His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Keynote Remarks at the 2015 Government Summit in Dubai
February 13, 2015
Your Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, my brother, friend and mentor;
Before I start my speech, please allow me to offer my condolences to you and to myself on the demise of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, may God rest his soul in peace, who loved the UAE and was loved by the UAE people. He had a close relationship with the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed, may God rest his soul in peace. Our comfort and solace today is that our elder sister, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is in good hands, thanks to the best successor to the best predecessor. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, is a wise man, well-versed in ruling since his early age, may God help him and help the people and government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
I’d like to mention that the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques has achieved a transformation for the new generation, to whom I wish all the best.
The outstanding government
An outstanding government views every citizen as a national resource. Building the nation should not be shouldered by the government alone but is rather the duty of every citizen and resident in this beloved country.
I’d like to start by talking about the establishment of the UAE and its founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed, may God rest his soul in peace, who once said that the new generation should be well aware of the hardship experienced by the previous generation because that would give them more power, patience and persistence to continue the march started by our forefathers.
This significant setting for me is associated with an incident, initiated by the lack of water, which is essential for us. At that time, in his early age, the late Sheikh Zayed himself took part with his friends in digging water wells and water streams (Falajs). Which brings us to another topic, living in the Arabian Peninsula with no rivers around, and with around 70 million inhabitants today, but, thank God, we have the resources, the wealth that enables us to distill sea water. However, I’d like to take you on a trip 50 years ahead of us. In 50 years’ time, the population of the Arabian Peninsula will be around 3 times as many. Certainly, there won’t be a river over here; certainly, there won’t be any more oil or gas, either. This thinking is being shared by our government right as from today: our future generations in the next 50 years. What our forefathers had suffered will also be suffered by our children and grandchildren. That’s why it’s important to mention it and reflect on it.
The vision of our founding father Zayed, may his soul rest in peace, was that unity is the basis of our nation and the source of its strength: unifying tribes and emirates. The coherence of our society is our real wealth; it’s our way to continue to have a prosperous nation and overcome global challenges.
Today, under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, may God save him, we have a strong prosperous economy. Sheikh Khalifa continues to follow in the footsteps of his father, always directing us to cultivate and develop the country’s human resources. Among his priorities are education, healthcare, creativity, economic diversification, security and all that would contribute to establishing a nation with global capabilities and achievements.
Let me discuss these one by one. As for education, I think all of us in this region have paid a high price. We somewhat lagged behind, but being late in getting to learn what we should is much better than not getting to learn it at all. We know we lagged behind for a reason: the education outcomes posed many questions. Our best bet at this period of time where we have wealth is to invest all our resources in education, because there will be a time, 50 years from now, when we load the last barrel of oil aboard the ship. The question is, 50 years from now after we have loaded this last barrel of oil, are we going to feel sad? If our investment today is right, I think - dear brothers and sisters - we will celebrate that moment.
No doubt, education is fraught with challenges. Those who received their education at a particular place will always feel enthusiastic about it. However, the leadership must have a clear vision for the education outcomes for the next 25 years. For example, today our bread and butter is oil and gas. Therefore, we should make sure, right from today, that we should have qualified human resources to serve us in this field in the next 25 years. Our planning for this is not only for 12 years but for more than 25 years.
Under the leadership of Khalifa, the investment authority was established in the mid-seventies. Indeed, this reflects a farsighted view that since the mid-seventies the UAE has had an investment authority that is considered today the second largest investment authority in the world. Along the way, I’d like to mention two names with whom I worked personally, who have had a role in building this nation alongside our founding father, who had also partnered with President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa during the establishment of this investment authority: i.e. brother Ahmed Khalifa Al Suweidi and brother Mohammed Al Habroush.
Under His Highness Sheikh Khalifa, we’ve had a state-of-the-art infrastructure. Our leadership has been proactive in building a clean nuclear energy, and – God willing – once this program has been completed, around 25% of the UAE needs of clean nuclear energy will have been met. This is a giant program. God willing, the inauguration of the first plant will be in 2017 and we’re honored to invite everyone to the inauguration ceremony of the first plant.
Moreover, under His Highness Sheikh Khalifa, there’s an industry that I’d like to mention here because it has two characteristics. Strata, an aerostructures manufacturing plant, supplies spare parts for both Boeing and Airbus. With God’s grace and the hard work of our leadership, this plant is now building all modern aerostructures. Both Boeing and Airbus have parts manufactured at Strata. The second characteristic, of which I’m proud as an Emirati is that the Emirati woman represents 83% of the workforce in this plant. For us, I’d like to talk about this because I want to explain it in a way that is relevant to Emiratis. For us, the role of woman in our country is an important one—and Emirati women are really skilled. However, women also represent more than 50%. But for me, it is very important that the UAE utilize this resource as much as possible to help manage this country.
And here we’d like also to congratulate His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid on the great performance of one of the UAE airports: today Dubai Airport is considered one of the largest international airports handling over 70 million passengers. Of course, in the UAE there are companies that manage international airports and ports and that is something we take pride of as Emiratis. Also, there are airline companies that enjoy an international status. Under the leadership of Sheikh Khalifa, these examples represent the diversity and strength of our economy, which enables us to overcome global challenges, particularly at the time of a lower oil price. True, today there’s a crisis and concerns but we should recall that in 2008, oil was higher than it is now and went down more than it has done now—and life went on.
The achievements of our nation and its citizens need to be protected, especially in a region that has been facing regional challenges for decades. This is true because, for more than 70 years, we have lived in a turbulent Middle East and since the establishment of the UAE until now, the UAE, in this region, has consistently sent a positive message to the world that it will always work to make the Middle East a better place to live.
The UAE leadership is committed to the security and stability of our country, citizens and residents. The UAE is an active member in the international community through building constructive relations with all countries and taking part in humanitarian initiatives. We, in the UAE, take pride in the UAE’s role in humanitarian initiatives, a role played not only by the government but also by individual citizens, families and businessmen who have played an important role in this regard, so thank you all!
This wouldn’t have been possible without the grace of God, our visionary leadership and the residents who loved the UAE.
Our daughters and sons are the source of our pride – it’s true! Being proud of ourselves as a nation and of our national unity is very important. I’d like to give examples, but let me tell you a very short story first. (These are photos of youths I’d like to talk about after I finish). In the mid-seventies, a journalist interviewed our founding father and during the interview the journalist asked the late Sheikh Zayed as to why he overindulged his people. Sheikh Zayed replied by asking the journalist back whether he had children, who answered by saying that he had two. He asked him again whether he supported them until they finished their studies, to which the journalist answered positively: “There’s a difference between overindulgence and duty—you wouldn’t be unwilling to support your children”. We heard this story at an early age but we never appreciated or felt its true meaning, especially those of us who graduated from Western universities, those who are used to doing the calculations-- although it’s important to do your calculations. But we have our roots and our history, in which calculations might not always produce the right results, therefore we need to use wisdom (and wisdom necessitates being forgiving). Anyway, I have encountered this issue on a number of occasions in my personal experience. In 1990, Kuwait was invaded - may God save Kuwait, its people and its leader Sheikh Sabah. At that time, Sheikh Zayed asked for volunteers. We thought we’d get 40,000-50,000 volunteers, however volunteers reached around 80,000 and at that point we had announced that we closed applications. Of course, we had a particular figure in our minds and there’s a specific age requirement to be accepted in the military. However, we received much older men (60 and 70 years old—one of them was 83!) and when we told them to go back they said they couldn’t because they have a duty to fulfil. They refused to go back. And there were also cases of young youths, 13 and 14 year olds, brought by their parents who said they wanted their kids to do their part. Just to remind you that there’s a world of difference between overindulgence and duty.
I’d also like to mention someone’s amazingly kind attitude; I think this is a good time to mention it, although a very long time has passed since then. At that time when Kuwait was invaded in 1990, our military approached some companies in the market to buy a number of vehicles. I’d like to mention a specific case, someone named Abdullah Al Masoud. When we requested to purchase 4,000 vehicles, he said had some of them and the rest would be arriving soon. When we asked him about the cost, he said let me do my duty today, because I believe this is a right I have to do to my country for free.
We also have such cases today: our Emirati businessmen who did an honorable duty as Emiratis towards Egypt in initiating projects free of charge: $10m, $20m… up to $50m. We thank them for this and we’re proud of what they did.
This is an undoubtedly difficult time for us in this region, but with the grace of God and the determination of our men, we shall pass through it. (By men I also mean women who take up responsibility).
I’ll talk about these boys and girls who served in the national service. I deliberately selected some photos from a wider pool. Pardon me if I didn’t mention others. I just wanted to say that I selected this specimen for two reasons. First, because some of these guys are exempted from service, totally exempted from doing the national service being the only son in the family. Yet, they refused to stay at home, preferring to answer the call of duty and join the recruits to serve with them for 9 long months. The second specimen includes boys and girls who were given a medical leave for different reasons, for 1, 2 or 3 months… Yet, they refused to take leave or rest at home but instead went back to their units with their colleagues: we say thank you to all of them!
Excuse me for taking long, but I would like to read out their names (but please don’t applaud until I’m done!):
- Mohamed Obaid Mohamed Al Uwani
- Saeed Marzouq Hasan Al Dhuhouri
- Mish’al Salim Ali bin Haidar
- Al Murr Mohamed Humaid bin Malik
- Abdullah Saif Saeed Khasooni
- Omar Mohamed Ali Ahli
- Khalifa Ali Khalifa Al Shamsi
- Abdullah Rubaiye Yaqout Al Nuaimi
- Rashid bin Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum
- Salem Omar Abdullah Uboud Al Katheeri
- Jasim Mohamed Murad Al Raisi
- Salim Matar Al Sharif Al Hamli
- Ghanim Abdullah Ghanim Al Mazroui
- Khalil Abdullah Khalil Al Hammadi
- Fawwaz Abdulrahman Omar Belfaqih
- Abdullah Hasan Naser Bulainein
- Salim Saeed Mohamed Saif Al Kaabi
- Saeed Mohamed Saeed Al Hamli
- Shamsa Khamis Hamad Al Mazroui
- Naha Saleh al Yaf’ei
Excuse me if I left some names but I just didn’t want to take longer than this. I’d like to underscore that our society is coherent. The spirit of the union, our nation is all united with the grace of God. Thousands of our sons and daughters have joined the national service; they’re the source of our nation’s pride and they definitely represent its future and security. The specimen I’ve just mentioned is a model and an example to follow for the UAE society, for our children, in the same way that our founding father had earlier said. No doubt, these values, traditions, ethics and dedication exists today in every Emirati, in every household, in every family to whom I’d like to say on your behalf: thank you all! On your behalf, I’d like to say to them, thank you all and thanks to your parents – because this is what the journalist hadn’t expected when he asked Sheikh Zayed. I conclude by saying: as long as we have such people, and as long as we have such a spirit and dedication, the future of this nation is secure, with the grace of God and your determination.