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First Media e-Session with the UAE Prime Minister (3rd add)

Apr 18, 2009 - 07:46 -

WAM x x x soon.

DALAL ABU GHAZALA, Al Hayat Newspaper Q: The UAE has proven remarkable capability in managing previous crises, including the Gulf First or Second Wars and 9/11 events in the US. What are the steps endorsed by the country's supreme leadership to overcome the current financial crisis? And do these measures include re-evaluating the UAE's strategy and its plans for the coming few years? A: Revisiting and re-evaluating strategies and plans are ongoing processes. They aren't only restricted to times of crises. Life is full of changes and developments, but only the clear-headed can effectively monitor and examine these changes and identify their trends and then determine how much these developments will impact their own strategies and plans.

Q: Some Western media are trying to defame the UAE either through exaggerating the impact of the economic downturn on Dubai, or through inaccurate reports such as Human Rights Watch's on the Media Law in the UAE. What do you think are the reasons behind such campaigns? And what is your response to these campaigns? A: We don't care who stands behind such campaigns, but rather pay attention to the content of these reports either issued by media or international nongovernmental organizations. We deal with such reports with absolute objectivity -- for example when producers of these reports express their wish to visit the UAE and meet concerned officials, we open our doors for them and welcome all constructive discussions, offering them full briefings on all facts. We attentively listen to their views and, I like to think, so do they.

Regarding Human Rights Watch's report on the UAE's new draft media law, the international organisation's officials were in the country last week. They met with the concerned UAE officials who defended the law and disputed the report's inaccurate remarks, explaining the law's different clauses and articles. They tried to steer the report's producers away from any misleading interpretations of its content.

PAUL STOBER, Gulf News Q: The government has taken significant steps to support the financial services and property industries in the UAE. Are you happy with the results so far? A: I am very pleased with the results, and I am confident we are on the right track. Everybody will recognise shortly the encouraging indicators of the economic recovery.

Q: If it became necessary, what further steps of support would the government consider for the financial services and property industries? Would the government consider extending support to other important industries in the UAE, like tourism? If so, what form might this take? A: The measures we have undertaken so far have shifted the UAE economy from the crisis mood to the solution mood. Not one country in the world, regardless of what efficient systems it boasts, could have ensured recovery from the financial crisis before recognising its actual impact on the global economy and international markets. No one could predict ensuring recovery before the world's leading economies consolidates their efforts to face the crisis. That actually took several months of constant work. Now, optimistic voices are getting louder worldwide, while markets' fear has started to gradually diminish.

The UAE has one of the region's most progressive, vibrant and open economies. Efforts by world leading economies to deal with the financial crisis have been effective and fruitful, while the tendency to increase international cooperation - including recent decisions by the G20 summit in London - remains very positive and encouraging. I can confidently say that the UAE is very well positioned on the recovery path, thanks to our domestic policy measures - such as the fiscal stimulus, easing monetary policy, and increasing liquidity in the system. There are some early indicators of international economic recovery. Yet, I cannot predict that the global economic recovery will proceed without potential hurdles. I cannot also claim that repercussions of the economic financial meltdown are over yet. But what I can say is that the worst is already behind us, and there is now a solid will and determination among concerned countries to join hands to collectively revive the global economy as well as their own individual economies.

Q: Increasing financial support to other business sectors is probable, pending the actual needs of each particular sector. The UAE's tourism sector is in a good shape, with UAE hotels recording high occupancy rates. The country's tourism industry has already successful survived the worst period and resiliently adapted itself during the most critical times.

What are the main strengths and weaknesses of the UAE, as it faces the challenge of the global economic slowdown? What are the particular challenges that Dubai faces as it positions itself as a global business centre? A: The UAE's strengths are numerous. The UAE's success in facing the global financial crisis and alleviating its impact on the Emirati economy is the most conspicuous evidence of these strengths. The country enjoys a leading ranking position in several fields such as productivity, environment, connectivity, and transformation to knowledge economy. Yet the failure to match best international practices in these fields might be considered a major weakness. We always benchmark ourselves against the best. I always say that we have just embarked on a long journey of hard work to fulfil our promised sustainable development through a series of strategic projects to be established during the years to come.

DURAID AL BAIK, Gulf News: Q: Do you feel that Dubai needs an efficient auditing body to investigate and curb corruption in financial institutions before things become too bad? How more the UAE can move faster in fighting corruption and promoting transparency? A: There is already a government financial audit department. The department has a track record of successful performance, and it has done very well with investigations related to corruption cases. Enhancing financial auditing systems and capabilities is undoubtedly important and that is exactly what we are doing now. As for promoting transparency in fighting corruption, I confirm that the UAE is completely committed to highest levels of transparency. There is no room for corrupt officials and citizens among us. Handling corruption cases does not mean prosecuting judging and penalising corrupt individuals only; it also aims at filling all administrative and legal loopholes that have been used to breach the law.

By Al Bayan newspaper Q: When will the term "remote" (rural) areas disappear from the everyday vocabulary of the UAE? A: The UAE does not have remote areas in the negative connotation of the word. We only have areas that are relatively remote from urban centers. The urban planning of these areas has to be based on scientific research to carefully identify means of providing best efficient services to local residents.

There are sometimes exaggerated reports depicting these areas as if they are utterly deprived of basic services while their residents live in appalling conditions. Sometimes, one reads press reports demanding a school to be built in an area that has no more than 50 homes, while there is a school only few kilometers away with available means of transportation for the students.

I've personally toured most of these areas across the country, and I was very keen on visiting particular areas and schools that were the focus of the media. I discovered that the situation on ground is often completely different from the picture presented by the media. Of course, these areas need to be given more attention -- and this is exactly what the government has committed itself to since its first day in office. The government efforts in that regard are in line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.

Q: Are there any practical measures undertaken by the government to address the issue of the population imbalance? What about offering incentives to the UAE nationals to have more children? A: The government has embarked on certain measures which have been announced earlier and carried by the media. The committee in charge of the population issues is working quietly and in a very effective manner. The UAE Government Strategy has identified a major direction for developing particular steps to address the population imbalance issue. One of the strategies the UAE government has identified to address this issue involves focusing on Emiratization through well-planned policy based on combining federal and local efforts. Incentives for the UAE nationals to have more children are already in place. UAE nationals are offered several incentives either in terms of services, benefits, salary increments or other privileges for their children. The UAE government has paid special attention to offering UAE nationals all possible incentives.

Q: Why have the UAE Government retreats been stopped? A: The UAE Government retreats have not been put on hold but they are usually organized with relatively long intervals. Yet, the Cabinet meetings are convened on regular basis.

Q: Some people believe that you put more trust in youth rather than veterans to lead Dubai organizations. What is your comment on this view? A: I've trusted, and I will continue to trust well-qualified and experienced youth. If youth are not empowered and given full opportunities, how expertise and new leaderships will be built? Q: In the meantime, I don't know which age signifies youth. Are they below the age of 35 or 40? If a person who has spent 10 or 20 years in his/her workplace and still has not developed any experience, can he/she be categorized as youth? How many years one should spend at work to gain experience -- should we say 5 or 10? A: The world has changed. Knowledge is now accessible to everybody. Training and development programmes are also available for those who seek to develop themselves and opt to enhance their competencies to ensure successful future career path. Young leaders' development programmes are also available for all UAE nationals who prove themselves worthy through tests carried out by an independent body.

We look high at our national expertise, both young and veteran. I will continue to explore and discover young talent and offer them full opportunities and push them to assume leading positions.

Q: How do you foresee the impact of the unified GGC currency on UAE's economy? A: It will have a positive impact on all GCC countries' economies. The currency is a federal issue, and the UAE has been very enthusiastic about the unified currency and showed interest in hosting the GCC Central Bank.

Q: How do you evaluate the experience of the women whom you empowered to assume administrative and legislative roles in the UAE? A: The experience has been very successful and most of those women have demonstrated remarkable commitment and significant competency in performing their duties and fulfilling their responsibilities. They have also proven that the UAE woman is completely reliable and worthy of trust in all leadership and non-leadership positions.

Q: What was the response of the UAE health authorities following your direct criticism of doctors' professional competencies and your urging that medical services across the country be enhanced? A: There has been remarkable progress in quality of health care services, which still fall short of our expectations. I totally appreciate that pulling together loose ends to rectify mixed processes accumulated over long years takes time. Yet, efforts are now underway to develop the healthcare sector and work is progressing in the right direction. Competition resulting from the growing presence of private healthcare organizations has reflected positively on the overall medical performance in the country. I believe all private and public sector doctors will live up to international best practices very soon.