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22 April 2024

Clear vision backed by accurate execution drives UAE growth

Clear vision backed by accurate execution drives UAE growth. (AP)

By Karen Remo-Listana

In addition to leading Dubai as a world-renowned financial, trade and tourism hub, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is also one of the main people driving the growth of the UAE.

A day after he became the Ruler of Dubai on January 4, 2006, the members of the Supreme Council elected Sheikh Mohammed as the UAE Vice-President. Later he was also named Prime Minister.

Since then, he began to head the UAE Cabinet, which in the middle of the global crisis, has maintained its tranquil composure and continue to make great strides in pursuit of a vision the country has ambitiously carved.

"Led by my brother, President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, we in the UAE are carrying on the march started by the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and our father, the late Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, since the early 1970s, when they launched the first stage of the federation and started the blessed march," Sheikh Mohammed said during an investment conference.

Record budget

Sheikh Mohammed, a graduate of Britain's Sandhurst military academy, exuded confidence in the country when he announced the largest budget in the history of the UAE last year.

That was the year when most economies receded and almost everyone paused on their capital expenditure plans due to the global crisis.

The UAE Cabinet approved a federal budget of Dh42.2 billion for 2009, a 21 per cent increase from the 2008 budget. The largest budget in the UAE history has come to reflect the government's efforts to enhance the country's economic growth and keep it at elevated levels.

Dr Hanif Hassan, Minister of Health, said: "The government had high-level, competitive and distinguished performance over the past years, especially in service sectors such as education. The government managed to draw up an unprecedented strategic plan and work indicators, which are the first of its kind in Gulf and aimed at improving all services provided in country, especially the services provided to UAE nationals. In addition, the government completed giant and distinguished projects by virtue of the vision of Sheikh Mohammed. Undoubtedly, the government has big challenges and projects in the future. There is a big focus on the support of service sectors, especially education and health, to make them reach best international practices."

Unsurprisingly, the counter-cyclical measures pursued by the UAE were hailed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Dr Masood Ahmed, IMF's Director for Middle East and Central Asia Department told Emirates Business, the country continues to grow thanks to its recent policy responses such as the boost in public infrastructure spending, liquidity injection and government guarantees.

"Due to counter-cyclical measures, non-oil GDP went down to only three per cent this year from 6.5 per cent in 2008," he said.

"We have seen oil GDP drop by five to 5.5 per cent this year from a six per cent growth in 2008 due to the decline in oil prices and volume. But we expect oil GDP to grow to five per cent next year."

The UAE economy has always been healthy, allowing surpluses in federal budget to exceed 10 per cent of GDP from 2004-2008 and since the 2005 federal budget, the budgetary allocation has increased by almost 100 per cent.

The UAE Government has wisely managed its allocations to end up with a balanced federal budget and the largest in its history. Looking at long-term growth, the future of the younger generation and the generations to come was secured by the establishment of the Emirates Investment Authority (EIA), the first federal sovereign wealth fund for all seven emirates and the sole entity responsible for investing surplus funds of the UAE Government.

The objective of the EIA is to achieve attractive financial returns and diversify the government's asset exposure by cultivating sovereign funding arrangements in tandem with first-class investment opportunities in the public and private markets of the GCC and overseas.

Investment in people

On the back of an aggressive monetary policy, the government has made sure that there is excellence in every sector. And Sheikh Mohammed knew it all starts from developing the core of success – people. "My chief concern is young leaders and investment in humanity. As you may recall, it was investment in man, not in places where I began – as a man can work even in a tent, but the place, no matter how big or small, remains merely a place," Sheikh Mohammed said in a Women's Leadership Seminar in Dubai.

To be on a par to the highest international standards, the UAE federal government created three new ministries and gave different ministries financial and administrative independence among others.

"Today, ministers leave their offices at the various ministries, and talk to their employees with truthfulness and transparency. You can now hear an employee saying, 'the minister came to me, sat with me and talked to me... he is a minister and I am an ordinary employee, I should work harder and produce more'," Sheikh Mohammed said.

Federal strategy

The UAE Government Strategy, announced in April 2007, aims at achieving sustainable development and maintaining high standards of living. The strategy is divided into six major areas covering 21 subjects pertinent to the development and prosperity of the UAE.

The strategy, which embodies key principles, most important of which is enhancing the level of government-provided services to UAE nationals and expatriates, was laid out in April 2007.

Following the announcement of the strategy, local government departments at the different emirates have set plans and programmes to meet its objectives.

Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah Governments, for example, have introduced excellence government awards to enhance performance and services. Such initiatives help create necessary incentive to government employees and encourage them to attain excellence, said Dr Abdul Rahman Al Shayeb Al Naqbi, Director-General of Ras Al Khaimah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"One of the strategy's objectives is to ensure the UAE offers an attractive investment environment," he said. "We worked on facilitating licensing procedures by ensuring best deployment of IT technology. Also we focused on the internet to provide potential investors with information and statistics they need to start up businesses and to chose the UAE and RAK for their investment or expansion plans." he said.

The UAE Government also launched mystery shopper and service excellence programmes across ministries and federal authorities to raise the standards of government services.

This programme is being delivered across 40 ministries and authorities and involves the customer service performance measurement of each ministry's three delivery channels of location, telephone and website.

"The government is totally committed to service improvement both locally and federally," said Robert Keay, Managing Director and Founder of Ethos Consultancy. "Sheikh Mohammed launched the federal government excellence programme and we initiated the programme and did the measurement for it. From a federal perspective, customer service is a strategic initiative to improve all government services."

Along with that, Sheikh Mohammed spearheaded the UAE Human Resources law, which links different types of bonuses, promotions and rewards with staff performance. This resulted in higher performance levels and more motivation towards personal achievement, teamwork spirit, and learning and development. The law also establishes and promotes important values such as competitiveness and dynamism in government work; and clearly defines employees' rights without discrimination.

And when inflation was skyrocketing due to the unprecedented economic boom, Sheikh Mohammed ordered that the basic salaries of all federal government employees be increased by 70 per cent. The increase in salaries went into effect in January 2008.

The same year, he also ordered that 40,000 villas be built for Emiratis throughout the Emirates and that social allowances be doubled. He ordered the Minister of State for Financial and Industrial Affairs to allocate Dh15 billion for the construction of the villas, which should be ready in three to four years.

He also launched the UAE Government Leaders Programme, which aims to develop visionary leaders with the potential to drive the strategic objectives of the UAE federal government.

It focuses on UAE federal employees across three different levels: the Executive Leaders Programme targeting executive directors and directors at the federal entities, the Strategic Leaders Programme targeting 20 director-generals, and the Future Leaders Programme targeting 30 assistant directors and the lower cadres.

Women empowerment

Empowering women tops Sheikh Mohammed's agenda. Since the UAE had its first female minister, Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi in 2004, there are now four other female ministers appointed to the current government, headed by Sheikh Mohammed. Women occupy 20 per cent of the Federal National Council's (FNC) seats and they now form more than 59 per cent of the workforce in the country.

"There is a saying, 'behind every great man there is a woman'. I don't know what this saying signifies. Perhaps that women are great. I recall many women who supported their husbands and succeeded – the mother who rocks her child's cradle with her right hand, can sway the world with her left," Sheikh Mohammed said.

"Women have their status, they make up half of society, but I say they are more than that. I have repeatedly said that women are the soul of society; I mean that they are everything," he added.

Dr Ayshah Mohammed Al Roomi, a member of the FNC, said Sheikh Mohammed has followed the belief in woman's capabilities that was seen in Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid. "The focus on the need to offer woman health and educational services had been always the leader's top priority.

"The UAE leaders had always a strong belief in women's skills and competencies and always worked to give her the opportunity to play her role in contributing to the country's development."

Dr Al Roomi, who worked for the Ministry of Health for 25 years before joining the FNC, said women in Sheikh Mohammed's era has seen extensive implementation of these beliefs.

Women in the UAE now account for 66 per cent of the governmental workforce and hold 30 per cent of senior jobs at the decision-making level. They account for 15 per cent of the teaching staff at the UAE University. In addition, they account for 60 per cent of the workforce in medical care, education, nursing and pharmacies. They have also joined the Armed Forces, police and customs.

Nawal A Askar, Director of Economic and Public Relations, Sharjah Economic Development Department, said Sheikh Mohammed offered her the opportunity to contribute to her country's development by assigning her high posts.

"A woman in Sheikh Mohammed's era is no more just a housewife, but a person who can handle jobs at high efficiency," she said. "Being influenced by their charismatic leader and having belief in his wisdom, national men have begun appreciating women's capabilities," she added.

Timeline of events

- January 4, 2006 – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum became the Ruler of Dubai following the death of Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

- January 5, 2006 – Members of the Supreme Council elect Sheikh Mohammed as the UAE Vice-President.

- February 3, 2006 – Sheikh Mohammed announced the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015, which aims to bolster Dubai's leading position in the region and boost its role as an international economic and financial hub.

- February 11, 2006 – UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan nominated Sheikh Mohammed as UAE Prime Minister; the Council approved this nomination.

- April 17, 2007 – Sheikh Mohammed unveiled the UAE Government Strategy Plan with the aim of achieving sustainable development throughout the country, investing federal resources more efficiently and ensuring due diligence, accountability and transparency across federal bodies.

- May 19, 2007 – Sheikh Mohammed launched the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation with an endowment of $10 billion (Dh36.7bn).

- September 20, 2007 – Sheikh Mohammed launched Dubai Cares. The campaign, which raised an unprecedented Dh3.4bn in its first two months, has become one of the biggest international humanitarian movements to focus on fighting poverty, spreading knowledge and providing education for children in poor countries.

- January 1, 2008 – Sheikh Mohammed ordered that the basic salaries of all federal government employees be increased by 70 per cent. The increase in salaries went into effect in January 2008. That same year, he also ordered that 40,000 villas be built for Emiratis throughout the Emirates and that social allowances be doubled. He ordered the Minister of State for Financial and Industrial Affairs to allocate Dh15bn for the construction of the villas.

- February 2008 – He launched the UAE Government Leaders Programme, which aim to develop visionary leaders with the potential to drive the strategic objectives of the UAE federal government. 

- September 3, 2008 – Sheikh Mohammed unveiled the Noor Dubai initiative aiming to deliver preventative eye care to more than one million people in developing countries. 

- March 20, 2009 – Sheikh Mohammed launched the official website of the prime minister of the UAE, which not only represents the official source of all information related to the prime minister, but also provides an effective communication channel between the prime minister and all relevant audiences inside and outside the UAE.

- November 10, 2009 – Sheikh Mohammed approved a resolution for the establishment of the Federal Demographic Body.

- December 17, 2009 – Sheikh Mohammed issues law boosting financial oversight. In his capacity as the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed issued a law ordering government-linked firms to transfer surplus revenues to the emirate's treasury and required better control of public spending.


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