Viewpoint: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Over 10 years have passed since I assumed the position of prime minister and vice-president of the UAE. In those 10 years we have launched a number of plans and strategies, led a number of reforms of our government, developed systems to track performance and improve services, encouraged innovation and the application of technology across all sectors, established awards, formed thousands of working teams, held numerous retreats and meetings, and established many new government agencies.
It is important to pause occasionally and review our past work, measure our accomplishments and chart our road ahead. Now, as we stand on a path leading to 2021 – the year that we have established as our target year for a large number of our objectives and goals – it is a good time to ask ourselves: what is the outcome of all this work and activity? We promised great achievements and laid out many aspirations. How far have we come on our road, and how much more do we have to do in the coming five years to fulfil those promises?
I would like to highlight a number of indicators of our achievements. I will leave the rest to our government officials and the members of our media to discuss openly, with transparency and without embellishment, but with numbers and facts, research and studies so that we can correct our path if we need to, work harder if required, thank those whose hard work has resulted in achievements and encourage those who have lagged behind. Through all of this, we should always remember that our main goal is the advancement and glory of our nation, and the betterment and happiness of our citizens. So let us review the past 10 years.
Despite the global financial crisis and the resulting economic slowdown, and despite the upheaval and disorder our region has endured, the UAE has shown marked progress across all sectors. Our economy has doubled in the past 10 years from a GDP of around Dh663bn ($180.5bn) to approximately Dh1.4trn ($381.2bn). This is an improvement that has provided jobs, and underpinned considerable economic and commercial opportunities for the citizens and residents of our country.
We have continuously stressed in the past 10 years, through legislation and policies, the importance of diversifying our economy away from dependence on oil. As a result, our non-petroleum exports have increased from Dh113bn ($30.8bn) when I assumed office, to Dh603bn ($164.2bn) – including free zone trade – in 2016. The economic contribution of the non-petroleum sector has increased from 66% to some 77% today. This has provided our economy with considerable protection throughout the recent sustained decline in oil prices and has meant that we have been one of the few countries worldwide with a cushion against the resultant economic slowdown.
With the development of government systems and services, the public sector’s contribution to GDP has increased from Dh23bn ($6.3bn) 10 years ago to Dh86bn ($23.4bn) currently. We have seen substantial growth in our competitiveness, moving from being the world’s 32nd most competitive economy to the 16th. This has placed the UAE on par with countries who have hundreds of years of development behind them.
Because of our open economic policies, foreign direct investment has seen a sharp increase from Dh179bn ($48.7bn) to approximately Dh410bn ($111.6bn) in the past 10 years, while our banks’ total assets have increased from Dh859.6bn ($234bn) to Dh2.5trn ($680.7bn). When it comes to health and education, which we consider to be among the most important sectors for our people, the indicators point to significant progress.
Our expenditure on the health sector has increased from Dh1.18bn ($321.3m) when I first assumed office to over Dh3.82bn ($1bn) currently. In addition, the number of doctors has increased substantially to over 17,000.
In education we have increased public sector expenditure by 57% to reach Dh9.8bn ($2.7bn) annually. The number of accredited programmes in UAE universities has grown from 206 to 862. The rate of kindergarten enrolment has grown to 93%, making the UAE among the highest globally. The rate of high school graduation has also reached 93%, which puts us among the highest globally as well.
Our work together across all sectors has been tireless. The excellence awards, strategic planning and government service improvement programmes, electronic and smart government initiatives, as well as the government performance management systems have not been a waste of time and effort. Our public sector has witnessed significant improvement, with the concept of excellence and reaching first place becoming deeply rooted in our government culture. No wonder, then, that our public sector has seen marked improvements, according to a number of internationally recognised indicators.
The UAE leads the Middle East today in over a hundred pivotal development indicators. In fact, our nation leads globally in a number of indicators, such as the quality of our public infrastructure, roads, maritime and aviation facilities, public safety and security, the rate of female enrolment in our universities, government efficiency and trust in the government, among others. In 2006 the rate of road accident fatalities was approximately 16 for every 100,000 people. At present, thanks to the work carried out by the teams at the Ministry of Interior, this rate has been reduced to 5.9 out of every 100,000 people and continues to improve.
It is impossible to detail each accomplishment of our government teams over the past 10 years. However, in addition to celebrating our achievements is also vital to evaluate the challenges ahead.
A few years ago we announced the indicators for the UAE National Agenda. There are 52 key performance indicators in education, health, housing, society, infrastructure, economy, environment, security, justice and safety, among others, which we aim to achieve by 2021, positioning ourselves among the best countries globally by that date, which marks the 50th anniversary of our union. These indicators form historic goals for us in the next five years. They also constitute the greatest challenges ahead of us; challenges we must overcome.
Recently, I received a detailed report about the progress that has been made in achieving these indicators. Overall, our rate of progress stands at 62%, which means 38% of the indicators have not yet been effectively achieved. We have only five years remaining – a very short period in the life of a nation. It is not our custom to appease or ingratiate ourselves with anyone, because courtesy at the expense of the country is not a sign of nationalism.
Therefore, we have issued a directive to form government teams called National Agenda Execution Teams. The teams will comprise 550 members of our government across all sectors and departments, and they will be responsible for achieving the targeted indicators. The teams will be under my direct supervision so that we can effectively intensify our efforts, mobilise our assets and redouble our work in the coming period in order to reach 100% of the goals of our National Agenda by the year 2021.
There is no room for procrastination, no time for delay. History is a witness to all of us. We have promised our people that we will accomplish what is best, and we shall fulfil our promise. The work of the government is an honourable duty, and our government will ceaselessly and tirelessly implement its plans and fulfil its objectives. I will lead this effort and the teams behind it personally. We ask God to guide us to do what is best for our country.