Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.
Dubai has been ruled by the Al Maktoum family since early 19th century.
Under Sheikh Mohammed it became a phenomenal development story - between 1995 and 2015 the GDP increased from $11 billion to $101 billion, all while reducing the contribution of oil revenues to GDP from 18% to 1.2%. Dubai export saw a 645% increase during the same period, while gross fixed capital formation increased by 733%.
The Sheikh has built Dubai into a local hub, with the economy mostly driven by services, trade, transportation and logistic, retail and tourism.
The Dubai International Airport beats Heathrow in the number of international passengers, and the quality of living in the city ranks above that of Tokyo and Seoul, to name a few.
“There is no looking back, and anything less than number one is not acceptable”, he said.
He also owns the third largest ocean going yacht in the world – a very nice piece of machinery.
In an example how well Dubai is managed, the Sheikh ordered setting up drive-through stations for Covid-19 testing and regular disinfections of the streets.
On that note, I always thought that it is good to hear both sides of the story, and I recently came across a talk on corona virus by an American epidemiologist with impressive credentials.
He said that, as in every respiratory disease, we should protect the elderly and the fragile, because if they get pneumonia, they have a high risk of dying.
On the other hand, children do well with these types of diseases, their immune system is evolutionary and designed to be exposed to various sorts of diseases as they go through life. They should keep going to school, which will strengthen their immune system. In fact containment only prolongs effect of the virus.
What people are trying to do is “flatten the curve” and it’s not easy to figure out why, as it only prolongs and widens it, and the respiratory disease will stay in the population longer than necessary.
This is not the first corona virus and it won’t be the last, it’s a part of every flu season. Normally it peaks after about two weeks, then declines, and after one month it’s all over.
The professor was of the opinion that if it hadn’t been for government intervention the epidemic would be over by now.
Let’s take Sweden as an example of a different thinking, a country which has not locked down its economy and society.
Sweden has not closed the bars. Shopping malls are open. Schools and companies are open too. There are some restrictions such as on gatherings of over 50 people. But, in comparison with most European countries, life in Sweden is relatively normal.
As of this writing, Sweden has the death rate from corona virus of 33 per million of the population. In France it is 83, in Italy 230, in Switzerland 101.
Whether the professor is right or not, I can’t judge, but what’s clear to me is that we were all been caught off guard.
In a world with this level of people connectivity, the government needs to have a buffer and plan to handle crisis like this, call it insurance policy, and the absolutely worst thing one can do with insurance is try to time it.
But the officials did, and by now the whole world is in a damage control mode.
There is no reliable data on the number of cases (that would require testing EVERYONE), or deaths (the official line usually is “possibly corona virus related”) and so the governments shut down the economy without knowing exactly what they’re doing.
Dubai is a quiet place these days, I saw a picture of gazelles roaming the empty streets, replacing the booming Bentleys and boxy Mercedes G-Wagen.
The way it works there, the shorter the number on the license plate the richer the owner– two digits could mean a billionaire.
The hotels on Jumeirah, the palm island, are empty, beaches and water tours cancelled. The magnificent Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world is closed to visitors, if there are any.
The population there consists of about 80% expats. The rest of them, the locals, when they get married, they get a piece of land from the Sheikh to build a house - he doesn’t want his subjects to rent a home.
Significance, not just success.
Strong leader, and a cool guy.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler