbed Smith and Keynes and even Marx, were also driven by their innate Islamic background to be wary of greed and gambling.

Some did manage to play the system, of course, and they ended up suffering the same fate as Wall Street. But not dissimilar to political strains elsewhere, the Arab region faces its own backlash — one likely to change the status quo of yesteryear's policy structures across the region, especially our mechanisms of intra-regional political, security and financial coordination.” Prince Turki said the GCC remains largely an oil-driven economy.

He added: “2012 breakeven oil prices are just 20 percent away from current crude prices. As such, our focus will be on developing our domestic economies, increasing intra-regional trade alongside domestic demand in neighboring economies, and improving primary and secondary education with a focus toward math and science so our youth can better meet the challenges of more competitive labor markets."

Prince Turki said: “The manner in which the GCC manages all of the above will evolve, and people must not be surprised if they see us do things differently. We are redoubling efforts to evolve the GCC by taking it from a body for cooperation, to a body for unity and coherence in policy at all levels. As we witness a re-organization of this scale, and given a number of regional and global factors working to our advantage, Gulf countries will be called upon to take a greater role in global financial organizations, through greater representation and involvement in world financial affairs."

He said: “Better surveillance of the financial system, regulatory reform and the restoration of market discipline will prove elusive if emerging economies, the GCC included, are not adequately represented within these important yet developing institutions. This is inevitable and only fair when considering the role of financiers of last resort that our countries have played in the past few years and will continue to play in the coming years.”

The prince said his reference to Islamic finance might be “toxic” to some in the audience. “I tell them, open your minds to thinking out of the box.”

The prince said the world continued to be “a fragile place” and the global downturn had not yet run its full course.

He added: “There is slow fragile growth. The financial crisis was born and developed in the West and yet hit hard throughout the world. The solution lies in going back to the basics, in adopting an approach to keep borrowers and lenders to be in true touch with the economy, but this new economic order is yet to be reflected.”

The prince said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would look to play a larger role in the economic system, which will require a major increase in its lending resources with the assistance of large emerging economies including China, India or Saudi Arabia.

“What we can be certain of, is that large developing nations will not provide greater funds without more say in the IMF’s affairs.”

“From our part of the world it is incumbent what we can secure our future and stability with further tectonic shifts in the global order,” he added.

The Prince recalled the history of Saudi Arabia’s establishment and growth, and said there was a need to reinvent an entrepreneurial spirit that is essential to build a solid base.

Speaking about the greatest challenge for Saudi Arabia now, he said: “Our society is one of the youngest in the world with 75 percent of the population under 30 and 60 percent under 21, therefore the challenge is how to succeed in absorbing them into our economy. We need to train them to be competitive.

Competitiveness depends on the creativity of people and this depends on education and entrepreneurship. Only through education can they take their true place in the world.”

It is for this reason, the prince said, 25 percent of this year’s national budget is being spent on education.

“The spirit of enterprise has touched a whole new sector of education. Reviewing economic and education policies is not an option, it is an imperative,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkareem Al-Isa, Saudi Minister of Justice, reported that terror crime in Saudi Arabia is declining, citing his government's strenuous illumination program, decisive crackdown on criminal suspects and strong and fair judicial system and rule enforcement.

In a meeting with his U.S. counterpart Erick Holder and senior officials of the U.S. justice department, Al-Isa said the Kingdom's judiciary is protecting rights and legal freedoms, drawing attention that everyone should pay attention to the difference between freedom and chaos, and liberty and anti-state breach of law.

He quoted the most recent modern theories as vowing that freedom and responsibility are twins, whoever separated they both face death.

On donations and terror finance, he said his country's government has recently taken firm and strong measures to stop this phenomenon, citing new legislations and effective executive tools in addition to sending any suspect to stand trial.

Isa met with US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

During the meeting, they discussed issues of common interest.

Dr. Al-Isa briefed the US official on the march of developing judiciary in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia within the framework of the Judiciary Development Project of the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

He also said that the Saudi judiciary provides strong guarantees that enhance confidence bestowed on the judiciary as a protector of rights and freedom.

In a press statement following the meeting, Dr. Al-Isa said that 'The Saudi judiciary is clear and based on the Holy Quran and Sunnah.'

Isa and the accompanying delegation have visited the premises of Nasdaq stock-exchange, within the official visit he is currently making to the United States of America.

Minister of Justice and the accompanying delegation were briefed on how the stock-exchange works.

On the occasion, Isa confirmed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia cherishes no other banner or identity but the moderate vision of Islam.

On the other hand, the Specialist Penal Court resumed the trials of 49 men – 36 Saudis, 4 Egyptians, 2 Yemenis, 2 Chadians, 2 Sudanese, 2 Syrians and one Nigerian – accused of terrorism charges.

The session was attended by the 21st and 22nd defendants. The Prosecution General read out the charges against the defendants.

The judge said they could seek a lawyer.

The defendants, however, said they would reply to the charges themselves.

The session was attended by media and human rights officials.