Yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid becoming Ruler of Dubai and, shortly afterwards, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE. It is a fitting occasion to reflect on his roles at the helm of the country’s most populous emirate and in Cabinet.
In his anniversary letter, published on Sunday, Sheikh Mohammed summarises the approach taken by what has become one the most dynamic nations in the world. The letter extends Sheikh Mohammed's thanks to various close friends, as well as to the wider nation. Friendship, he notes, forms part of the foundation of the UAE’s greatness.
Early on in the letter, Sheikh Mohammed mentions Vision 2021, which was formulated in 2009. Such initiatives are a fitting introduction to the past 15 years' annual stream of projects, reforms and new laws. The ambition is unambiguous, centred on the target of making the UAE "one of the best countries in the world". Sheikh Mohammed references the many individual efforts which continue to work towards this goal, including the introduction of more than 50 laws to keep pace with society's current and future needs. Similarly, recent legal reforms include increasing the ease at which foreign residents can make a home in the country, formally allowing inheritance to be distributed according to one's country of origin, as well as allowing divorces to be processed under the legal system of a resident's home country, among others.
About 2,500 government services have transferred into smart systems, again intended to ease the lives of all those living in the UAE and boost government efficiency. Sheikh Mohammed draws on statistics from the 130 per cent increase in the federal budget, to over $2 billion of state funding for research and development. Other paths to a more dynamic future include last year's expansion of the Golden Visa scheme, intended to attract talented people and their families from around the globe, with the goal of strengthening and diversifying the economic future of the UAE.
The measures seem to be working. For example, 95 per cent of UAE residents report feeling safe, and the country now has the second largest economy in the Arab world.
In terms of Sheikh Mohammed's specific achievements in the emirate of Dubai, a diverse economy focused on global industries such as tourism and aviation boosts the soft power and international profile of the country as a whole. These, along with, for example, Dubai's financial sector, have helped maintain the Emirates’ prosperity throughout last year's difficulties.
While Sheikh Mohammed dedicates parts of the letter to these local achievements, they are tied into the wider success of Emirati unity and collective identity. He talks of his partnership – and fraternal bonds – with leaders from other emirates, particularly with his "friend, companion, supporter and leader", Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
The past year was a difficult one. It is plain that with some of the best testing rates internationally, as well as swifter and less economically harmful lockdowns, the UAE has had a less damaging pandemic than many other developed countries. It is fitting, therefore, that as vaccinations spell the beginning of the end of Covid-19, the nation reflects on central players in the UAE's success, such as we do today on the occasion of 15 years of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s leadership.