His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, was elected Vice-President of the UAE by the members of the Supreme Council on February 5, 2006.
On February 11, the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, nominated Sheikh Mohammed as UAE Prime Minister and the council approved the nomination. On the same day, Sheikh Mohammed and the members of his cabinet took their oaths in front of Sheikh Khalifa at Al Bateen Palace, Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Khalifa voiced a strong commitment by the Supreme Council to work hard to register more achievements for the country and its people. And he sounded confident that the new cabinet would put the interests of the UAE and its citizens first.
"I have no doubt that the members of the new cabinet will accord paramount attention to serving the country and its citizens and consolidating our federation," he said.
"We have been through a rough course but we nevertheless managed to get through, thanks to the dedication and hard work of our faithful leaders. We have gone a long way in all spheres, particularly in the development of our human resources, which is the most valuable asset."
Sheikh Khalifa paid tribute to the late Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who took the helm of the first federal cabinet and helped build the federation and guide the union as early as 1971.
"We are pretty confident that his successor, Sheikh Mohammad, will spare no effort in continuing the great efforts of his predecessor in upgrading government performance to better serve the citizens," he added.
At his first meeting with the new cabinet on February 21, Sheikh Mohammed gave the ministers extensive powers and responsibility for finding solutions.
"Federal ministers will have wide-ranging powers and centralism and complicated restrictions and procedures will be scrapped to give them a free hand in discharging their duties," said Sheikh Mohammed, who told the ministers that he wanted them to propose solutions and not simply identify problems.
He announced that a special administrative unit would set timeframes and create programmes to assess public performance under his direct supervision.
"Decisive measures will be in place to ensure quality in a way that leaves no room for leniency and negligence in shouldering responsibility and realising achievements. We want a highly competent, dynamic government to run state utilities properly."
Sheikh Mohammed pledged to improve services and make education the top priority. And in a move designed to speed up decision-making, he scrapped all but two committees, which cover financial and legislative affairs. In May this year, Sheikh Mohammed proposed a cabinet reshuffle that was approved by the President. He personally thanked the outgoing ministers for their efforts and contributions in serving the country and citizens.
Since becoming Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed has rolled out groundbreaking initiatives at an astonishing rate.
Major steps have been taken, at both the federal and local levels, to reform the structure of government to make it more responsive to the needs of the UAE's population and ensure the country is better equipped to cope with the challenges it faces.
The process has been directed at the federal level by Sheikh Khalifa and devised and guided at the executive level by Sheikh Mohammed, who has also overseen reforms in Dubai.
The UAE Government aims to become a leader in public administration and government service in the Arab World. It seeks to ensure maximum synergy between the local and federal governments in order to achieve excellence at all levels in the UAE.
To help achieve these aims a comprehensive federal government strategy was launched by Sheikh Mohammed on April 17, 2007, in the presence of Sheikh Khalifa.
The strategy was based on the National Programme launched by Sheikh Khalifa in 2005 and approved by the Supreme Council.
The core aims of the strategy are to ensure sustainable development throughout the country and a high quality of life for all UAE nationals. The initiative is intended to take the Arab World's second largest economy and the most competitive Arab country to the next level of excellence.
The strategy is designed to ensure federal resources are invested more efficiently and with due diligence, accountability and transparency across federal bodies. It is being used as a roadmap for development.
The strategy covers 21 topics across six major sectors of development – social development, economic development, justice and safety, government sector development, infrastructure development and rural development.
It relies on highly advanced methodologies and techniques to ensure proper implementation. The individual strategies for each ministry are in line with the general principles. The Cabinet Office closely supervises these processes and presents periodic reports to the Prime Minister. The strategy includes a provision for periodical review.
To ensure that programmes and projects in the different emirates are implemented in line with the strategy's outlines and objectives, Sheikh Mohammed has directly supervised the formation of special committees headed by ministers, paid field visits and talked to the public to determine their needs.
Field visits are not the only method Sheikh Mohammed has used to obtain feedback and exchange views with the public. He has also deployed technology, and last June he held his first e-session with the public. In the online Q&A session, Sheikh Mohammed answered questions from the public on social, political and economic subjects, not only concerning the UAE but the region as well.
Last March Sheikh Mohammed reviewed the 2008 performance results of federal ministries and authorities based on indices and benchmarks approved under the federal government strategy at the Cabinet Ministry Office. In a meeting with the government performance team, Sheikh Mohammed discussed the approved principles and criteria used in evaluating the performance of federal entities, in addition to the study's results.
He ordered the performance team to prepare a study outlining the reasons for the low level of Emiratisation rate – 25 per cent in federal authorities and 54 per cent in ministries – and to put forward suggestions and solutions to remedy the situation.
Eager to have the most competent government and achieve an effective partnership between the private and government sectors, Sheikh Mohammed last May established the Emirates Competitiveness Council.
The council is chaired by the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, with the Economy Minister as deputy chairman and the ministers of foreign trade, education, labour, health, foreign affairs and financial affairs as members.
The council is tasked with developing competitive strategies, policies and initiatives and will publish periodic reports evaluating the state of national competitiveness.
Last July Sheikh Mohammed adopted a new federal government communications strategy that aims to enhance the country's image, while creating an integrated communications system between federal entities.
Sheikh Mohammed does not limit his attention to his country alone but is also concerned about those living beyond its borders. In 2007 he launched the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation with an endowment of $10 billion (Dh36.7bn). The foundation was set up to promote human development by investing in education and the development of knowledge in the region. In addition, it works to cultivate future leaders in both the private and public sectors, promote scientific research, spread knowledge, encourage business leadership, empower youth, renew the concept of culture, preserve heritage and promote platforms of understanding among various cultures.
Leading figures spoke to Emirates Business about the importance of the federal strategy.
Minister of Economy Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri said assisting the development of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) was a top priority for his ministry.
"This is in line with the federal strategy that aims to drive the growth of SMEs as a key contributor to economic growth," he added. "The Ministry and Tanmia, the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority, recently signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen awareness of SMEs and develop the skills of UAE nationals so they can become involved in this vital sector.
"We are committed to supporting creative and innovative UAE nationals and translating their ideas into effective projects in the SME sector. We are keen to offer UAE nationals an ideal environment for SMEs and we will support them to achieve their targets through training and guidance in association with Tanmia.
"We also aim to increase the participation of UAE nationals in economic sectors that lack their presence."
Ali bin Abdullah Al Hamrani, Director- General of Ajman Municipality and Planning Department, said the federal strategy was designed to raise the UAE to the highest level among the developed countries.
"The recommendations and programmes in the strategy have prompted Ajman Municipality and the department to draw up development plans and create programmes to achieve the objectives, which have been given top priority by the emirate's leaders.
"Our plans and programmes have been based on the strategy's objectives," he added. "We are keen to modernise the emirate's infrastructure and business environment based on international standards in order to contribute to placing the country on the map of the world's best work and living destinations while maintaining our society's Islamic customs and values."
Dr Abdulrahman Al Shayeb Al Naqbi, Director General of RAK Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: "One of the strategy's objectives is to ensure the UAE offers an attractive investment environment. We worked on facilitating licensing procedures by ensuring the best deployment of IT technology. In addition, we focused on the internet to provide potential investors with the information and statistics they need to start businesses in the UAE and RAK.
"We are preparing for an international conference on corporate social responsibility to be held this year. RAK will also launch a CRS award and initiate a CRS to finance social projects.''
Dr Ayshah Mohammed Al Roomi, a member of the Federal National Council (FNC), said Sheikh Mohammed has shared the belief in the capabilities of women that had been held by the late Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid.
"The focus on the need to offer woman health and education services had always been the ruler's top propriety," she said. "The UAE's leaders have always had a strong belief in women's skills and competencies and always work to give them an opportunity to play their role in contributing to the country's development.
"We are now representing the nation on the FNC, and women are occupying senior posts in many ministries and departments. This follows a recommendation in the federal government strategy."
Nawal A Askar, Director of Economic and Public Relations at the Sharjah Economic Development Department, said Sheikh Mohammed supported women and offered them the opportunity to contribute to the country's development by assigning them to senior posts.
"The UAE strategy calls for women to receive the best care and what better care can a woman receive other than the support of the leaders" she said.
"The UAE has offered woman educational opportunities and women have exploited them. However this would not have been achieved without the support of the man at the top, Sheikh Mohammed.
"Women in Sheikh Mohammed's era are no longer just housewives but are people who can handle jobs with high efficiency.
Shareef Al Awadi, Director of the Fujairah Free Zone Authority, said field visits by Sheikh Mohammed made senior and junior employees alike feel more responsible and accountable. "The strategy reflects the full awareness of the leadership regarding the need for a cohesive and comprehensive plan for the development of all the emirates," he said.
Major objectives of the federal government strategy
- Achieve sustainable and balanced development
- Provide the best standard of living to all UAE nationals
- Develop a federal government mechanism to raise performance levels in all federal entities
General principles of the strategy
- Maintain co-operation between the federal and local authorities
- Activate the organisational aspects, chalk out ministries' policies and improve the decision-making mechanism
- Increase the efficiency of government bodies and upgrade customer service standards
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