Al Hayat Newspaper - Shafiq Al Asadi
Your Highness, Dubai, the famous city known for its outstanding experience on both regional and international levels, has been recently criticized for its development strategy in the light of the global financial crisis. How do you perceive this campaign and how are you dealing with it?
Criticism and negative statements do not really disturb me. We do not mind receiving objective criticism that helps us improving our services and methods. If there were negative aspects, then we will address them and work toward revamping them. But following the global financial crisis, what we read and heard was not in reference to the negative aspects. In fact it was a "media bombardment" targeted at the UAE as a model for a federal state, a successful and prosperous Arab country. And Dubai, the city that has set up a successful economic model at a global level, was under a daily attack by some Western media, as if they were in a race against time to harm the UAE.
As for the motives of the campaign, God Almighty knows. But it seems that the success of the Arab, whether individual or state, city or a company, is seen as unacceptable. It seems that seeing distinct images of successful Arabs and Arab countries disturbs some people. They would rather stick with the distorted images of Arab stereotypes in their minds.
I need to stress here a very important perception. We are not growing in order to be a model for its highest building in the world, best airport, and most luxurious hotel, and the largest seaport and man-made islands. These landmarks and features are unique and famous all over the world. But the Dubai model is beyond that. Dubai is an Arab city with scarce natural resources but with a clear vision of comprehensive development and social needs. It is a city that succeeded through its investments in human resources, its unique geographical location, and its trade expertise. This has enabled us to achieve unmatched growth and to become the focal connection between the East and West. Dubai has proved as well the possibility of coexistence of different cultures in an open and tolerant Arab Islamic environment.
Dubai’s model, which is part of the UAE model, lies in the success of the economy’s diversification, and in sparking the interest of the Arab region and neighboring countries in the information and communication technology, the e-government and the knowledge economy, and in facilitating access to the people in our region to global best practices. Our international experiences in various areas are often on display through exhibitions, conferences and other activities.
Dubai’s model also lies in proving the viability of investing in the region, of investing specifically in the knowledge economy and in human welfare. It has also raised the citizens’ expectations in the region concerning levels of good governance and transparency, and the quality of public services and state-of-the-art infrastructure.
Dubai is about providing the highest international standards in education and health systems. It is a city with entrepreneurial spirit that entered into international investment areas and bought assets in global ports, airports and financial markets. Dubai succeeded in building a global financial center and entering into partnerships with reputed financial institutions, and was able to compete globally in the areas of air and sea transport, and charitable initiatives that were created to help developing the less fortunate countries.
These are some of Dubai’s model features, which has attracted the attention of the world, and enticed the interest of the Arab region and its people, and inspired many people and motivated them. Is this the model that our critics are targeting?
I asked my brothers and myself this question and I did not expect a reply, because we are accustomed in the UAE to respond by work, not words. We believe in God and we have full faith and confidence in Him and in our people and businessmen and the many other believers in Dubai.
Abu Dhabi is also witnessing an attack since it succeeded in leading a successful Arab union and launched initiatives of a strategic and important nature such as “Masdar City.”. I know that the international media have covered art initiatives in Abu Dhabi, including building an outpost of the Louvre. But one gets the impression that even in such coverage of important initiatives, there’s invariably some reference or the other to discredited stereotypes of the Arab Gulf. Now the focus is on Dubai, and again the stereotypes are being brought up. It seems that any successful Arab model in economic development invites such negative treatment in the international media
To be fair, we read recently a few balanced articles reporting on what is the UAE doing regarding the effect of the global financial crisis on our region.
Al Hayat Newspaper - Shafiq Al Asadi
Your Highness, the media campaign has focused on pointing that Dubai is facing an economic crisis threatening the foundations of its economic development. What is the actual impact of the crisis on Dubai economically and socially?
In fact, the campaign has gone much further than that. An American writer, well known for his extreme views, was so keen to project Dubai’s alleged “failure” in the coexistence of cultures, that he went all the way stating that Dubai was a place where cultures break up and not where cultures meet. He reached that conclusion based on the fact that Dubai has jailed and deported a British couple caught having illegal sex on a public beach.
With regard to the fact that the global crisis effect threatens Dubai’s growth and economy, I can guarantee you that those references constitute "wishful thinking" on the part of some people; they are illusions, not realities. The economic foundations and development are firm and stable; otherwise Dubai would not have been able to deal efficiently with the global financial crisis consequences. In addition to that, Dubai is not a city on its own. It is a member of the United Arab Emirates federation, which is strong, resilient and successful – a federation that is able to face the most difficult challenges.
Al Hayat Newspaper - Shafiq Al Asadi
Your Highness, the foreign media are reporting on the “bubble burst.” What would you tell the people who are endorsing this view?
I keep hearing the expression of “the bubble” for the past couple of decades. In my opinion, this bubble is found only in the minds of those who often keep repeating it and do not know its meaning. The future will prove to them the truth.
Let me assure you we are fine, we have overcome the crisis with the least amount of losses. In our culture, we say: be virtuous and you will gain. That is why we always look at the half full cup of water, and when we look at the empty part, we do not moan over the void, instead we think of better and faster ways to fill it.
The National Abu Dhabi Media Company - Matt Slater
The issues of labor rights and human trafficking continue to adversely affect the image of the UAE abroad. Whereas there are clear policies aimed at aligning the UAE with international best practice on these fronts, the actual rate of prosecutions of those violating rights on these fronts are generally seen to be low. What is being done to address this?
I want you to look at the results of the last meeting of the International Committee for Human Rights in Geneva, and to look at reports that refer to the huge progress in the UAE with regard to these issues. Even the periodic reports issued by the U.S. State Department recognize this progress, particularly on the issue of human trafficking.
We care about the rights of workers; we care about reinforcing the freedom of people. Our aim is not to win the approval of international reports, but we are keen to promote human rights and also deepening the values of social justice and tolerance. We are keen to provide a model for Arab and Muslim countries that adheres to religious and cultural frameworks; we are keen to continue to interact with the international community. We want the respect and cooperation of all. Our religion and our values and ethics do not accept any violation of human rights and of people -- no matter where they work and where do they come from and what their belief and religion are. It’s in our nature not to condone injustice, and we sympathize with victims and needy people. We have very active charitable institutions operating in a large number of the less fortunate countries. We cannot accept that any person, man or woman, would be defeated in their quest for human dignity. As for the number of cases submitted in the courts for prosecution, I would say that it reflects the reality and it is considered to be high in comparison with the number of the UAE population.
By Al-Sharq al-Awsat Daily
Many rumors are targeting Dubai claiming it has turned into a ghost city and that tens of thousands are being laid off every week. Don’t you feel upset about these rumors and the way the impact of the crisis has been perceived outside Dubai?
Actually, we don’t pay attention to rumors and our response always comes in actions rather than words. As a matter of fact, Dubai visitors these days are surprised by these rumors and I’ve met with many of them recently and they expressed their amazement at Dubai’s traffic jams, overbooked hotels and crowded markets.
Dubai’s success -- which it has sustained over the past years -- is the true reason behind this type of mixed reports. Those who spread such rumors -- are they aware of the fact that global nature of Dubai makes it more subject to impacts of global changes than any other city? We totally endorse freedom of expression but we always urge responsible freedom that promotes principles of integrity and objectivity.
It is truly sad to find international publications that have usually boasted about factual and precise reporting issuing articles based on mere rumors and baseless speculations. We are fully aware of the hidden fierce global economic competition between different parties who are in the same line of business. When a city or a country decides to integrate itself as an effective international player, it should not expect an easy journey full of roses and good wishes.
Do you know how many major international airlines are closely monitoring Emirates’ performance? Do you think that international port services companies are happy with the success accomplished by DP World in managing and operating dozens of ports around Europe, Asia and Africa? Do you expect international financial markets are pleased with Dubai Financial Market’s success in its accusation of some of the world’s most important financial markets in the world?
I will tell you more. Emirates Airlines’ successful model has not led only to achieving an internationally recognition but also has induced the launch of other Arab airlines that followed the same model. Emirates has encouraged many established Arab airlines to enhance their fleets and upgrade their services. This has ultimately led to increasing Arab airlines’ share of the international travel market. Leading by example, Emirates has set new benchmarks for quality services not only regionally but also internationally. One can only gain world recognition by proving success and ability to take the initiative, yet this recognition may not necessarily reflect acceptance.
By Ali Mutalq Al-Quhais Al-Shammari - AlReyadh Newspaper
Sometime ago, several Western papers published unfair reports about the UAE, claiming human right violations of foreign labor in the UAE, and the lack of free elections in the UAE, etc. What do you think of these allegations? What do you think is the reason behind spreading such malicious reports?
They may write whatever they like, and play the tunes that please them. We are not annoyed by criticism, nor do we fear campaigns. They have their models, experience, values, standards, their cultural and intellectual frames of references. We have our models, values, standards and frames of references. We are open to the entire human experience in every field. We learn from them, but we will never import ready-made models. We do not accept that, and our society does not accept this. As for the allegations about foreign labor, it is an old theme, repeated every now and then. Yes, certain sectors of foreign labor are not in the state we like or hope. But we are steadily improving that state, and we are making progress every year. For years, the talk about foreign labor has not ceased. Such talk is open to all and to the countries that provide such labor. Despite that, millions are trying to come to work in our country. So, why do those foreign countries don’t stop their citizens from coming to work in the UAE if the work situation is such as these nasty reports claim?