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There is no finish line to our development: Mohammed

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.


His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice- President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai addressing in The Government Summit in Madinat Jumeirah Dubai on Monday. 11,February,2012. –KT Photo by Shihab

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.

A man for all reasons

He is a man for all reasons. He walks the talk. As a visionary leader, poet, sports enthusiast and a champion horse rider, Shaikh Mohammed excels in whatever he does.

Narrating an incident during the Gulf Cup, he said he had injured his leg in his excitement as he watched the UAE team scoring the winning goal at the final of the tournament.

“I was watching the thriller with my colleagues and I could not hold my excitement when our team shot the last goal. I kicked my leg hitting a table and got hurt,” he said as he explained the spirit of the union.

On his daily personal routine, Shaikh Mohammed said he leads a simple life, while dedicating significant time to pursuing his hobbies of horse-riding and poetry.

He also talked at length on his two favourite subjects — poetry and horse-riding. “To be a good equestrian, one must love horses, and they do reciprocate. Poets see what others cannot see. They are very sensitive and look at life in a different way.”

He said a poetic mind would help polish the sense of leadership.

On the link between sports and leadership, he said it is paramount that leaders should keep physically fit and alert through regular exercise. “I wake up every day at 6am. Walks three kilometres every day. Once in a week, I walk 10 kilometres, and once in a month even 20 kilometres a day.”

issac@khaleejtimes.com

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.

Victory and ‘I love you’

Amanda Fisher

DUBAI - The mystery behind a secret symbol created by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai,  was revealed at a region-first Government Summit.

At Monday’s keynote speech, on the first of the two-day session, Shaikh Mohammed answered dozens of questions from ordinary members of the public. One of the questions that had clearly been plaguing the tens of thousands who sent questions to Dubai’s Ruler, was the meaning behind Shaikh Mohammed’s signature three-fingered salute — which has been seen on occasions such as the recent victory of the UAE football team during the Gulf Football Cup.

Talking about why he had his own sign rather than using the common two-fingered victory or peace sign, Shaikh Mohammed said: “Why do we have to follow suit? Why do we have to follow the West?”

“This is my own invention (so) I will just give you clues,” Shaikh Mohammed told the entertained audience, before giving a full insight into the sign’s significance.

The first two fingers symbolised victory, while the third finger helped represent a three-word phrase: “I love you”.

But Shaikh Mohammed was not altogether convinced he should have revealed the meaning.

“If I unlock the...secret then you’ll get used to it and you’ll do it all the time, and it would be something very risky.”

However, he issued a warning after divulging the secret: “I don’t want to see everybody tomorrow in the shopping centres doing the same sign.”

amanda@khaleejtimes.com

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.

Rich investment leads to richer future

Salah Al Deberky

DUBAI - Political stability, strong leadership and outstanding infrastructure are some of the key factors that have contributed towards the success of Dubai and Abu Dhabi as some of the world’s top cities, according to a speech delivered at the Government Summit on Monday.

Under the theme ‘Government Services in Global Cities’, Chairman of the board and CEO of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) Matter Al Tayer and General Manager of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council Falah Al Ahbabi, addressed the audience with a discussion revealing the secrets behind the success experienced by the two emirates, with directions on how to mirror such achievements in other cities.

Al Tayer stated that the Dubai government has earmarked a total of Dh75 billion to handle the traffic congestion in the emirate. Since its initiation at the end of 2005, the RTA spent, up till now, Dh68 billion on various projects aimed towards solving the traffic jam problem witnessed in the emirate.

He deemed such an achievement as a significant indicator to the sagacious leadership and patronage bestowed by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The political stability, he said, is considered the second important factor behind the success of the emirate of Dubai, which contributed towards making it one of the top cities in the world. He said the key behind its rapid development was the way it took advantage of its strategic location in the trade exchange with the world countries until the value of trade swap reached Dh1.3 billion.

Al Tayer said around nine million tourists visit Dubai every year, while the outstanding infrastructure of Dubai played a chief role in attracting investment to it: “The investment volume in the infrastructure reached Dh250 billion,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Al Ahbabi affirmed that the emirate of Abu Dhabi has been subject to a wide range of transformation over the past five years, derived from the Abu Dhabi strategic vision 2030, to divert the city of Abu Dhabi in to becoming a world city that could be indulged in the world economy.

Al Ahbabi pointed out that Abu Dhabi topped a list of the best cities according to the Middle East report in 2012.

salah@khaleejtimes.com

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.

Service-intensive government

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.

Social media is set to boost govt services

Amanda Fisher

DUBAI - Dubai’s government officials need to stop being afraid of social media and provide better services to the public, the School of Government boss says.

Executive president Tariq Helal Lootah said Government agencies were scared they did not have the capabilities to have strong online services that would not break down or would be used effectively.

“The fear is there, definitely. You have to have strong management of  IT and make sure you deliver the services smoothly, 24/7...so customers don’t lose rights, especially when it comes to financial (rights).”

He said many government agencies did not have a culture of being “pro-IT” which led to a negative attitude towards technology and social media.

“Some of the managers will always want to go back to traditional (methods), not changing things, not improving things.

“(But) it’s not an option for us in government (anymore). The (leaders) have asked the agencies to...convert their services online.”

While there was no profit for government in using social media — unlike the private sector where using it translated into business opportunities — agencies needed to place customer service as their main driver.

Lootah made the comments after a session at the region’s first Government Summit, exploring social media as a tool for citizen engagement.

Lootah referenced a recent survey the school had undertaken of both government departments and citizens, with the results concluding that both wanted more online services, but fear was shown on both parts.

“People always fear using electronics and their discussions online because they either lack the knowledge or they don’t have confidence in the system. They always fear they’ll make a mistake...and they’ll have to go back and do it again,” Lootah said.

Others worried it may affect their privacy, he said.

The current aim is to move 50 per cent of government services online, while His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai said during his keynote speech at the summit that his vision for the future of Government included employees being able to carry out all of their work on their mobile phones.

Vice President of Italy’s Gartner Group, a technology research group, Andrea Di Maoi, who also participated in the social media session, cited a variety of examples where Government had harnessed social media in their operations.

The Italian government had previously used Google maps and photo-sharing websites including Flicker to determine whether citizens were under-representing the value of their houses.

“It’s interesting that in areas of tax compliance, Government employees started looking at social networks to find out how we can catch the people who don’t pay tax.”

There were other positive ways of carrying out activities through social media, he said, referring back to the flooding witnessed several years ago in Australia, where social networks such as Facebook and Twitter were used to alert authorities to the areas where people needed help.

While there were risks to using social media, they were no greater than any other form of communication, such as email, as the same rules of conduct still applied, he said.

amanda@khaleejtimes.com

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.

issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

 Courtesy: Youtube.com/Sheikhmohammed.ae

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