Five years of respect and humility
When the financial crisis hit, the Dubai businessman Hussein al Shafar recalls, there were many voices criticising Dubai.
Some even said it was ruined. It was not. "Trade fell ill but it did not die," the chairman of Al Shafar Holding Group says. Throughout the toughest times, he was among a group of businessmen who had a meeting every Tuesday with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, who became Ruler of Dubai five years ago today.
They took great succour, he says, from the Ruler's pledge to support the emirate's business community, even if they made mistakes.
"Sheikh Mohammed's way was very much like Sheikh Rashid, his father," Mr al Shafar said. "He listened to everyone and he either convinced you or you convinced him. He listened to every point of view."
Mr al Shafar described a man who offered "full psychological and material support", yet was "humble and respected everybody".
His work in Dubai made the emirate nothing short of a "hallmark of the world", he said.
Mr al Shafar, who is also an FNC member, spoke of Sheikh Mohammed's advice to the members on questioning ministers at the FNC, a process that could often become heated.
"If you debate with the minister, you need to debate in a scientific, civilised way," he recalled Sheikh Mohammed saying. "If you cannot reach a solution, I am there, but the minister is also there and he also cares about the wellbeing of the country."
"We are all in the same boat," he remembers Sheikh Mohammed saying. "Respect and understanding should reign."
Mr al Shafar recalled a meeting he attended between Sheikh Mohammed and a group of young businessmen.
''He asked them all to grab any opportunity they get because opportunities are rare in life,'' he said. ''Struggle, work hard, and if you need something, come to me, I am here,'' he said was the Ruler's advice.
Ultimately, he says, Sheikh Mohammed chose the right path out of the crisis, continuing to support infrastructure projects such as the Dubai Metro, as well as promoting tourism and security. ''We were in safe hands,'' Mr al Shafar says.Tuesday, January 4, 2011