While other regions of the world are holding back in a still-uncertain financial climate, the UAE is forging ahead with its ambitious infrastructure projects. CEO Mohammed Mohebi understands why this is happening.
Pallet Power: The massive developments such as Dubai World Central and Khalifa Port seem to indicate that the UAE is following a different tempo than others. Why do you think that is?
Mohammed Mohebi: These infrastructure projects are the result of a dynamic business environment that stimulates creativity and entrepreneurship. Our many years of political stability plus the foresight and courage of our leadership have allowed us, as a country, to focus our efforts on innovation – particularly in the fields of logistics, tourism and financial services.
PP: What part do you think is played by geographical location?
MM: We’re fortunate to stand at the crossroads between Western Europe and India and Asia, and also between Africa and the former Soviet bloc. We’re also strategically placed along the southern approaches to the Straits of Hormuz, where much of the world’s crude oil passes. We have the space, the finance, the technology and the skills to implement projects on a scale of sophistication that is hard to match elsewhere. Then there are also the historical aspects…
PP: Where does history come into the equation?
MM: It’s hard to grasp now when you see so many skyscrapers and modern buildings, but the UAE only came into being in 1971, when the British relinquished power over what was then known as the Trucial States. At that time it was a modest place. As a small independent nation founded on the spirit of cooperation and support with our fellow Emirates, we knew that we could only grow by becoming excellent ‘facilitators’ for others.
PP: Expatriates in the UAE outnumber native Emiratis by around 9 to 1. Do you see this as one of the engines for growth?
MM: Very definitely so! The UAE is distinguished by having a very liberal and open-minded society. We welcome people from all over the world to contribute their energies and innovation to our cause. As a result you’ll see that projects here move along at a much faster pace.
Emiratis such as myself are a minority, but we see ourselves as setting the direction for the others. The term Emirati comes from the Arabic word ’emir’ which means leader. In each enterprise, we Emiratis try to build a ‘clan’ or ‘family’ feeling, encouraging our colleagues to see the larger picture. It’s a very effective approach in achieving goals.
PP: So with all these assets – in personal skills, infrastructure, knowledge and technologies – where does the UAE stand in terms of advancement?
MM: We’re doing pretty well. In fact we are ‘racing ahead’. In 2011 the World Economic Forum ranked the UAE 24th out of 139 countries for global competitiveness. Our score was also three ranks higher than the year before. We were judged to be on par with other highly developed countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Singapore and Ireland. In addition, the UAE was the only Arab nation to be classified as an innovation-driven economy.
For a young nation, we have a lot to be proud of and are grateful to our leadership and to many talents that have come from all over the world to help us achieve where we are today.