Leaders lead; that might seem like a redundant truism, but it is one lent a new depth of meaning in an open letter from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to ministers, officials and the general public, that sets standards of candour, transparency and, indeed, leadership.
Twitter is the new public square and on Saturday, Sheikh Mohammed gathered about him in that place his "brothers and sisters", not only those charged with delivering the policies of the government but also the citizens whose prosperity and happiness is their ultimate objective. This was an address made on the eve of the "new season", when all turn their backs on the well-earned distractions of summer and return to the fray with renewed vigour. But Sheikh Mohammed's words evoked the sense of another kind of season – the opening of a new chapter in the development of the UAE.
To the government’s ministers and officials his message was plain – this must be a government of achievements, not conferences. Their place was in the field, “between students and teachers, with widows and mothers, among the elderly, with the sick”. Sheikh Mohammed also made clear that Emiratisation, a vital component of preparation for the looming realities of national life as a post-oil economy, is not proceeding as quickly as the government believes it should. This programme is linked inextricably with the continued economic growth of the country and it is clear that this coming season will see Emiratisation given a necessary new impetus.
Complaints from the public, said the Prime Minister, were to be met with respect and resolved – any institution afraid to face people was one that had lost its confidence. This point acknowledged an invaluable wisdom. A nation’s success cannot be measured by balance sheets alone; people’s happiness must be weighed in the scales.
Yet with rights come responsibilities. There were words of warning for those who would traduce the image and reputation of the UAE on social media for the sake of gaining a few followers, undermining the work of thousands. But perhaps the most revealing aspect of Sheikh Mohammed’s address is what it tells us about the government of that nation – one still inspired by the legacy of Sheikh Zayed to act always in the best interests of its people.
Within a day, the Cabinet had adopted the six main points in his letter and appointed a committee of ministers to prepare a 100-day plan to address them. It is headed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs and, in the words of Sheikh Mohammed, a "graduate of the school of Zayed".
This is a government willing and eager to continually review how it works, unafraid publicly to call out the shortcomings of the engines of state and, above all, determined not to succumb to complacency, the enemy of momentum.
The UAE’s successes to date are as evident as they are legion. Few could doubt Sheikh Mohammed’s confident assertion that the future promises to be even better and brighter. But it is the very fact that the government refuses to take such a future for granted that ensures it will come to pass.