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Khalid Al Ameri: Preparing Emiratis for a new tomorrow
March 13, 2016
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

The recent changes to UAE’s internal political landscape can lead many to wonder “What’s next?” We have recently witnessed the greatest change to our federal cabinet over the course of our 44 years as a unified country. Furthermore Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital, has undergone a local restructuring of its executive council and strategic national assets.

Young, energetic ministers have been brought to the forefront to tackle issues within higher education, community development, happiness, state security and tolerance, with existing ministries being tasked with additional focus on human resources, emiratisation and climate change.

From an economic standpoint fuel prices have been brought in line with global prices, the announcement of Value Added Taxes by 2018 was made during a recent visit by IMF head Christine Lagarde, and institutions across the UAE are all trying to figure out one of two things, how long will the drop in oil prices last? If these prices last longer than expected how is the UAE and its organisations going to deal with it?

It is important to point out that all these internal social, economic and political changes are happening as the UAE continues to play a key role in maintaining geo-political stability in neighbouring countries such as Yemen and Egypt. To many on the outside looking in it may seem like a case of everything that can go wrong is going wrong.

These are hard times on the one hand, but as with all challenges it also presents an opportunity. It’s a chance to show the world once again just how robust our economy is and how prepared we are as a country to handle all types of challenges that come internally, regionally, or globally. We’ve been here before.

As we face these challenges I can’t help but think what all these changes mean for Emiratis, the sons and daughters of the UAE. When I look at my kids I wonder what the UAE will look like when they start to work and build families of their own. The first word that comes to mind is responsibility.

Traditionally the people of the UAE have been fairly protected from the challenges that have come our way, economically, socially and politically. That hasn’t changed, well at least not that much. The UAE has a robust structure in place and has done very well at incorporating potential difficulties into its long-term strategies. In my opinion these social and economic changes we are starting to see are simply a means of preparing citizens for a future that is going to look significantly different. A future where citizens will become increasingly more responsible for their own destinies and the destiny of their Nation.

We already saw this in the realm of national security where young nationals, male and female, undertake military service and volunteer to support the country’s vision for regional stability. Now we are starting to see the economic equivalents come into play, where nationals will need to play a direct role in economic sustainability and development through initiatives being put in place by the UAE government. This means supporting decreased subsidies and various tax programmes, all in the spirit of a more sustainable country today and for generations to come.

Many around the world question the risk of the so-called “social contract” between middle gulf governments and the people, where there is an assumption that loyalty is something purchased rather than gained. Where any change to the “cradle to the grave” welfare system would spell disaster. I believe nothing could be further from the truth. The national service programme came into place and Emiratis are prouder and more supportive than ever, many discuss the hardships associated with it, but everyone I have met has acknowledged the strong sense of purpose and national unity it has created. When subsidies were removed and taxes were announced the country and its people still move forward together.

The reason behind this social calm in the midst of geo-political and economical storms is that citizens know one thing for sure, that decisions being made which change the landscape of the country and the way we live are done with our best interests at heart, there is a logical reason for it, a reason that is shared, understood and supported.

So what will tomorrow’s Emiratis look like? They will be stronger, more independent, confident, prepared and ready to adapt to any of the challenges life throws their way. They will have a country that depends on them to create value first, to shape their own destiny, and will be given every opportunity to do so. I am excited for the future that awaits my kids, and I can’t wait for them to be a part of telling the next chapters of the UAE’s story.

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The author is a columnist on education and youth development.

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