5th Term 1st Year, 1430 - 1431 A.H.
King Abdullah Opens Activities of Shoura's Fifth Year for the First Session
Praise be to the Almighty Allah and peace be upon His prophet, Mohammad,
Brothers, members of the Shoura Council,
Peace be upon you,
Praying for Allah's blessings, support and guidance, we open the deliberations of the first year of the fifth session of the Shoura Council praying to Allah to bless all our efforts and make our work sincere to Him.
It is a blessing bestowed on us by Allah that we annually meet to learn lessons from the past and look forward to the future in light of the surrounding circumstances and developments and available capabilities and potentials. Last year's challenges were numerous and grave. But, with the grace and guidance of Allah and then due to the efforts of our sincere people, we managed to respond to these challenges with great capability that enabled us to maintain the achievements and gains for the homeland and citizen and continue the march of development.
We have learned from our national course during the last years that dialogue is an effective way to boost understanding and formulate common visions and hence we sought to utilize this course to spread the culture of tolerance and dialogue in the international community.
Wars, conflicts and the accompanying concept of the clash of civilizations have weakened the values of love and peace in the international community. Religions were forced into conflicts and the course of extremism. The international community was overcome by negative phenomena threatening its security and stability and spreading animosity and hatred among the peoples. This situation put on us an Islamic and human responsibility that pushed us to take the lead in diagnosing the international reality and present what we see as a civilization project to get out of the ethical and political malfunction dilemma.
The Makkah Call to all peoples and governments of the world of various religions and cultures came to define the Islamic vision and course of action toward the ethical crisis, political differences and cultural clash surrounding humanity. This Islamic vision constituted a basis for dialogue with the other concerning all problems and calamities surrounding our contemporary world. It also defined the basis for confronting the cultural challenge for the Islamic World and laid the foundations for an international policy seeking to re-formulate the contemporary international relations according to a new concept spreading the culture of tolerance and dialogue, serving peace and stability and providing reassurance and prosperity to all peoples of the world.
The Madrid Conference for World Dialogue constituted the next step in activating the Islamic vision of the relations among countries and peoples. In this conference, I presented the message of the Islamic Ummah (Nation) to the whole world. Though it, I announced that Islam is the religion of moderation and tolerance and I called for constructive dialogue among the followers of religions and cultures with the aim of opening a new chapter in the history of humanity in which love and concord replace tension and conflict and we sought through this message to focus on the human commonality among the followers of religions and cultures and underscore the noble values of each religion and culture while respecting the peculiarity of each creed and culture.
Our efforts to spread the culture of dialogue and tolerance were culminated in holding the Summit of Dialogue among the Followers of Religions and Cultures at the United Nations. This summit was characterized by its international feature in light of the number and diversity of countries which participated in it. We used the forum of the United Nations to mobilize international political support with the aim of accelerating the spread of the culture of tolerance and dialogue and transforming the common human goals to actual practices in the behavior of peoples and course of governments. Then, I reminded the international community that focusing on points of differences among the followers of religions and cultures leads to fanaticism and sows seeds of sedition and animosity. In turn, this creates conflicts that might take the form of destructive wars which are not justified by any divine religion or ethical principle. The New York Declaration came at the conclusion of the Dialogue Summit to support the visions and thoughts we introduced on fighting the negative phenomena threatening the security and stability of the international community and undermining the principle of fraternity among the peoples. The Declaration called for supporting the international initiatives calling for the respect of human rights among the followers of various religions, protection of the environment, spread of education and fighting poverty, narcotics and crime while underlining the positive contribution of religions and human and ethical values to confronting the common challenges.
In the recent months, the world witnessed a severe financial crisis followed by violent economic shocks suffered by all. Your country was not far away from the economic consequences of the world financial crisis. Therefore, your government blessed the international efforts aiming at confronting this financial crisis. Within this approach, we participated in the meeting of the Economic 20 Summit in Washington, the United States of America, with the aim of containing the financial crisis and curtailing its effects on the peoples. This crisis exposed some negative aspects and the noticeable deficiency of monitoring the financial sectors especially at the world financial centers leading to the speedy spread of the crisis and its effects. The crisis also showed that it is not possible to depend on the mechanism of the market in its traditional concept to achieve world financial stability which created an urgent need for developing institutions and regulations for monitoring of the world financial sectors.
A phase of the world economic and financial order has ended and a new one has begun to materiallize. We hope this phase will be characterized by the objective controls which achieve financial stability, economic security and social welfare for the peoples of the world. A source of optimism that the current crisis will be overcome is the existence of the political will by leaders of the world's countries, especially the countries influencing the world economy, to contain this crisis and curtail its effects. Unprecedented international financial measures have been taken. They boost confidence that this crisis will be overcome and then the world financial markets will stabilize and the growth of world economies will return. In our vision of the financial crisis, we focused on the importance of the donor countries and international financial institutions' shouldering of their responsibilities toward the developing nations especially the poor ones which suffered most from the effects of the crisis.
On regional issues, Israel continues its atrocities against the defenseless Palestinian people. The killing of the peaceful, the destruction of the infrastructure and the displacement of residents in Gaza Strip in Palestine embody the continuation of the Israeli course based on the sinful aggression against the peoples and the flagrant violation of human rights, the values of justice and principles of peace. It is also a dangerous indication of the loss of international peace and security reached by the state of the international community. If this aggression continues, it will lead the whole region of the Middle East to the brink of abyss and this will threaten world peace.
As we appreciate the heroic steadfastness of the persevering and struggling Palestinian people in front of the vicious Israeli war machine, we at the same time call on all Palestinian factions to overcome their differences and unify their efforts as the unity and independence of the national decision of the Palestinian people are the guarantee for their national rights and source of strength in resisting the enemy. We also call on governments and organizations of the international community to shoulder their responsibilities toward achieving a just, permanent and comprehensive peace in the region based on the full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab lands, reaching a just solution of the problem of the Palestinian refugees and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with Alquds Alsharif as its capital. As we bless all international initiatives and efforts to reach a just solution of the Palestinian cause and end the tragedy of the Palestinian people, we see the Arab Peace Initiative which enjoyed international support as the ideal choice for solving the Palestinian cause and achieving lasting peace in the region. The responsibility of achieving peace in the region lies on the shoulders of Israel which resisted fulfillment of its commitments toward the requirements of peace and continued its oppressive practices in the Palestinian lands including the building of more settlements, ignoring the international resolutions and demands. The values of justice and peace in the international community will remain meaningless as long as the Palestinian people continues to live in daily suffering and Israel continues in its vicious practices.
The national issues occupy the priority in your government's attention. What makes us reassured and optimistic on a bright future for your country is the peace and security prevailing in the homeland, the development in it and the standard of living and welfare enjoyed by the Saud citizen. Despite the severe financial and economic crises which occurred in the world and the resultant effects including the fall of oil prices in world markets to low prices, your government abided by its development plans and financial appropriations devoted to them. This is due to the grace of Allah and then to the firm bases of the Saudi economy and the sound financial policies we adopt.
The issuance of the general budget of the state for the current fiscal year and its main headlines and figures came to provide welfare for the citizen and the homeland and to reiterate the strength of the economic situation of your country and the soundness of its financial course.
The budget included new development programs and projects whose total value exceeds SR225 billion with an increase of 36 percent over what was approved in last year's budget. The preparation of the budget took into consideration the investment of the financial resources of the state in a way that achieves the requirements of the comprehensive and sustainable development with giving priority to the services that directly affect the citizen including the educational, health and social services.
The last year's budget (2008) achieved a record surplus of SR590 billion, which is the largest since the state's budget began to achieve surpluses. The public debt of the state at the end of fiscal year (2008) fell to SR237 billion decreasing the percentage of the public debt to gross domestic product to about 13.5 percent for the fiscal year (2008) compared to (18.7%) at the end of 2007.
In conclusion, I appreciate your council's efforts and initiatives which contributed to the accomplishment of achievements and rationalizing national decisions. Your council will always enjoy the trust of the leadership and the appreciation of government and citizen. I pray to Allah to keep our country safe, secure and stable and to guide us to work for the good of our religion, homeland and citizens. He is capable of all things. Peace be upon you.
Then, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques inaugurated the electronic transaction program of the Shoura Council by touching the electronic screen, saying "In the name of Allah and the blessing of Allah".
Following that, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, princes and the audience watched a film about the electronic program.
Then, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques laid the foundation stone for the expansion of the Shoura Council by touching the electronic screen, saying "In the name of Allah and the blessing of Allah".
Following that, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, princes and the audience watched a film about the project.
Following that, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques shook hands with the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom and Chairman of Senior Ulema, Scientific Research and Ifta Commission Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Al-Sheikh and a number of Ulema and Sheikhs.
Then, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud watched a model of the Shoura Council The opening ceremony was attended by Prince Misha'al bin Abdulaziz, Chairman of Allegiance-Pledge Commission; Prince Fahd bin Mohammed bin Abdulaziz; Prince Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General; Prince Miteb bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs; Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, Interior Minister, Prince Mamdouh bin Abdulaziz; Prince Abdul-Ellah bin Abdulaziz, Adviser to the King; Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz, Acting Governor of Riyadh Region; Prince Mohammed bin Saad bin Abdulaziz, Adviser to the Interior Minister; Prince Miqren bin Abdulaziz, Chief of General Intelligence; a number of princes; Grand Mufti of the Kingdom; President of Supreme Judiciary Council; Ulema; Sheikhs; Ministers; senior civil and military officials; and members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Kingdom.