We stand with Saudi Arabia through thick and thin: Sheikh Mohammed
Ruler of Dubai talks about how reforms in the kingdom will have a major impact on the Middle East.
In an interview with Ghassan Charbel of Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, His Highness Shiekh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, talks about how reforms in the kingdom will have a major impact on the Middle East
Does the return of American-Iranian tensions affect investment in the Gulf?
Tensions in our region is nothing new. It is practically a constant that has existed for 40 years. Despite this, the cycle of construction and development has not stopped and neither have the investments. In our region, specifically the Gulf Cooperation Council, the incentives for foreign investment are growing, from Kuwait to Oman, passing through all Gulf countries. Moreover, investors know that effective investment is marked by sustainability and they are not simply swayed by moments of tension or a passing development.
You took part in the Future Investment Initiative. You took a firm stance in solidarity with Saudi Arabia against the campaign that is targeting it after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. How do you assess the current transformation in Saudi Arabia?
We always stand with Saudi Arabia, through thick and thin. Our bilateral ties are bolstered through the Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council. We look forward to building a complementary model that supports the GCC and joint Arab work.
I also look with optimism and hope at the massive development and modernisation operation in the Kingdom. Vision 2030 demands our brothers to work around the clock to implement its projects and programmes. They are capable of accomplishing it and they know that the goals of the plan are not a choice. They are necessary to confront current and future challenges. Saudi Arabia is a young society, more than half the population is under the age of 30. They need job opportunities. Above all, they need modern education and an environment that is open to change and modernity. Moreover, the developments and changes in the global economy demand the diversification of the economy and reducing dependence on natural resources. This is what Vision 2030 is preparing for.
Do you share Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's belief that the Middle East can become the new Europe?
Yes, and I do not see a relationship between conflicts and developments and modernisation. I believe that conflicts offer further motivation to adopt modernisation and development. Can you competently manage a crisis if you do not have the appropriate tools of the age? Can old circumstances, methods and ways of thinking produce anything else than the products that they had yielded before?
I am optimistic about the future. I always look as the glass as half full. As much as the "Arab Fall" was costly, its lessons were valuable. I believe that the majority of the leaderships in the Arab world have learned these lessons, which are that the winds of reforms, change and modernisation are blowing through the majority of our Arab world. They hold a promise of a real spring.
The Saudi Crown Prince said at the Future Investment Initiative that you lifted the bar high and many followed you.
Unfortunately, the prevalent mentality in the past centuries and the last one only saw human advancement as a threat to family and social bonds and a way towards moral degradation. They believed that Muslims will eventually inherit the earth. Such a mentality not only widened the gap with the advanced world, but also created backwardness that sought to search for the solutions of the present in the world of the past that is long gone.
In the UAE and Dubai, we have to boldly develop our reality from within and with all of its components. We had to change and modernise the ways of thinking and working. We had to build mechanisms that can meet the challenge of advancement in economy, culture and technology. We achieved accomplishments that we are proud of and recorded great successes. We have set in place the foundations for sustainability and we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Life does not stop and human advancement knows no boundaries.
The region witnessed several crises over the past two decades, including the Gulf war, Iranian-Iraqi war, September 11, US invasion of Iraq, the global financial crisis and "Arab Spring" revolts.
Crises are in fact challenges that often carry risks and opportunities. If they surprise you, then you are vulnerable to dangers. If you are prepared for them, then you have the chance to seize opportunities. Arab countries have seen enough and paid enough heavy prices. Many years have been wasted. No one has any excuse not to learn from these lessons.
Dubai has worked on diversifying sources of income, but the impact of global economic changes is still felt on the sectors.
Your question assumes that current global economic changes have had a major impact on Dubai. Yes, Dubai is affected because it has an open economy. International reports said that it is the most open after Luxembourg and Hong Kong. The assessment of this impact differs from person to person, whether this person is an expert or a social media user.
I see the impact as part of the vision of the future and expertise derived from constant facts. Economy moves in rising and falling cycles. The Dubai and UAE economy has not witnessed negative growth in six years. It has recorded positive growth that has always been higher than global rates. At any rate, our plan for 2021 is being implemented according to specific timeframes. With the help of God and our youth, they are likely to be achieved in time.
Do you fear the day when Dubai could lose its luster due to regional tensions?
I suggest that you read the history of Dubai and the UAE to see that this luster is the product of an accumulation of generations of Dubai residents. Perhaps you do not realise that the roots of Dubai's economic growth date back to over 110 years. Its free trade began when Sheikh Maktoum bin Hashr Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, ordered the elimination of customs fees. Over the years, Dubai became one of the most important trade centers in the region and the only stop for shipping vessels between Europe and India. As for competition, we are more than up for it. We do not compete on the local or regional levels, but the global one.
New dream of the Ruler of Dubai.
I look forwards to bolstering the rise in the UAE so that it can achieve the goals of its centennial. I look forward to seeing a "Dubai-20" in our Arab world and for the Arabs to enjoy what the Emiratis enjoy in terms of security, stability and prosperity. I look forward to seeing the performance of Arab countries to rival and outshine our own. I look forward to them investing in their youth and rising generations and for them to invest more in education and scientific research. I have a dream where the Arab world could live in its age and for it to take part in building its civilisation.
Your recent Arab initiative...
The Emirati initiatives in the Arab world have never ceased. They have always sought the interests of the people and stability and development of countries. My initiative focuses on the Arab youth and rising generations because they are the hope and future. I seek to empower them on the scientific, cultural and educational levels and encourage them to read in Arabic. I seek to motivate them to innovate and come up with new modern technologies. I am certain that the youths are capable of changing the reality and reviving the Arab civilisation. We need to give our youths and coming generations the chance.
Fear is a normal feeling. What scares you?
I believe in what God has destined for me. Nothing will happen to us that has not been written by God. no, nothing scares me.
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