1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Sir John Major’s speech at the Prince’s Trust Dinner, held at Mosimann’s on Monday 29th June 2009.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
My theme tonight is -
Over the past few months, we’ve lived through economic and political events that have unsettled the previous view we had of the world.
A new Presidency has revived the perception of America. But Iraq is not yet secure. Iran is in flux. We are not winning the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan is facing an upsurge in militancy. Progress on the MEPP is bedevilled by mistrust between Israel and Palestine. Meanwhile the EU is locked in yet another institutional crisis while Russia is hurting economically and, once again, moving away from the West.
The backcloth to all this is the economic firestorm of the last few months: a time in which the unthinkable has become thinkable and the future uncertain.
Some of the signals are mixed. Exports are rising from a very low baseline. Some business surveys are more positive. Economic data is less bad.
There are other positive signs. Equity is now being raised in capital markets. The Banks generally -
But risks remain. Many financial institutions remain heavily over-
Government debt is at record highs in many countries. In countries like the UK, this raises the risk of higher taxation or rising interest rates to fund the deficit. This risk increases in the recovery phase when both governments and the Private Sector begin seeking loan funds.
Amid these mixed signals we can be sure that the economic world we are entering will be different.
We should be under no illusions. Free trade and market forces look much less attractive to the world than they did six months ago. Millions of people feel let down -
In the foreseeable future, policy makers will need to show that the free market is sound: and that they know how to curb the excesses.
It is certain that regulation will be tougher -
Some underlying fundamentals have not changed. China exemplifies the reality that, for over a decade, the economies of the emerging world have been star performers. Of course, the crisis hit China, too. But the speed and size of China’s fiscal stimulus suggests she is recovering well ahead of the Western economies. Certainly, unlike elsewhere, credit is expanding rapidly.
Other emerging economies will enjoy growth well ahead of their Western counterparts among them -
This hasn’t come about because the West became careless -
The moment Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit, we were in a new world: nothing in the 20th Century so accelerated change. That circuit was the forerunner of silicon chips. It led to the computer revolution. To the Digital Age. Without them, there would be no Silicon Valley; no Internet; no laptops; no Google; no iPods; no Blackberrys -
Science has not only changed how we live: medical science is changing the quality and length of our lives. A hundred years ago, no-
Whole new industries have emerged. Synthetic Biology has brought together science and engineering to design and build biological functions. New technologies are delivering better drugs to combat disease, promote genetic engineering, healthy food, better pesticides, the control and destruction of pollution, and advances in forensic medicine.
Scientists are examining how to combine computer chip technology with pharmaceutical research in order to target drugs to treat specific parts of the body. Imagine -
Such science is leading a revolution in medical care: advances in engineering techniques have given us insulin pumps for diabetes; cochlea implants for deafness; and there are realistic prospects of repairing nerve cells for sufferers of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. It may soon be possible to replace heart muscle cells. A few years ago, all this would have seemed like Black Magic. Soon, fantasy will become reality, with investment and commercial prospects that are simply staggering.
Population growth is also effecting change. At the time of Christ, world population was about 350 million. Over the next 19 Centuries, it grew by a little over one billion. Now, we are growing at nearly one billion every ten years. Most of this growing population is very poor: 3 billion -
Here is a cruel irony. As some nations reduce poverty and improve their own living standards, they drive up food prices. This is calamitous for even poorer nations. The arithmetic is simple: if one billion Indians -
The rich nations promise to help -
This statistic is even more bizarre when you realise such subsidies cut away the chance for poor nations to sell their agricultural produce -
Now, factor in future growth. Between now and 2050 it is estimated world population will grow by the equivalent of two more nations the size of China. Most of these 2½ billion people will be very poor. This is not a problem we can ignore.
Nor is climate change: hard-
We had better recognise coal, oil and gas are going to dominate energy supply for decades to come -
As dioxides rise, scientists warn of global warming of up to five degrees: this sounds small -
Nor do the time-
Politics is changing our world, too.
Fifty years ago, no-
The Soviet Union and the United States were the two super-
We worry about Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Arab-
We conflate Islam and fundamentalism: and yet fundamentalism is a perversion of Islam, that threatens it as much as us. Bin Laden hates the Saudis even more than he hates the Americans!
In its diversity, there are tensions between Christian, Muslim and Jew; Arab, Persian, Kurd and Turk; Shia and Sunni; between Monarchies and Republics; Secular and Islamic societies; Monarchies and Republics. Some countries have oil, some not. Some are large, others small.
The Middle East embraces nations in which references to the Prophet Mohammed, or the Old and New Testaments, are part of everyday conversation. For some -
It is a cauldron. It is not a liberal democracy.
Over the centuries we -
As we go forward, the West will need to take account of this. We cannot -
I have not talked tonight of our own country although, no doubt, many expected me to do so. I did not -