Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shaikh Mohammed : Come and see the real Dubai

His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has stressed the need to strengthen cooperation between the UAE and China not only in the field of trade, but also in other fields like science, technology and clean and renewable energy. 

In an interview with Wang Liwen and media team of Beijing Youth Newspaper, Shaikh Mohammed emphasised on the importance of UAE-Chinese relations and discussed matters relating to his vision and his definition of success, his views about the youth and their role in his institutions, as well as the role of women in development.
Beijing Youth Newspaper is part of Beijing Youth Media Group, which owns 11 newspapers and five magazines and is considered to be the bestseller in the Chinese capital.
According to Wang Liwen, interviewing Shaikh Mohammed was a very enjoyable experience, and he could get a glimpse of his thinking from his answers to the questions.


Excerpts from the interview:

Q: China is also a fast-developing country. What do you foresee for economic cooperation between our countries in the future?
A: That is an excellent question. I hope your readers in China come to Dubai and see it for themselves. What you hear is an illusion; what you see is real.
In fact contact between Chinese and Arabs began in the 7th century. I myself have visited China on a couple of occasions, and I enjoyed seeing your cities and your culture first hand. China’s remarkable growth is a success story that we have observed with great interest. Dubai is like the ancient Chinese capital of Chang’an, a global cosmopolitan city, where people from 200 countries live and work together.
Dubai was a hub on the Silk Road then. More recently Dubai has made it more convenient for industry to spread to Central Asia, North Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Two thirds of the world’s population can fly to Dubai in eight hours or less. In the past 20 or 30 years, investors from all over the world have flocked to Dubai.
Our two countries both have shining histories and cultures, and our peoples have a relationship of friendship and equality. I hope that our countries have even greater cooperation in the future, not only in trade, but also in science and technology and in renewable and clean energy.

In the future we will consider sending students from the UAE to China to study. These issues were discussed during Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to UAE in January 2012 to participate in the World Future Energy Summit.
Q: When did your thinking come together?
A: About 10 years ago. When I was in Europe and the United States, I saw racetracks and subways, and I wondered when Dubai could have all that.
Q: Your Highness, what is the secret of your success?
A: There are no secrets to the success we have achieved. I will summarise three key points: First is the vision. You have to have a vision that would benefit the people and help them achieve their dreams, and you must believe in your ability to achieve the vision.
Second is the team. You need to choose a dedicated team that believes in the vision and has the positive energy and outlook to accomplish it.
Third, keep building. Do not stop from building on the vision. It is an inspiration for all around you, and is your catalyst to work towards your goals diligently every morning, doing and achieving something new that benefits your people.
Q: You once said that no one remembers dreamers and they only remember people who turn their dreams into reality. Do you think you have turned your dreams into reality?
A: Some people daydream all day and when they go to sleep they continue to dream. This is just dreaming and they have no way to turn their dreams into reality. The way we turn our dreams into reality is: when other people talk about working, we actually work; when other people are making their plans, we carry out our plans; and when other people are having doubts, we move boldly ahead.
There is a saying in Europe, “Let the lion lead the sheep.” My thinking is: If I am a lion and I am leading, I should be leading lions. I encourage talented young people to love their work. They shouldn’t be punished for their mistakes. Making mistakes is the best way to learn to do something.
What do the young people of the UAE need most? Success! I feel proud of everyone who works together with me to achieve our goals.
Q: In your book My Vision you make a special point to discuss the different influences positive and negative energy have on people. If someone says, if you have an influential position, power and financial resources, it’s easy to have positive energy, how do you respond?
A: In fact no one can be totally happy. There are a lot of countries and people with ample financial resources, but that doesn’t mean they can maintain positive energy. On the contrary, many people stop progressing because they are already well off. A leader needs to have positive energy. With positive energy comes optimism, and with optimism, anything becomes possible. However, people who constantly face challenges can face them bravely and overcome them because they accumulate the ability to do so day by day. It is very important to maintain a cheerful disposition day after day, month after month, year after year. When people see someone succeed, they often say that person was lucky. In my mind, luck favours people who are prepared. If there is always a hesitant voice in your heart saying, “It’s not possible” then it is really impossible for you. But me, I always encourage people to try again, and maybe try to do it differently. Conquering “the impossible” means refusing to give up hope. You have to think, “Somewhere there is a way to find a solution. Let’s work together to find it.”
Q: Concerning your ideas on developing the country, what is the source of your thinking other than learning from your father?
A: I am the son of Arab tribesmen. The sons of Arab tribesmen get their knowledge, wisdom and vision mainly from family members and not from schools. Aside from my university education, most of what I learned from Shaikh Zayed, the late president of the UAE, and my late father Shaikh Rashid. I studied their administrative experience, and learned a great deal from them. Also, I learned a lot from occasional small mistakes.
Q: What kind of mistakes?
A: For example, several years ago we were planning to build a golf course on the coast, but we put it off in the face of objections. When we finally got around to building it, we had lost a lot of valuable time. That’s why we often say “the clock ticks life away”. We don’t have time to hesitate. That is the cause of giving up something in the middle.
Q: Your Highness, why do women play such an important role in UAE society?

A: I am very proud of the strong role that women play in our society. They have complete equality. Today, 70 per cent of all our university graduates are women. More than 65 per cent of all jobs in our government are held by women. Thirty per cent of them hold managerial positions. More than 80 per cent of staff in my own office are women. We do not just talk about the important role women should have in our society; we deliver.
In his article Wang Liwen states that if one is lucky he can meet Shaikh Mohammed on the street, and can say hello, shake his hand, and have a picture taken with him just like the people of Dubai can. The probability of this happening is much greater than winning the lottery because he enjoys mingling with the people. You could meet him at the mall, a popular restaurant or a concert hall. He enjoys shopping, dining and listening to music just like you and I do, and he never has a large entourage of people with him.
His personal assistant told me that he doesn’t need bodyguards because the people of Dubai are all willing to fill that role. Many ordinary citizens know all to well how difficult life was for their fathers’ and grandfathers’ generations when they lived in tents without running water or electricity, and they have witnessed the enormous miraculous changes their country has undergone. They say, “Forty years ago we were just a small country with scant resources and nothing but our dreams”. But now with all the changes that have taken place, they are willing to believe that they can achieve the dream of becoming a strong country in 10 years like their ruler says they will.
Another person I met, described the Shaikh thus: “He trusts his government employees, but he never relies solely on their written or oral reports. He walks very fast, and no one dares to lag behind.”
In order to improve the quality of service, he has a third party from the secretarial pool to carry out oversight work. Sometimes, you can see him with a stopwatch at the airport recording how long it takes for visitors to clear Customs and Immigration. He believes that raising work efficiency is always a good thing, and he wants visitors to feel they are getting fast and high-quality service when they enter the country. He says that if visitors expect it to take an hour to clear customs and immigration, we should get them through in 30 minutes. That’s good-quality service, but not best-quality service. If you don’t keep improving your service to your customers, for example by cutting the time down to 20 minutes, you aren’t providing best service. Sometimes he files complaints in the guise of an ordinary citizen just to see how fast and well they are dealt with.
Shaikh Mohammed graduated from Mons Officer Cadet School in England, and was appointed Defence Minister of the UAE in 1971, and he said he wanted to make sure that Dubai earns its title of the safest city in the world.
He worked with interior decorators on the decor for the great hall of the airport, and has had a hand in the design of many public spaces. He was a principle designer of the opulent Bab Al Shams Hotel. He says the pursuit of beauty is in the DNA of the Arab people.
He has travelled all over the world, and every time he sees something beautiful he hopes that one day Dubai can have one just like it. He was delighted to learn that when French officials come to Dubai, they always buy French perfume to take home because it’s cheaper there due to Dubai being a duty free port. He says Dubai has the capability of becoming a major market for merchandise it doesn’t manufacture itself.
He hopes that Dubai will be a world-class trade, tourism and service city in the 21st century, and he is building the necessary infrastructure and creating an ideal environment to make that happen.
Shaikh Mohammed is a poet who has published several volumes of poetry, and also an accomplished horseman who has won the European Championship.
He says that writing poetry enables him to look at the things around him from a new perspective, and that the source of inspiration lies in beauty, accomplishments and dreams. He believes that his poetry draws him closer to other people.
During my interview, he told me he was preparing for an endurance horse race.
He has a powerful desire to make his country rich and strong, and he wrote the book My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence, in which he summed up his vision about leadership and life in simple yet moving language. This book led a former teacher of his in England to write to him, “I’ve written 12 books, but none of them achieved the fame yours did.”
Shaikh Mohammed wrote back, “Your books are theoretical, mine is practical.”

How atomic Iran could trigger accidental Armageddon

One of the arguments often made in favour of bombing Iran to cripple its nuclear program is this: The mullahs in Tehran believe it is their consecrated duty to destroy Israel and so are building nuclear weapons to launch at Tel Aviv.

It’s beyond a doubt that the Iranian regime would like to bring about the destruction of Israel. However, the mullahs are also men determined, more than anything, to maintain their hold on absolute power.

Which is why it’s unlikely that they would immediately use their new weapons against Israel. An outright attack on Israel - a country possessing as many as 200 nuclear weapons - would lead to the obliteration of Tehran, the deaths of millions, and the destruction of Iran’s military and industrial capabilities.

The mullahs know this. But here’s the problem: It may not matter. The threat of a deliberate nuclear attack pales in comparison with the chance that a nuclear-armed Iran could accidentally trigger a cataclysmic exchange with Israel.

The experts who study this depressing issue seem to agree that a Middle East in which Iran has four or five nuclear weapons would be dangerously unstable and prone to warp-speed escalation.

Here’s one possible scenario for the not-so-distant future: Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy, launches a cross-border attack into Israel, or kills a sizable number of Israeli civilians with conventional rockets. Israel responds by invading southern Lebanon, and promises, as it has in the past, to destroy Hezbollah. Iran, coming to the defense of its proxy, warns Israel to cease hostilities, and leaves open the question of what it will do if Israel refuses to heed its demand.

Dennis Ross, who until recently served as President Barack Obama’s Iran point man on the National Security Council, notes Hezbollah’s political importance to Tehran.

“The only place to which the Iranian government successfully exported the revolution is to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Ross told me. “If it looks as if the Israelis are going to destroy Hezbollah, you can see Iran threatening Israel, and they begin to change the readiness of their forces. This could set in motion a chain of events that would be like ‘Guns of August’ on steroids.”

Imagine that Israel detects a mobilization of Iran’s rocket force or the sudden movement of mobile missile launchers. Does Israel assume the Iranians are bluffing, or that they are not? And would Israel have time to figure this out?

Or imagine the opposite: Might Iran, which will have no second-strike capability for many years - that is, no reserve of nuclear weapons to respond with in an exchange - feel compelled to attack Israel first, knowing that it has no second chance?

Bruce Blair, the co-founder of the nuclear disarmament group Global Zero and an expert on nuclear strategy, told me that in a sudden crisis Iran and Israel might each abandon traditional peacetime safeguards, making an accidental exchange more likely.

“A confrontation that brings the two nuclear-armed states to a boiling point would likely lead them to raise the launch- readiness of their forces - mating warheads to delivery vehicles and preparing to fire on short notice,” he said. “Missiles put on hair-trigger alert also obviously increase the danger of their launch and release on false warning of attack -- false indications that the other side has initiated an attack.”

Then comes the problem of misinterpreted data, Blair said. “Intelligence failures in the midst of a nuclear crisis could readily lead to a false impression that the other side has decided to attack, and induce the other side to launch a preemptive strike.”

Blair notes that in a crisis it isn’t irrational to expect an attack, and this expectation makes it more likely that a leader will read the worst into incomplete intelligence.

“This predisposition is a cognitive bias that increases the danger that one side will jump the gun on the basis of incorrect information,” he said.

Ross told me that Iran’s relative proximity to Israel and the total absence of ties between the two countries make the situation even more hazardous.

“This is not the Cold War,” he said. “In this situation we don’t have any communications channels. Iran and Israel have zero communications. And even in the Cold War we nearly had a nuclear war. We were much closer than we realized.”

The answer to this predicament is to deny Iran nuclear weapons, but not through an attack on its nuclear facilities, at least not now. “The liabilities of preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear program vastly outweigh the benefits,” Blair said. “But certainly Iran’s program must be stopped before it reaches fruition with a nuclear weapons delivery capability.”

Ross argues that the Obama administration’s approach -- the imposition of steadily more debilitating sanctions -- may yet work. There’s a chance, albeit slim, that he may be right: New sanctions are just beginning to bite and, combined with an intensified cyberwar and sabotage efforts, they might prove costly enough to deter Tehran.

But opponents of military action make a mistake in arguing that a nuclear Iran is a containable problem. It is not.

(Jeffrey Goldberg is a Bloomberg View columnist and a national correspondent for the Atlantic. The opinions expressed are his own.)