On 3 May 2020 His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, (May God keep him) held a series of meetings with Ministers, Deputy Ministers, executive councils and world-fame experts to lay out a nation-wide post-Corona stage strategy for various sectors and draw up detailed plans in the short and long terms to recuperate and resume economic activity.
His Highness noted that “A new world is waiting for us, where fresh tools and priorities are entailed. Our nation will be the most prepared and quickest to rise, with God’s help, for post-COVID 19 era to build a new future. Education, health, civil service, investment, trade and electronic sectors will have new developments to cope with a multi-opportunity future”. He added that “Our national priorities need to be reviewed for post-COVID 19 era, our financial and human resources re-channeled and medical, food and economic security re-strengthened with fresh programs and exceptional projects”.
His Highness has, thus,Pioneering drawn the main outlines of UAE post-COVID 19 era development process which comes in two folds: First, We have a new challenge which requires a fresh response and an in-depth review of objectives and priorities. Second, We need to explore the opportunities of this challenge.
First: Development and Strategic Significance
1 Pioneering, Uniqueness and Looking Ahead: The UAE is the first world country to take the initiative to lay out a post-corona strategy/vision, though the pandemic is not over yet. It reflects UAE’s commitment to anticipate the course of events and look ahead using scientific planning. This was reflected by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed on the ratification of “UAE Strategy for the Future” in September 2016 by saying “We always had our eyes fixed on future—one of our secrets of success… The future usually comes with opportunities and challenges which, if rightly identifies, is the most crucial step to deal with them”.
2 Positive Outlook to Challenges: It is customary of the UAE leadership to keep a positive outlook of challenges. It is not the end of the world and these challenges are seen as a source of determination, power and will to move ahead. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, struck a similar note in his speech to the Emirati people: “I wish you stay positive and optimistic as taught by our late father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in the face of challenges and turn them into opportunities of success… Our ancestors had endured many crises with patience, hope and optimism. We need to follow suit”.
In his book “Reflections on Happiness and Positivity”, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, explained UAE philosophy of governance and administration by saying “Positiveness has to do with one’s outlook to life. It is the spectacles through which the world is watched and the future anticipated. If black, the challenges would look daunting and the future bleak and you develop paranoia.” He continued to say that “Challenges and hurdles are not the finishing point but an opportunity to create fresh solutions”.
3 Confidence in One’s Ability to Transition Present Stage: Self-confidence is a must to deal with real-life challenges, however tough. The UAE government initiative to lay out a post-corona strategy reflects self- confidence which is always highlighted by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed who expressed his confidence in making a transition of this stage. Moreover, he is confident that the UAE will be just fine and is able to manage under any circumstances. His Highness even deplored nationals and expatriates to “not to be concerned”, confirming UAE’s ability to provide food and medicine indefinitely.
This confidence was anything but baseless. It had to do with effective policies, plans and strategies which enabled the UAE to offer a distinguished national model on how to deal with the pandemic:
The UAE came first in the Arab region and tenth at world level in terms of effective treatment of COVID-19 conditions according to London-based Deep Knowledge Group’s April 2020 report. It was also classified the best in terms of safety and stability, best efficient – compared to Arab nations- in crisis management, and a pioneering world country throughout the world in tackling the novel coronavirus pandemic. The UAE also excelled in a 40-nation classification that included Belgium, Vietnam, Thailand, Luxembourg, Monaco, Greece and Ireland. It came 18th.
The UAE came first in the Arab region and ninth at world level in terms of best leadership’s ability to deal with coronavirus according to an International Infectious Diseases Response Indicator paper released by Chartered Accountants Institute in Australia.
UK HR Director Magazine specialized in human resources issued a report lauding UAE’s pre-emptive response to the novel COVID-19 pandemic. Six indicators were mentioned to highlight UAE welfare in future: pre-planning, systematic implementation, motivation, solidarity, optimism and humane treatment during the global health crisis.
4 Confidence in Effective Development System: UAE’s post-corona strategy reflects confidence in effective development infrastructure, a quick pre-emptive response and calculated awareness of dealing with the coronavirus consequences in addition to hefty stimulus packages as follows:
An Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) study on “The Economic Consequences of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic on the Arab countries” indicated that the UAE came first at the Arab level in terms of stimulus package (DH 283 billion) to face the coronavirus. The UAE package, the study said, formed 42.8% of total stimulus packages ($180 billion) endorsed by the Arab governments, and UAE stimulus package is the highest at the Arab level when compared to GDP per individual nations (19% of UAE GDP).
Lootah Real Estate Development Company confirmed that the UAE economy will be among the first to recover in the post-coronavirus crisis, citing vigorous potentials, high adjustment ability and nation’s initiatives/measures to contain the virus, most notably building the largest lab in the world to run the largest number of tests, launch subsidy programs, offer economic stimulus packages and send humanitarian and medical assistance to other countries.
IMF “World Economy Horizons 2020” Report on 14 April 2020 forecast a speedy UAE economic recovery from the consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic, recording a 3.3% growth in 2021.
A UK “The Economist” report put the UAE at 17th place among the 17 most powerful and highest creditworthy emerging markets in the world. The list included 66 economies.
A UK Euromoney Risks Indicator put the UAE at 39th among 174 nations for being less dependent on oil and for their economic and financial stability which rendered them highly capable of dealing qwith coronavirus consequences with the least possible losses.
A UK International Investment report singled the UAE as the first to have opened national economy, and described it as capable of responding to post-corona global economy variables.
5 Resilience to interpret development ambitions: Working out post-corona pandemic plans reflects UAE determination to carry out development ambitions whatever the challenge, a fact which was stressed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum who announced that Hope Probe will fly to Mars in July 2020 as planned. He pointed out that the Hope Probe mission is not only scientific but also “to send a message to the younger generation in the Arab world that we are capable, that nothing is impossible and that the power of hope can definitely cut short the distance between the earth and space…”.
6 Exploring Opportunities is a Challenge: The novel COVID-19 pandemic is seen by the UAE leadership as an opportunity up for grabs, a philosophy which candidly expressed in a series of Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) reports on the future of education, economy, technology, etc…
Second: Post-Corona thinking A National Trend
Thinking about UAE post-corona future is a national trend which was reflected in the following aspects:
1 World Government Summit has launched “Governments and COVID-19” Initiative through a series of remote talk sessions attended by more than 30 world-level speakers and senior civil service officials with the aim of boosting governments’ roles and readiness to combat the novel coronavirus.
2 Khalifa Award for Education Committee (KAEC) sponsored an on-line Ramadan session under the slogan “On-line Education: Vision and Future Trends” where His Excellency Hussain Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, noted that the government was all set to manage the coronavirus crisis and offered a model example to guarantee a non-stop wheel of work.
3 Engineer Sultan bin Said Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, said a systematic plan was set by the government to contain the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on national economy. The framework of this plan comes in two folds: First, in the short run, will gradually open up the economy taking into consideration the usual precautionary health procedures. Second, in the long run, will carry a stimulus package for speedy economic recovery.
4 Dubai Academy for Future held a third session between 26 April and 15 May 2020 on COVID-19’s worst impact on the vital sectors locally, regionally and globally, the most important lessons to learn, how to avail forthcoming opportunities and study the future of UAE various sectors after corona.
5 Dubai Academy for Future has prepared a number of future-oriented reports, research and studies on the novel coronavirus challenges at all levels.
Moreover, the 2016 “UAE Strategy for the Future” was aimed to create future models of the health, educational, social, development and environmental sectors, build up national cadres, promote international partnerships, develop specialized labs and prepare research on the future of various sectors. The strategy revolves around three main pivots: Government mechanism, building potentials and future.
In correlation comes the UAE Centennial 2071 which rests on four main pivots: future-oriented government, education for the future, varied knowledge-based economy and a more coherent community”.
Third: UAE Post-Corona Strategy: Bases and Priorities
Under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to the government, a clear-cut national post-corona science-based strategy was ordered, taking the following into account:
1 Science-based: That is to consult experts and advisors to draw up a road map for the forthcoming stage. This has been a customary step for the UAE since inception. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum called for “inviting all local, Arab and international experts to symposia to lay out theoretical and applied frameworks to draw policies, visions and new mechanisms for all sectors”.
2 Accurate Prioritization: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum said it was essential to “take into consideration the top priority vital sectors such as health, education, technology and food sufficiency”.
The writer Mona Abu Samra outlined in Al Bayan the most important priorities of the forthcoming stage in the UAE: invest in under-financed, harsh-weathered agriculture, focus on technology and strengthen the health system.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum said “The government structure will be reviewed to maintain agility, elasticity and promptness to cope with fresh priorities. Those who think the post COVID- world will be no different from the world before are gravely mistaken’.
3 Human Resources are Vital: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum said Plans and policies should focus on the safety, security, welfare sand health of our human resources”. The same directives were also given by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who stressed that the health of our people- nationals and non-nationals- should be a top priority for any plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic”. It highlighted His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum’s view that “Corona era taught us that the horse and the carriage are driven by health, and that politics and economics pale and dwarf vis-à-vis COVID-19 which left the mightiest and sleekest in fear, confusion and loss”.
4 Federal-Local Integration: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum said “The corona crisis taught us that government’s federal and local task forces and private sector organizations are actually one team, driven by one goal…”
5 Foreign Policy in the Service of Post-corona Strategic Goals: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum said “Foreign policy should coordinate with international community in order to create optimal geo-political economic cooperation system to contain health and environmental disasters”. A UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation report indicated that UAE Anti- COVID-19 aids were sent to 47 nations, totaling 523 tons in medical supplies to help 523,000 medical staff”.
6 Lean the Lesson: It is important to learn the COVID-19 lesson and use it to map out future strategies.
Fourth: Firm, rock-solid Basis
1 Distinguished Management: A study of the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Policy Center (EPC) outlined the following salient features of the UAE model in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic: observe and apply fully and quickly WHO instructions, observe transparency when dealing with the crisis, get the community to share anti-contamination efforts, make optimal utilization of already successful experiences of other nations, make continuous and dynamic evaluation of the crisis and take appropriate measures accordingly without getting panicked or loosing balance.
Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum (WEF) lauded UAE measures to confront the novel coronavirus pandemic. Mirk Ducek, WEF Director in the Middle East and North Africa, said the UAE’s central priority focused on public safety and the government showed a great deal of determination and exceptional elasticity when taking quick decisions to conform COVID-19, while keeping all government services running and available”.
2 Public Satisfaction: The UAE government takes the community as a full partner in development plans in general and in challenges and crises in particular. A survey of 23 nations by US Black Box Company specialized in communication services to gauge public satisfaction of UAE government’s anti-corona efforts placed the UAE in third place globally. The UAE people’s satisfaction with government’s efforts was 59%, against second place Vietnam with 77%.
Spirit of Optimism, Confidence and Positivity: Though many nations, including big ones, followed a pessimist line when talking to the public about the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE struck a different note: leaders spread hope, confidence and positivity and sent many messages to assure the people that the government is capable of crossing this crisis. It worked. A sense of relief and comfort reigned, which actually helped the government plan for the post-corona era.
3 Spirit of Optimism, Confidence and Positivity: Though many nations, including big ones, followed a pessimist line when talking to the public about the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE struck a different note: leaders spread hope, confidence and positivity and sent many messages to assure the people that the government is capable of crossing this crisis. It worked. A sense of relief and comfort reigned, which actually helped the government plan for the post-corona era.