Sheikh Mohammed's interview with Abu Dhabi TV in Davos
ADTV: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, thank you for agreeing to this interview. I'd like to begin by asking about your participation in the World Economic Forum in Davos. Did your participation change your impression about the technological and digital divide between the rich and the poor?
SM: In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. No, the divide is well known and I am afraid it will grow bigger and bigger. We must consider this carefully. Once we start, with Allah's help we will bridge this gap.
As for what we learnt, we benefited greatly and discovered that our views and opinions are valid.
ADTV: Most of the speakers at the conference alluded to this divide. The demonstrators outside were also emphasising the size of the gap between rich and poor. Your Highness, don't more efforts need to be made by Arab countries, and particularly Dubai, to bridge the divide?
SM: No, I don't think so. I believe that the UAE and Dubai are on the right path. We have a goal and a vision. Our path is clear. I call on Arab countries to follow our example. As you know, the world today is developing rapidly. The progress achieved in a single year these days is equivalent to the progress of twenty years in the past.
There are the Northern countries, enjoying wealth and development, and there are the Southern ones, deprived of this development and still poor. We, in the Arab world, are amongst these countries, but the UAE, thank Allah, has started down the right path and is keeping abreast of developments. To achieve this, we have to focus on education and knowledge.
ADTV: As Your Highness mentioned in your speech about the challenges faced by young Arab leaders, education in the Arab world is severely lacking. Are you satisfied with the current standards of education in the UAE, especially in Dubai?
SM: As you said, I was invited to Davos to speak about the challenges facing young Arab leaders. I was trying to convey a number of ideas to the conference in my speech.
As for education in the UAE and Dubai, yes, we have an outdated education system. There are some subjects that are no longer relevant to the syllabus. We must teach the students new subjects. I don't think one should graduate as an engineer, for example, without first learning about computers and electronics. Otherwise one will be left behind, uncertain of one's duties and of the future.
ADTV: But these graduates, whether from the UAE or abroad, when they enter the job market, find that there are no suitable vacancies. Is there any co-ordination between the government and the private sector to create suitable positions for these graduates?
SM: Yes. I think those equipped with knowledge of IT can get suitable jobs, or set up their own business. The government and private sector will help them and guide them to the right path.
ADTV: Let's talk about your speech, which covered a variety of topics. You discussed openness, accountability and the need to fight corruption. Do you feel you have already dealt with these matters in the UAE?
SM: In Dubai there is no corruption. Corruption means beheading. Whenever we hear about a case of corruption, somebody must bear the consequences. Openness? Of course, openness applies not only to the government, but also to companies and all sectors.
ADTV: Is there enough openness?
SM: We are beginners; we are still on the way. We have only been on this track for a certain time, but, as you know, we have given departments deadlines by which to reach their goals. The private sector has also followed our path. We see ourselves as being on the right track.
Also, we have now introduced IT to the syllabus. In the next two years, around 50,000 students will receive IT education. Those who excel will be sent abroad for further training, because we have great plans that will accommodate this large number of graduates, God willing.
ADTV: Of course, Your Highness, you also talked about the need to reduce military expenditure internationally, and in the UAE in particular. As Defence Minister, you are aware that the UAE is signing arms deals for huge amounts of money. Does the security situation justify this? Also, you called for a large amount of military budgets to be given over to education. How do you explain that?
SM: I don't agree that we are spending huge amounts of money on arms. We have young heads of departments who supervise this. The armament of the UAE is in balance with the development of the UAE. We are a small country. We must guarantee our security and safety. Our defence and development are balanced because of these heads of departments, with whom I am very pleased. They do not squander money. They spend only what the country and the army needs.
As for education, as I said, we have to change the syllabus and invest more in it.
ADTV: Your Highness, many describe you as extremely enthusiastic and ambitious, regarding Dubai. How do you respond to that, it is both criticism and praise?
SM: We accept criticism because it leads us to the right path. All humans err. A successful man, in my opinion, may err twice, but he will succeed eight times. Of course I am enthusiastic, everyone in Dubai is. We are proud of what our parents achieved and we see our achievements as small in comparison. We have to be eager for the development of our country and follow their example, to inspire us and to make others enthusiastic too.
If they tell you that it is Mohammed bin Rashid who does the work, Mohammed bin Rashid is just one person. We work in teams. Of course there is leadership and vision; there are goals. We have control over all these things.
ADTV: It has been said that, in the Gulf countries, if you do not personally supervise your own projects then they will not be completed. Does this apply to the UAE and Dubai? We have noticed that you have a number of capable people in government departments and in the private sector.
SM: We are only human. We need orders; we need supervision and support, for we are all human. I learnt this from my military studies. When we let the graduates go off to their offices, we noticed that their efficiency dropped. We have to encourage them; we have to give them instructions and education. It's the same with civilians.
It's the same case with those working in immigration, or at the airport. If you don't keep urging them on, they are only human, if they feel that there is no one doing this, then they will no longer be active in their work. Therefore, a leader should issue directions, offer guidance and supervise. This does not mean he must always be present. There are people who, if you guide them, will perform their tasks perfectly. You must give them energy and raise their morale, so that they can progress in life.
ADTV: Your Highness, allow me to ask you this. Some people say that you have many ideas and ambitions, but that they are sometimes difficult to implement.
SM: Yes, I have heard this said. Some people even criticise me, saying that perhaps some of my ideas and projects have not been comprehensively evaluated. I do not reproach those who criticise, for if they have sufficient information about the project, they will change their mind. Those who criticise have probably only been aware of the project for a month, or just a week, and are unaware of the time spent evaluating the project. Unless I am one hundred percent sure about an idea, I will not implement it. Once I am convinced, I do not hesitate, even if others are sceptical of its chances of success.
ADTV: Regarding the Media City, which you recently opened, Your Highness said that freedom is a responsibility and spoke of "responsible freedom". Some criticised this, saying that it means a restricted freedom. Do you agree with this? And what did you mean when you said that?
SM: I also do not reproach those who took my words in that way. I am not against freedom of the press, but I am looking for responsible freedom - for example - CNN, or MBC, take responsibility for their words. Once, the Times published an article about me that was incorrect. When we wrote to them, they printed an apology on the front page. Even in liberal countries, it is possible to sue papers that publish false information, as they are responsible for their words. We do not allow our media to act as forums for any party, so that it can slander another, but they have their reputations and their names and are free to say whatever they wish and are responsible for whatever they say.
ADTV: The openness you talked about, in journalism. If one of the local papers criticised you, or any of your projects, would you accept this criticism and consider it as part of the freedom that has begun to emerge in the UAE?
SM: I permit any newspaper to criticise me, so long as its criticism is substantiated and factual, but not if what they publish is false and not believed by anyone. I am criticised every day in the Majlis and in the office, because my brothers, our young leaders and other visitors care about their country. I don't like those who agree with me on everything. He who always compliments you does not respect you, but he who comes to you with advice and tells you, "That's wrong," loves and respects you, or why would he do it? Therefore, we have a debate every day. We exchange opinions. Everyone makes mistakes; I learnt that a high-ranking officer or a leader can take advice from a simple soldier. Meaning to say, if you ask soldiers for their opinion about a certain idea, one of them may say, "No sir, this is a better idea." In fact, a leader should be willing to take the advice of others, if they are right. Criticism is a healthy thing for us. Every day, Sheikh Zayed, Sheikh Maktoum and I talk. Sheikh Zayed always asks for our opinion. We do not always agree with him. If someone criticises me, I respect them, because it means they care about me and about my country.
ADTV: How does Your Highness see Dubai and the UAE in the future?
SM: The progress achieved by the UAE under the leadership of Sheikh Zayed is clear to everyone. Thank Allah; we have surpassed many countries that were decades ahead of us. The UAE is firmly established on the map. God willing, the UAE and Dubai will continue to progress with the same speed and the same spirit, if not better.