In an interview with "Dira'a Al Watan" magazine, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said that maintaining the pinnacle of success is harder than trying to attain it, so the position we have reached necessitates the continuation of work on developing our capabilities, raising our competencies and diversifying our resources not only to maintain the successes we have achieved, but also to catalyse a new stage of development.
Following is a translation of the interview...
Question: The United Arab Emirates, led by President and Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, may God protect him, experiences an important milestone on the path of political empowerment and deepening democratic practice in the country to complement the phase of its establishment.. How does Your Highness describe this important political development in the future of people and the country? What message would Your Highness communicate to the Federal National Council?
Sheikh Mohammed: Our country has always been characterised by its ambition for the better, and this ambition was one of the factors affecting the establishment of this state, seeking a strong unified nation that is able to meet the challenges and exploit time and place to reach the highest levels of greatness and glory of our people.. That ambition was propped up by viable components that paved the way for its success, notably the special nature of the UAE community, which adopted, since the early era of its history, the principle of Shura as a basis for good governance; ruler’s majlis was the first brick in the system of democratic practice initiated by Emiratis since long. Then, with the establishment of the Union, the Federal National Council emerged to set the official framework for this practice through organised structure with ruling principles, rules and laws that laid the foundation for a wider societal participation, which we go forward to achieve but in a carefully planned manner that ensures the safety of the empowerment process initiated by my brother, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan since 2006. In the development of this process, we have put before our eyes the public interest of the state by adopting a prudent and rational approach devoid of " fake " democracy which some might think it is functional at any time and in any place keeping in view the special nature of our society of which we take great care to ensure its safety and confirm its cohesion and stimulate all that would achieve prosperity of its present and future. In this country, we, people and Government are partners sailing in one ship whose sail is love and loyalty and its fuel is fidelity to the homeland that we all share in upholding its structure and consolidating its foundations through sustainable achievements and success seeking nothing out of this but to win the satisfaction of God Almighty and our people. We spare no effort to achieve the ambitions of our people nor do we relent in providing all that would give our people a future that is packed with further achievements that ensure prosperity and progress with the participation of our people and in line with their aspirations and ambitions.
Today, our march continues, led by my brother, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan who has full faith in the importance of expanding the circle of popular participation and the promotion of democratic practice in a manner that is consistent with the nature of our society and that benefits our entrenched culture that sets it apart from coning others’ experiences because each society has its unique characteristics that may not prone to copying or replicating.
With the convening of the third ordinary session of the 15th legislative chapter of the Federal National Council (FNC), I want to ask FNC members to always be up to the great responsibilities they put on their shoulders and to make the positive and continuous communication with people to get to know their requirements and their needs a top priority that helps the council to best carry out its duty to serve our country and our people, support fairness, keep country’s interests high and respect the interest of the citizens in order to achieve more pride, progress and prosperity we desire for our country.
Question: The general strategy of the country aims to achieve sustainable and balanced development and to ensure prosperity for citizens and strengthen the country's position regionally and globally. How does Your Highness see the development process in the country? And what are your expectations for the future of our nation, especially while our country is experiencing a new stage of development which is mainly based on empowerment and promotion of achievements?
Sheikh Mohammed: Thank God Almighty our country has made potent developmental boom during the past years through a series of milestones that confirmed its leading position in development not only at the level of the Arab region, but also at world level. Consequently, we read day after day international reports putting our country in advanced positions on the lists of global indicators in various fields. The UAE has risen in its global ranking on the latest World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness report 2013-2014. The ‘Doing Business 2014’ report released by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has moved the UAE to number 4 globally in the “Trading Across Borders” category up from its 5th rank in 2013. The UAE came in the first place globally in six indicators included in the " Global Competitiveness Report " recently released " World Economic Forum " for the year 2013 - 2014 ; the country has achieved many other milestones that put it in a leading position on the list of human achievement .
Undoubtedly, maintaining the pinnacle of success is harder than trying to attain it so the position we have reached imposes on us to continue to work on developing our capabilities, raising our competencies and diversifying our resources not only to keep successes we have achieved but also to enter a new stage of development through which we translate our vision for the future and meet the aspirations of our people and their ambitions to give our country a more prestigious status among the most advanced peoples and nations of the world.
We have been so keen, throughout our journey of development, to always start from where others have ended. Our experience is firmly established and solid enhanced by our deep-rooted heritage and authenticity of our culture to get to the future before it comes to us laden with conditions that impose on us to form the reality of our lives and its vocabulary.. We are best able to draw our paths in life by ourselves and define our objectives in the light of the clear vision opted for parity, competition and efficiency as a main headline for its continuous efforts towards the creation and consolidation of the elements of happiness, comfort, security and safety, as well as reassurance for all who live on the land, in addition to all visitors and guests. We want everyone to be a partner in this quest for a tomorrow that is full of excellence; and our role is to set up the environment that contributes to the success of this partnership through taking interest in the various areas the most important of which might be education that we view as the cornerstone in the structure of civilization .
Question: The UAE cabinet led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai has made tangible achievements for the homeland and the citizens on many levels, what are the prospects and aspirations that can the cabinet achieve in the future from Your Highness’ standpoint?
Sheikh Mohammed: The government is run according to a specific work programme towards goals primarily intended to serve the people and to overcome all the challenges that may impede our ambitious developmental march within a comprehensive framework reflected in general strategy of the country. We are generally satisfied with the overall performance of the government and its achievements in various fields; however, that does not rule out the existence of some faults which require more care, attention and development. We identify these faults through various channels in the forefront of which are the periodic reports of the federal government ministries, agencies, and institutions and we give the necessary recommendations to fix them .. I personally, with the help of my brothers in the cabinet, oversee work within the various organs of government to confirm its progress in accordance with the set approach and toward the specific goals; we do not allow the existence of obstacles in the way of achieving our goals.. We expect everyone to fully respond and cooperate.
We want to take our country to number "one" globally in all areas, a goal that requires sincere determination and great effort, and we are confident of the ability of our loyal citizens to achieve it .. I have asked the Cabinet to decide on a particular sector by which can take the UAE to the first position on world level; God willing, this will be achieved soon to be followed by the other sectors until we finally achieve the lead globally in all areas.
We want the government not only to rise to the people's expectations , but also to exceed that to a stronger and more efficient levels of performance through exploiting the available potential and resources and developing necessary systems and programmes to double the current levels of production and reduce the time for government services delivery and provide them in an easy and convenient manner for people in different parts of the country, maintaining the same extent of efficiency, speed and high professionalism. For this purpose, we have launched the” Smart Government” initiative. We want government services to be accessible to all members of the community via mobile phone to facilitate services and accelerate people’s access to them; this is what we want from all ministries, departments and government agencies.. We want them to embrace the approach of innovation and creativity, and compete with each other in providing high quality and ultra-fast services with effective results.
Question: The UAE has achieved leading global positions in the rates of human development, transparency and government performance as well as growth .. How does Your Highness see the future of human development at this stage and in the future to keep up with the requirements of the age and deal with its tools? And how can this status be possibly maintained and more global rates of development be achieved?
Sheikh Mohammed: investment in human development is the only guarantee to our march towards a better tomorrow. Man is the engine of development and his thoughts open more horizons and his ambition makes civilization that he protects from deterioration and distances from regression. The founding fathers have realised this fact since the early stage of the Union. They have dispatched students abroad to return home laden with knowledge to contribute to the building process.. Never has the UAE neglected creating a an environment that is abundant with all the ingredients necessary to produce generations of young people who can be influential part in the equation of development, including the requirements of well preparation to keep pace of the givens and tools of the age along with the conscious awareness of how to harness these tools to adapt to the surrounding to serve community and the country.. This attention has taken various forms and templates that can be evident in vital sectors such as education, health and training programmes and the preparation of leaders and other areas in which we are keen to encourage and put at the forefront among the other significant sectors which are directly associated with the ability of the community to shape its future.
Question: Is Your Highness satisfied with the output of higher education and its level in the country? What is Your Highness’ view of this important sector in the country?
Sheikh Mohammed: Science and knowledge are the backbone and engine of development, and education is top national priority.. Since the era of the late His Highness Sheikh Zayed, education has been the most important national priority; today, it has the care and attention of my brother President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan who sees education as one of the most important sectors on the agenda of the federal government.. We are working hard to provide all that is needed for the development of education both in terms of material resources or incentive, as well as the rehabilitation and training programmes in addition to technical modernization of educational means. We were keen to attract the world largest and most prestigious universities and scientific and research institutes to work in tandem with national universities to create a competitive environment that helps to improve the educational process.
If we look at the federal budget for next year which we have approved recently at the cabinet meeting, we find that the education sector has topped the list of social development projects and provisions that have been earmarked for public, higher and university education programmes , higher education and university education, received a budget of AED 9.8 billion , about 21 percent of the total budget; this reflects the great attention the government gives to this sector.
We want higher education to be up to date with the evolution of the means of science and culture globally and to adopt modern solutions that help to achieve the best levels of knowledge attainment, and we want university programmes and curricula to take into account the actual needs of the labour market and to meet the growing requirements within specialised sectors whose index increases in parallel with the increase in the rates of development and the major projects and initiatives .. a great responsibility rests on the shoulders of teaching staff and experts to develop curricula and teaching methods to keep up with the requirement of the age and the global advancement. Similar responsibility also rests on the shoulders of our citizens in terms of educational attainment and their strive to acquire various knowledge from different sources and expand the circle of learning them and to have keenness on educating themselves to be aware of the changes surrounding them so as to be qualified to positively interact with these changes to enable themselves to take responsibility of the development of themselves and their community as well as their country at large.. Nations’ progress not only completed but by science, and its glory is not entrenched except by knowledge. We want our universities to be parallel to global scientific platforms and to take interest in the fields of scientific research, which is in fact the engine of development. We will spare no effort to provide all the necessary support to achieve these goals.
Question: The progress of healthcare services in the UAE over the past years has received global recognition of the global bodies, and the UAE is often described as a country which renders the finest medical services at international standards... How does Your Highness see the level of medical services? What message would you like to convey to health services officials at the Ministry of Health and other health bodies in the different emirates of the country?
Sheikh Mohammed: Human health is the most important concern to us and we are keen to deliver the best healthcare services to our citizens and all those who live in the UAE. We have worked to create frameworks to achieve this important goal; in the 2014 federal budget , we allocated the amount of AED 3.7 billion, or the equivalent about 8 percent of the budget to health sector .. We aim to raise the competitiveness of this sector globally through delivering the finest health services to citizens and residents and ensure the safety of the patient until healing is complete, God willing.. The government's efforts are continuing in several parallel tracks to improve the health sector. In this context, we have launched programmes to develop the skills and competencies of the medical staff, treatment programmes and health system for the prevention of diseases as well as the development of policies and legislation related to the organisation of the health sector and other related activities.
There is no doubt that the private sector also plays an important role in this area and we are keen to consolidate the principle of partnership with the best private medical institutions which are capable of providing specialized and world-class services of high quality.
There is a relative development in the health sector, but we want more of this development both at the level of medical equipment or at the diagnostic and therapeutic level through various measures such as the preparation of qualified medical staff of high efficiency, and benefiting from the expertise of visiting doctors and specialists to transfer their expertise and knowledge so as to enhance our ability to enter more development aspects of the health services available and the introduction of more of these services in a way that guarantees for the patient healing at home and saves him the need to go abroad for medical treatment.
Question: The UAE has made confident steps since its inception in the field of woman's empowerment as the female segment represents half of the society, and the Emirati woman proved responsible and achieved honourable results in all fields... How does Your Highness assess the Emirati woman’s experiment in political participation through the National Council? What is your futuristic vision for the enhancement and empowerment of woman’s role in all fields and sectors?
Sheikh Mohammed: It may be unfair to restrict the achievements of Emirati woman in the area of political practice only, despite demonstrating ability to take responsibility and actively participate along with men in this area; the Emirati woman showed ability of equal access to the most important positions... The present government has four female ministers; this is clear evidence of woman’s ability to achieve with our confidence in her worth and and potential not only to participate but also to lead... We highly appreciate the achievements of the Emirati woman and spare no effort to open the way wide to accommodate and encourage more of them... our confidence is firmly established that the ability to give is not restricted to man or woman, both of them are partners in the community and in making its future; the extent of efficiency and the ability to give makes the difference.
We did not and will not lose full support to woman to help her take role as a mother who is responsible for the upbringing of future generations that will bear the responsibility of continuing the process of building and also have presence in the labour market and within the various areas that she has evidently proven more superior to man. When the government provides its services, it does not differentiate between a man and a woman; this is testified by international institutions... I mention in this context a report recently released by the World Economic Forum that showed UAE’s topping Middle East and North African countries in bridging the gap in the educational services provided for males and females without any distinction between them.
We are keen to promote and increase this support by providing various possible safeguards; the cabinet’s decision to make compulsory the representation of the female element in the boards of directors of all the bodies and state-owned companies is one of the proofs of our conviction of the importance of the participation of women in creating balance in decisions taken at these institutions, their plans, taking into account the benefit of women working side by side with men in work fields.
Our ambition for our daughters and sisters stems from our conviction of the importance of the role of woman... We want her to be a mother who is aware of working to bring up a strong generation capable of bearing responsibility... We want her to be involved with enlightened strategic thought by which we conquer the challenges and maximize the opportunities... We are keen to always make her up to date and equipped with science and knowledge enhanced by determination and will to achieve what she aspires for and what we hope for her to benefit herself, her family and her country... We want her to be diligent in seeking knowledge.
Our responsibility toward woman and toward our people dictate on us to provide better access to education, training and rehabilitation as well as the highest levels of health and social care and the creation of different official and societal frameworks to achieve this .. We are involved in the further empowerment of woman by giving her whatever helps her to fully fulfill her role in society.
Question: Doing good is innate in Emiratis. It represents one of the basic bricks of their authentic culture; with this in mind, the UAE government and people have continued providing humanitarian assistance to the needy in various parts of the world, it even made it one of the main pillars of its foreign policy... How does Your Highness see this?
Sheikh Mohammed: The human interdependence is an issue urged by our religion which is firmly established in our consciousness and conscience and is an integral part of our culture, customs and our Arab genuine traditions.. Helping others and the needy and standing by the weak are of the most important traits innate in us. We have learnt that these traits are a duty for which we seek consent from our Creator and through which we help the people. My brother President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, may God protect him, is an example of unlimited giving and his white hands extend far beyond the UAE to reach different parts of the world. This giving reminds us of the great contributions which immortalized the memory of the father late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and granted him a special status in the hearts of millions of people around the world.
When we draw a smile on the face of a poor child or feed another who is hungry or help a third to get his chance of education and a healthy and appropriate environment, we feel that we have performed part of the teachings of our religion in spreading compassion and empathy among people, as they ensure continuity of life.
Praise be to God, in 2012 the UAE has contributed by nearly AED 5.8 billion of aid from which people from 137 countries and geographic regions around the world benefited. The UAE was the world’s 16th-biggest donor of foreign aid in 2012, an achievement for which we thank God and ask Him to sustain us to continue to perform this duty towards others... Support the weak, help those in difficulty, lessen burdens of the people and give them hope of a better tomorrow. We do this to have God’s acceptance seeking nothing but His satisfaction and having no boast in doing this , but we disclose our humanitarian contribution to be a model for others and encourage them to give, so that benefit increases and good prevails.
Question: Your Highness were the first to early confirm that the UAE will be at the forefront of the world in all fields and you were undoubtedly confident of that when odds looked great, where did Your Highness have this early confidence?
Sheikh Mohammed: "Strong resolves come in proportion to men of determination” as the poet Al Mutanabi said, and so is this in our country .. it is the trait of the people of the UAE that if they pledge to do something they keep their pledge and if they are determined to achieve something they accomplish it by the grace of God in the first place and and their firm determination and sincerity of their resolve secondly .. My confidence in my family and my people are limitless.. we all proceed together on the path of development. our sole motive is entrenched love in the hearts for this nation and faithfulness to achieve pride, dignity for it , lofty goals that can only be achieved through excellence above others, positive energy that makes human challenge themselves, to make them wake up every morning asking themselves: What have I achieved today? .. The challenges that confronted the people of the UAE and aggravated during the founding of the Union have faded and dispersed when confronted with hope, defeated and diminished in front of Emiratis unrelenting will and determination , so I was confident of our ability to achieve what I asked for and expected, especially when we have provided all the ingredients to do so.. Before the existence of universities throughout our country, we had dispatched hundreds of Emirati students to study and gain knowledge; today, we are proud of our national educational institutions and feel delighted to have the best universities in the world on our land which help lay the foundation for a generation capable of more giving and equipped with all the tools that enable him to deal efficiently with his regional environment and the world at large.
We have outstanding work teams that meet our aspiration to further achievement and adoption of the highest standards of work in the world in the various specialisations .. We have invested in an infrastructure that is among the best in the world, we have airports and seaports that reinforce our position as a vital link for world trade and travel.. Our country enjoys wide international respect stemming from our adherence to a balanced and neutral approach with all and relations that are based on the principle of positive and constructive cooperation and mutual respect as well as respect for all international conventions and treaties .. All of this and other factors reinforce our confidence in our ability to achieve excellence and reach number "one" globally.
Question: UAE youth consider His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as an inspiration and role model watching every word issued by His Highness so as to keep it by heart and spread it among themselves and turn it into action and achievement.. What would Your Highness like to say to these young people?
Sheikh Mohammed: I tell them you are an asset to the nation and the mainstay of its future, with your arms the building will rise .. hone determination and resolve and truthful intention and develop yourselves so that you will benefit yourselves and to have positive influence on your community and be shareholders in the elevation, progress and prosperity of your homeland.. always arm yourselves with positive energy and adhere to it in various positions as it is the path that leads you to glory and success .. engage yourselves with whatever is useful to you, your family and your community and discard all that would thwart your resolve or waste your time in vain, as time is the most precious commodity the human must best exploit ; the clock hands do not wait for anyone nor do they delay to turn time .. Turn to science and equip yourselves with knowledge and be leaders in this; broaden your horizons with reading and take initiatives to explore what is new; have knowledge as your fuel in the journey of excellence .. Hearken to old people and take from their expertise and experiences; create new ideas and compete in innovation.. set success as a clear goal before you and strive to possess the ingredients to achieve it.. Do not get tired knocking on doors in your quest for excellence and make determination, will and desire to excel an authentic trait in your journey in life.
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