Saturday, April 18, 2009

When the Prime Minister goes online...

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, answered questions from the media and people, related to the federal government, its general strategy and direction in all fields and sectors through his official website on Saturday.

Gulf News brings live coverage of Shaikh Mohammad's answers posted on his website.

The first electronic media meeting is based on Shaikh Mohammad's keenness for continuous communication with UAE citizens and the media community.

The first electronic media meeting is based on Shaikh Mohammad's keenness for continuous communication with UAE citizens and the media community.

Citizens, Arab and foreign journalists inside and outside the UAE may direct their questions through a special web page on Shaikh Mohammad's website.

These electronic media meetings will be conducted on a periodical basis, where citizens, journalists and media people can submit their questions, and will receive answers by Shaikh Mohammad through the website.

This step comes as a result of Shaikh Mohammad's great care of communicating with others and his deep understanding of the message carried by the media, to enlighten the public opinion.

Shaikh Mohammad also believes in the value of transparency and the active communication with citizens and the media alike.

The site (, launched by the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, is the official source of all information related to Shaikh Mohammad and the federal government.

The site is available in both Arabic and English, and it covers a variety of important areas. A section is dedicated for presenting the roles and responsibilities of Shaikh Mohammad.

The National Abu Dhabi Media Company - Matt Slater
Your Highness, you are Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, founder of the famous Godolphin horse-racing stable, sportsman and poet. How do you juggle your political and non-political roles, and what do you do for fun?

The day has 24 hours or 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds. For me, this is sufficient time for work, hobbies and sports. It works if you respect time and you know how to organize your schedule. Whoever enjoys his work, it seems that you add five days to your week. I enjoy my work, which is my existence in my life: the service of my homeland and my people. My joy increases when I see the progress and prosperity of my homeland and my people. I do not work alone, I have a team whom I lead and encourage and on whom I rely. Within each human being there is an inexhaustible source of potential, but there is no human being with unlimited capacity. What is important is to know your capacities -- and how you should use them.

For fun, I spend my time with my family at the beach or in the desert. I love to read. I ride horses. My love for horses is indescribably enormous; it is part of my soul and history.

By Al-Sharq al-Awsat Daily
Almost a year ago, Your Highness introduced a major reshuffle in the Cabinet. You mentioned that any minister is liable to change. Is there a plan for a cabinet reshuffle soon?

There is a fact which should not be absent from the minds of people – that is, the government is at the service of the people. A reshuffle is introduced when there is a need for it, and when we find that it suits an active handling of the need of national demands, to ensure the power of the union to achieve the objectives of its strategy, and whatever objective that may come up to meet the actual developments. I still say that any minister or a man of responsibility entrusted with him is open to replacement by another one who is more capable of shouldering that responsibility. The basic reference in any decision of this type is the criteria of performance and level of fulfillment of plans for development projects.

Following are the answers given by Shaikh Mohammad to questions from Gulf News.

From Paul Stober, Gulf News:
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?

Shaikh Mohammad: 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.

From Duraid Al Baik, Gulf News: 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?

Shaikh Mohammad: 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.

From Paul Stober, Gulf News: 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?

Shaikh Mohammad: 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.

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.

From Paul Stober, Gulf News: 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?

Shaikh Mohammad: 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.

More here.

Ijazah dari Universiti Malaysia - Murah sahaja, tidak bermutu?

Saya sempat mengunjungi pameran pendidikan terbesar Teluk di Dubai, iaitu - GETEX (The Gulf Education & Training Exhibition).

Begitu ramai mengunjungi memenuhi dewan pameran sehingga bersesakan. Terutama pada ibu bapa yang membawa anak-anak, selain individu yang berminat untuk melanjutkan pengajian ijazah lanjutan.

Begitu banyak gerai dari pelbagai universiti dan negara untuk dikunjungi dengan tawaran pengajian dalam pelbagai bidang. Menurut lapuran media tempatan, peningkatan dari segi jumlah profesional di Dubai yang menyambung pengajian peringkat sarjana dalam kemelut dan krisis ekonomi ini memang ketara sekali, terutama MBA sebagai cara membanyakkan peluang kerjaya apabila ekonomi kembali pulih.

Salah satu gerai yang saya kunjungi ialah, Pusat Promosi Pendidikan Malaysia (MEPC).

Tertarik melihat poster promosi yang lebihkurang berbunyi, "Dapatkan ijazah dengan sekadar 50 ribu dirham di Malaysia!

Cost Advantages

The relatively cheaper cost of the education in Malaysia coupled with the availability of internationally-recognised qualifications highlights another significant factor why international students choose to study here. The following tables show the cost benefits of studying in Malaysia:

An Example of Comparative Education Cost for a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science (3 yrs) of an Australian University
Australian Branch
Campus in Malaysia
Australian University
Tuition Fees
USD 8,650
USD 17,000
Living Costs
USD 4,290 - 5,710
USD 14,290 - 16,430
Health Insurance
USD 60
USD 250
Average Education Cost (per year)
USD 13,670
USD 32,440
Total Education Cost
USD 41,010
USD 97,330
Source: Study in Malaysia Handbook published by Challenger Concept (M) Sdn Bhd

An Estimation of Education Cost for a Bachelor’s Degree
Programme in Arts & Business (per year) in Various Countries
CountryTuition FeesLiving CostTotal Cost
Australia (public) USD 8,500USD 8,500USD 17,000
Canada (public) USD 7,500USD 9,000USD 16,500
France (public)minimal USD13,000 USD 13,000
Malaysia (private) USD4,600 USD4,000USD9,000
New Zealand (public) USD 10,000USD 11,500 USD 21,500
Singapore (private) USD 6,500USD 10,000 USD 16,500
United Kingdom (public)USD 14,000 USD 12,500 USD 26,500
USA (public) USD 13,000 USD 12,000USD 25,000
USA (private)USD 22,000USD 13,000 USD 35,000
Source: Study in Malaysia Handbook (International Edition) & various related websites

An Estimation of Study Cost for a 3+0 Foreign University Bachelor’s Degree Programme in Business Studies in Malaysia (per year)
Tuition FeesLiving Cost Total Cost
USD 5,000 USD 4,000USD 9,000
Source: Challenger Concept Research Team (
Note: All the figures are estimates only and may not be up to-date.
Exchange Rate: Estimated USD 1 = RM3.50

Gerai MEPC turut dipenuhi pengunjung. Sememangnya kos yang rendah cukup menarik untuk ramai pelajar ekspatriat di Dubai ini belajar di Malaysia.

Dikatakan terdapat seramai 40 ribu pelajar luar berada di Malaysia yang turut mahu menjadi pusat pendidikan serantau. Separuh dari jumlah itu datang dari Timur Tengah.

Sesuatu yang baik kalau taraf universiti kini turut meningkat terutama dalam 100 yang terbaik di dunia, sesuatu yang masih jauh ketika ini, apabila universiti kita masih dalam kepompong dasar politik sempit dan kebelakang.

Apa yang saya dapati di gerai MEPC, hanya sedikit brosur universiti. Hanya beberapa kumpulan kolej swasta yang dipromosikan (kalau dilihat dari brosur). Dimana UIA dan universiti lain?

Mungkin promosi MEPC di GETEX menjadi labih baik kalau bersesuaian dengan kemelut semasa iaitu memberi penekanan pada ijazah lanjutan dan latihan pendek untuk profesional.

Persaingan hebat bukan sahaja dari negara-negara maju yang mempunyai perwakilan besar, malah dari India dan UAE sendiri. Tentunya kos untuk belajar di India lebih murah dan pilihan yang jauh lebih banyak.

Kos pengajian yang rendah untuk peringkat ijazah pertama mungkin baik untuk segelintir kecil pelajar, tetapi mutu pengajian dan ijazah semakin penting untuk menjadi tarikan.

Kita tidak boleh terlalu bergantung dengan kehadiran banyak cawangan universiti luar di Malaysia, kita juga perlukan jenama universiti tempatan yang mesti bermutu dan diiktiraf, bukan sahaja dalam senarai 100 yang terbaik, malah cemerlang dari segi penyelidikan.

Buat masa ini, sebagai seorang bapa, saya masih meletakkan Malaysia dalam senarai destinasi untuk anak saya melanjutkan pengajian peringkat A-level, tetapi masih belum berminat untuk peringkat ijazah.

Antara sebab ialah untuk memberi pengalaman anak-anak belajar tanpa akta universiti dan kolej serta agenda politik United Malay National Organisation yang lebih memundurkan bukan sahaja taraf intelektualiti, malah nilai ijazah itu sendiri!

Dan sebab lain, pengiktirafan ijazah seperti perubatan yang penting dimana berita Kesatuan Eropah tidak mengiktiraf MBBS universiti Malaya untuk kemasukan 1990 memberi pukulan hebat kepada promosi MEPC sebagai pusat pendidikan serantau yang cemerlang, gemilang dan terbilang (alamak, slogan ini pun sudah BASI)!