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Issac John / 12 February 2013
His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Monday kept an assemblage of more than 2,000 people spellbound with his candid, bold and inspiring style as he fielded questions from citizens and journalists at the Government Summit at Madinat Jumeirah, the first of its kind regional initiative hosted in Dubai.
In a relaxed but impassionate style, Shaikh Mohammed answered umpteen questions raised by members of the public and the media at an unprecedented interactive dialogue session.
Questions raised by people from various walks of life, from children to government employees, members of the media and visitors to the UAE, ranged from his style of governance, his aspirations, risk-taking drive, challenges, his passion for poetry, horses and sports, the Arab Spring impact, his vision for the UAE and his role-model leaders, to his life philosophy, importance of positive attitude, empowerment of women, his dreams about the style of future government and his relentless endeavour to be the number one always.
He also dealt at length on the competitiveness of UAE and Dubai, the pillars of the UAE Vision 2021 and the emphasis of the country on education, empowerment and Emiratisation.
At the rare but awe-inspiring public interactive session, Shaikh Mohammed said there is no word such as “impossible” in UAE’s dictionary. “The word impossible was invented by people with limits.”
“There is no finish line to our development, excellence and growth aspirations,” he said. “The UAE seeks to have the best government in the world. And we are striving to achieve that goal,” he said.
“Life is all about challenges. Imagine a life without challenges. We should try to surmount the challenges rather than backing off from them.” He said during his 41 years of leadership, he had come across countless challenges. “As long as we have the resolve to face it, we can surmount them provided we keep a positive frame of mind.” He said without taking risk, one couldn’t hope to achieve anything. “Do we have to stand still to avoid the risk of falling or stop flying for fear of an air crash.”
“Ever since I took a leadership role, I have encountered several challenges. But I never gave up and I never bowed to them,” he said.
He argued that taking risks and confronting challenges are part of life and urged leaders to be innovative and determined. “I have overcome many challenges in life by through persistence and positive power,” he pointed out.
He also dealt at length on the government’s national priorities to achieve the 2021 vision, which he launched three years ago aiming to make the UAE one of the most advanced countries in the world.
“My nation and I, we always try to be the first, because no-one remembers the second,” he said, addressing the first question of why he insists on being number one.
“There is nothing wrong in aspiring to be number one. If one feels that is not possible, he will fail. If you have the slightest doubt on your ability, you will fail.”
On why he insisted on the immediate implementation of his programmes, Shaikh Mohammed said, “what we can do today, we should do now, and should not defer for tomorrow. And that tomorrow sometimes will never come.”
He urged government employees to strive for excellence to achieve the mission of better serving their country.
On his role-models, he said both Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his father Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum had inspired him with their leadership prowess and farsightedness.
On leadership, he said that while most leaders have inborn talent, it must also be continuously refined through education and practice. He said that the ideas he executes come from the people, explaining that the success of the UAE owes to the deep affection and love by the people for the country.
Stability will benefit region
Shaikh Mohammed refuted suggestions that the UAE had benefitted from the Arab Spring. He said that was not the case. “We received about Dh30 billion from Arab Spring countries, but we have invested much higher in them,” Shaikh Mohammed said. In terms of tourism, none of the Arab Spring countries formed part of the UAE’s 10 strategic nations that accounted for a major share of its tourist traffic of 10 million.
On the other hand, he insisted that stability in countries hit by the unrest would benefit the whole region including the UAE.
“If we had peace and stability, we would have more than 30 billion coming from those countries,” Shaikh Mohammed said.
Shaikh Mohammed said he was able to detect early signs of a possible revolution in the Arab region way back in 2004. He had advised leaders of those countries to “change or you will be changed”.
“The world will change. People need dignity and government expenditures have to benefit people,” he said.
“I can’t judge on current governments or revolutions. I hope Arab nations will achieve prosperity, peace and progress,” he said.
Always striving to achieve more
Speaking about his achievements, he said that while he was happy with what had been done so far, he was never satisfied.
He narrated an incident when a woman journalist asked him several years ago how much of his grand vision he could achieve so far. He replied he could only achieve 10 per cent of his vision and yet to accomplish the remaining 90 per cent. Then, two years later, after the construction of some of the iconic developments in Dubai, including Burj Khalifa and Metro, the same journalist approached him and asked how much more he had to achieve to fulfill his vision 100 per cent. He replied he could achieve only seven per cent and yet to strive to implement 93 per cent of his vision.
“If you have a long-term vision, it only gets broader as you keep learning from your mistakes,” he said.
“Always put your faith in God and be confident. Those determined can reach their ultimate goal,” Shaikh Mohammed added.
Passing relevant questions from the public to concerned ministers who were part of the audience, and recounting anecdotes from his life and his interaction with world leaders, Shaikh Mohammed also issued prompt directives, including an instruction to the Minister of Education to increase the number of teachers to be trained from 12,000 to 20,000, and promised a young student to visit her school on the first day of the next week.
Explaining the importance of hosting The Government Summit in Dubai, Shaikh Mohammed said that the event, attended by more than 2,500 delegates and over 100 international experts from over 30 countries, sheds light on the UAE’s model in government services.
He said that by sharing the UAE’s experience as well as by learning from the best practices of other countries, the nation is reiterating its Vision 2021 to be among the world’s most developed countries.
Shaikh Mohammed said that the role of governments is to work towards ensuring the equality, justice and happiness of people. He reminded government officials that they are serving people, and are entrusted with the authority to help them, not control them. He said that the future of government would be service-intensive, much like the hospitality and aviation services offering support to the public 24x7. He said that a one-stop shop for government services is the future.
Shaikh Mohammed said, in a response to a query, that the hope of the UAE is for all Arab people to live in prosperity and security, explaining that the core focus of governments must be to ensure the personal dignity of people and investing on their welfare.
Private firms must support nationalisation
He said that Emiratisation is the priority of the nation this year, and called upon the private sector, which has benefited from operating in the country, to support the nationalisation goals. Shaikh Mohammed added that education, empowerment and Emiratisation are the core strategies of the UAE’s growth.
Highlighting the success of women empowerment in the UAE, he said that 70 per cent of the country’s graduates are women, who also form 65 per cent of the governmental workforce, with 30 per cent in leadership positions. “Women are studious and are open to learning, and they have a bright future,” he said.
Shaikh Mohammed invited the UAE youth to draw lessons from presentations, workshops and roundtable discussions of the informative summit so as to enrich their knowledge and know-how in latest trends and international best practices in public administration and management, as well as leadership and other areas of interest.
Billed as the largest government gathering in the Arab world, the summit attracted 2,500 participants and includes speakers from specialised research centres in government development in Denmark, Canada, Australia, South Korea and Brazil, as well as the Middle East.
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