Kanoo says jobs should be earned

Mishal Kanoo, a prominent Emirati businessman, warns that localisation policies can backfire if based only on quotas and not on merit.

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A prominent Emirati businessman says localisation policies could backfire in "tremendous ways" if based only on quotas and not on merit.

Mishal Kanoo, the deputy chairman of the Kanoo Group, also said the UAE education system needed to be overhauled to better prepare Emirati youths for the workforce.

"In order for such a plan to work, the first thing that needs to be done is someone needs to sit with the Ministry of Education and explain to them, I don't need higher colleges to be ready and prepped. I need my primary, my secondary schools, to be prepped to have my students ready to face the world. They're not," said Mr Kanoo, whose family business was founded in Bahrain more than a century ago.

Too many young Emiratis feel they deserve jobs because they won "the lottery of the womb", he said.

The Kanoo Group, one of the largest family-owned conglomerates in the Gulf, has an Emiratisation policy but requires those hired to be fully qualified.

"I am not a social service. I'm not a charity," Mr Kanoo said.

Mr Kanoo, who has three young children, said he considered himself an "agent provocateur". He feels strongly that too many Emiratis consider they are "owed" jobs.

"No, come with the attitude that I'm going to help you increase your business, and I am going to make myself so invaluable to you that you would want to go out of your way to reward me. That's what should be done," he said.

Using legislation to enforce Emiratisation could deter international companies from investing here, he said.

"Companies don't want to be beleaguered by them. What, jobs for the boys? What do you think brought down the British Empire? It was jobs for the boys. Because you had public schools that ended up not performing and just making sure that this guy graduated and here's your job. That, if you want, is the equivalent of Emiratisation," he said. "You just have to make sure you have the right connections and that's it? Is that what you want to teach?"