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President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan has called on the Muslim world to create a multi-billion dollar fund for research and development in order to compete with the developed world.

The president urged Islamic governments to invest more in science and technology in Islamabad, Pakistan, on 16 February at the opening of a meeting of the standing committee on scientific and technological cooperation of the Organisation of Islamic Conference.

“Today we are the poorest, the most illiterate, the most backward, the most unhealthy, the most un-enlightened, the most deprived, and the weakest of all the human race,” Musharraf told the delegates to the meeting, which was attended by ministers from 40 Muslim countries.

He pointed to the fact that the collective gross domestic product (GDP) of the Islamic countries was about US$1,200 billion, less than one quarter the figure for Japan, and only just higher than the GDP of Germany.

One reason for this disparity, he suggested, is that Muslim countries have failed to address educational and scientific development adequately. To correct this, Musharraf proposed that Islamic countries should create more scholarships to allow bright students to study abroad and return with the skills needed to raise their countries out of poverty.

The Pakistani leader also called for the creation of more centres of excellence in science and technology. He pointed out that there are only 430 universities in the Islamic world, while Japan alone has 1,000. Similarly the entire Muslim world produces 500 PhDs in sciences every year; in contrast, the United Kingdom alone produces 3,000.