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Dubai Crown Prince: We aim to be at the global forefront by 2021 - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Dubai's Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Dubai’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat—In 2007, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and constitutional monarch of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, launched an ambitious eight-year plan, the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015, aiming to make Dubai a smart, environmentally friendly, and sustainable city by 2015.

Following on from this plan, in 2010 Sheikh Mohammed launched another initiative, the UAE Vision 2021, aiming to make the UAE one of the world’s best countries in all sectors—education, healthcare, economy, standard of living, fair government, infrastructure—by the time it celebrates its Golden Jubilee in 2021.

And with its 2015 plan in its final stages, Sheikh Mohammed launched a parallel plan for Dubai, also for 2021. The plan is a vision of a city of happy, creative and empowered citizens living in an inclusive and harmonious society that is preferred place to live, work and visit and a pivotal hub in the global economy. The plan also aims to make Dubai the “smartest” city in the world by 2021, employing the latest technology and utilizing environmentally friendly and sustainable living, all coordinated by a fair government, with all institutions centralized and working in complete coordination.

Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who has been closely involved on both the 2015 and 2021 plans for the city.

Asharq Al-Awsat: You’ve put forward an ambitious development plan for the next seven years. How big a challenge do you think this will be?

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum: The preparatory period for the Dubai Plan 2021, which the project’s team and myself have worked on for around 13 months since November 2013, has so far been a beautiful journey. We’ve spent this time searching for the best frameworks that will allow us to achieve the plan’s six national priorities, and I would like to add that these were not worked out behind closed doors, nor did the discussions involve only those within government entities; the development of the plan relied heavily on a sustained [national] dialogue which included all elements of [Emirati] society via a series of around 75 workshops and brainstorming sessions. We also used modern communication methods, including social media, in order to widen the scope of the discussions regarding the plan and ensure including the largest possible section of the population so they can be the main partners in these development plans, and to ensure that we are adhering to its specific goals.

For this reason, we are keen to keep abreast of global developments and we have the ability to keep up with them in an effective and positive way which will allow us to continue to achieve our goals. We are very optimistic about the plan because we believe the way [Emirati] society got involved in helping decide its goals, and the full integration of panels and committees within governmental entities in Dubai, will all ensure the project succeeds as planned.

Q: What are the general outlines of the Dubai Plan 2021 and how will they affect the city of Dubai?

If we look at the plan in general, we find that it outlines a comprehensive vision for Dubai in 2021, while keeping in mind the main components that make up any city: a group of people governed by the principles of communal living within a cultural space carrying out certain productive activities which provide the main driving force of the city . . . The plan comprises a comprehensive vision beginning with the individual, and considers the general characteristics expected of each individual in society—to take up [different] roles within the [city’s] development process, as well as their roles in achieving its unity and cohesion, respect for the different cultures that live there, and to coexist in a harmonious manner. The plan also considers infrastructure, especially those components which relate to people’s daily lives, whether those relating to how they interact with one another or those related to cultural activities and social and economic services. At the same time the plan considers Dubai’s status as a major focal point of the global economy, as well as ensuring we have a wise government that will continue the development process, and [operating] based on codified and well-studied foundations . . .

When the plan begins to be implemented at the start of the first quarter of 2015, we will immediately begin the process of coordinating strategic operations for all government institutions, so everything works in complete harmony so we can achieve the agreed-upon goals in the quickest time possible . . .

Q: How does the Dubai Plan 2021 relate to Dubai’s previous eight-year Strategic Plan for 2015?

Dubai’s Strategic Plan for 2015 succeeded in achieving its goals, so the new plan comes as a continuation of these achievements . . . We held a series of ambitious initiatives and events, and which will continue during the next seven years as part of this new plan. Some of these included the ‘Dubai: The Capital of Islamic Economy’ and ‘Dubai: A Disabled-Friendly City’ initiatives, as well as the Dubai smart city initiative. We also cannot forget another important achievement, which was Dubai’s winning the World Expo for 2020, one of the world’s oldest and largest trade conventions. This will be the first time the event is held in the Middle East, North Africa and West Asia region. This counts as one of the main gains of our 2015 plan, and we will continue until 2021 our work on other projects and initiatives, all of which aim to secure Dubai’s place a major global city.

Q: The development of Dubai’s infrastructure has been one of the most noticeable elements about the city in recent years. Will the new plan invest to further develop this infrastructure?

Of course. A strong infrastructure is one of the most important factors in crossing over into the future. And we thank God that Dubai now has one of the most refined infrastructures in the world. We are very proud of the fact that the UAE is ranked first in a number of lists of the world’s best national infrastructures. In the World Economic Forum 2014–2015, we were ranked first globally for the quality of our roads and second for aviation and air cargo infrastructure. All this investment has had direct positive effects in helping develop a number of social and economic sectors, especially since we are very careful to make sure this infrastructure is capable of meeting the needs of everyone in our society. It is enough to point to the Dubai Metro; this is one of the projects through which Dubai has proven its concern for the environment and for providing its citizens with high-quality transportation services, one which also reduces the reliance on road transport. This is not to mention how aesthetically attractive it is, in addition to its being the longest driverless metro system in the world. It also saves energy by relying on alternative and renewable energy . . .

Q: How does the Dubai 2021 Plan link up with the UAE Vision 2021?

We have been constantly coordinating [with the other emirates of the UAE] since the beginning of the launch of the project by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum in order to make the UAE at the global forefront in all sectors. And as he has said, “We are not emirates, but a nation of emirates.” And this spirit forms the backbone of the project . . . The Dubai Plan 2021 uses the same indicators of the National Agenda [of the UAE Vision 2021] launched by Sheikh Mohammed at the start of this year. Our plan relies on his ambitious vision for the country . . . and continuous planning for the future in order to ensure the happiness and prosperity of our people.

This is an abridged version of an interview originally conducted in Arabic.