Lost in the dunes of Dubai, I thought of Brunei

by -
895
Reading Time: 6 minutes

DubaiAs I cross the city streets and desert dunes of Dubai, I cannot help but wonder how this nation could attain such greatness. Having always watched in fascination of Dubai via YouTube, the five days ‘transit’ from Heathrow to Brunei really give me a direct exposure and feel of how great it truly is.

By Abdul Malik Omar

Along the journey I jotted pro-market ideas which Brunei may emulate upon for its quest to build Brunei 2035. Because Dubai is such a perfect example of how national sovereignty can co-exist successfully with the advent of capitalism.

Furthermore it gained my utmost respect for the emirates. Notably His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his right hand man Muhammad bin Ali Al Abbar, the man who is the visionary behind the first seven-star hotel, Burj Al Arab, and the tallest man-made structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

It is by these very leaders that Dubai is where it stands today.

A key part of that is their long-term thinking. This can be traced back to a story often told by Sheikh Mohammad of his late father, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, in the lead up to the creation of one of the world’s largest port, Jebel Ali.

It was some five decades ago when he was heavily criticised for this monumental project.

“What is the use of another port,” critics said “when Dubai’s Port Rashid (the Middle East’s largest port then) is already adequate? And this multi-billion project during a national recession?”

And so the son asked the father about these matters during one of the many construction site meetings, one which was met with deadly silence.

Only after when they had time alone the father replied: “Listen my son, I never answered your question because I did not want the engineers to hear. But I can tell you the reason I am building this port right now is because there will come a time when you will not be able to afford to do so.”

In Dubai, Emiratis constitute 5 per cent of the population and yet control almost 95 per cent of the rules, laws and regulation in the city. This certainly gave them a solid foundation of power in their own country – nothing wrong with that at all.

However, their goal is not so much to maximise their own wealth but the welfare of the community in general. In his book My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence, Sheikh Mohammad fortold how this has enabled the development of security, social harmony and peace for his own people and expats in the country.

“You do not see many police in uniform in Dubai,” he recounts, “because it is the people, both locals and foreigners alike, who are the police themselves. They look after the city’s welfare as much as they look for their own because they realise that Dubai’s success depends on their own success. The result of such has made Dubai the safest city in the world.”

On asking expats what they thought of working in Dubai, they generally would say it is a very fine place to work and live.

Egyptians, Filipino, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indians etc. working there look up to Dubai as ‘that’ place to be. Because not only the economy in itself accepts their skill sets which have been either denied or unappreciated elsewhere, but they also feel that it provides a safe haven for their family to live well.

It goes without saying that the global labour movement meets efficiency in Dubai – a prequisite in a capitalistic economy. By giving freedom to work for an honest day’s pay, this ensured an ‘open-field’ economy where being the very best actually gets rewarded. This has enabled Dubai to become one of the most competitive economies in the world.

Let me borrow again Sheikh Mohammad’s words in his autobiography, one which I hope all to ponder upon in the lead up to Brunei 2035 and beyond.

“When nations fail to develop, they become vulnerable to a collapse in security and stability, and lose the foundations on which their prosperity was built. They also risk being subjected to tyranny and prejudices, and after a few years of recession, lose most of the benefits, status and respect they had acquired over several decades of development.”

So how can Brunei embrace a capitalistic system akin that to Dubai?

I propose two fronts, both connected to the people’s value system.

The first is for us to realise the geographical importance of our nation in Southeast Asia. Over 600 million people live in this region, and it does not take an intellect to realise how massive the trading opportunities really are.

Building a central port that would facilitate regional trading would be an idea, in fact it is well underway. Named the Pulau Muara Besar project, we have to realise that this infrastructure would enable entrepreneurs to capture wider market opportunities.

Firstly, it is only a matter of time; to paraphrase the prophetic words of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum: “There will be a time when the next generation would not be able to afford the project.”

Food for thought: Was it not for the strategic commercial position of Brunei that enabled the dawn of our golden age under the reign of Sultan Bolkiah the 5th?

Secondly, we need to instill and rediscover the entrepreneurial values that lay dormant in the society. The Bruneian ancestory can be traced back to Kampong Ayer. Dubbed as the Venice of the East, it had countless ‘Padians’ (‘retailers’ in long boats) offering goods that came as far as from China, blacksmiths who made the very best of bronze metal works and vases, capable and innovative builders who made houses on rivers (which is astounding when you think of the technological limitations our ancestors had faced then); and it is they – the entrepreneurs – who kept our economy up and running.

What shocks me is the low rate of entrepreneurship in the society today. Let us look at the ‘facts’, some 70 per cent of the workforce is employed by the government leaving the rest up to private hands. Is it any wonder why oil and gas still accounts for over 80 per cent of the national GDP?

This phenomenon can be attributed to the acceptance of greater security given by the state, which in turn leads to (over-)dependence. Then the prevailing mindset shuns on taking the entrepreneurial journey which involves risk and challenge.

In his hook Road to Serfdom, Friedrich A. Hayek, Austrian-born Nobel Prize laureate and economist, made a sterling remark which somewhat reflects this growing trend.

“We can not blame our young men (or people in general) when they prefer the safe, salaried position to the risk of enterprise after they have heard from their earliest youth the former described as the superior, more unselfish and disinterested occupation….”

He continues “…the spirit of commercial enterprise has been represented as disreputable and the making of profit as immoral, where to employ 100 people is represented as exploitation but to command the same number as honourable”

I also know that the government is doing the very best it can to improve the whole lot of society, but if the citizens remain dependent even after a ‘basic safety net’ has been established then the individual is to blame.

It is time for some of us to wake up. It is time to rediscover our entrepreneurial blood. It is time to learn to stand on our own, though it may take time to do so. Ultimately, let’s realise that we are after all made of the same timber that has produced Sultan Bolkiah the 5th.

Dubai’s inspiration drew from its deep history and appreciation of its rich culture, and combining it with the ideals of capitalism together with unwavering leadership made Dubai to become one of the forefront economies in the world.

If Dubai can do it then why can’t Brunei?

 

Abdul Malik Omar is founder and editor of The AMO Times – The Voice of the Bruneian Youths

To converse with the author about this article contact him on Twitter (@AbdulMalikOmar1) using the hashtag #investvine

New Bitmap Image

See other posts of this author:
http://investvine.com/asean-and-how-it-matters-to-the-bruneian-youths

(Abdul Malik Omar is an Inside Investor contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)

 

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

Reading Time: 6 minutes

As I cross the city streets and desert dunes of Dubai, I cannot help but wonder how this nation could attain such greatness. Having always watched in fascination of Dubai via YouTube, the five days ‘transit’ from Heathrow to Brunei really give me a direct exposure and feel of how great it truly is.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

DubaiAs I cross the city streets and desert dunes of Dubai, I cannot help but wonder how this nation could attain such greatness. Having always watched in fascination of Dubai via YouTube, the five days ‘transit’ from Heathrow to Brunei really give me a direct exposure and feel of how great it truly is.

By Abdul Malik Omar

Along the journey I jotted pro-market ideas which Brunei may emulate upon for its quest to build Brunei 2035. Because Dubai is such a perfect example of how national sovereignty can co-exist successfully with the advent of capitalism.

Furthermore it gained my utmost respect for the emirates. Notably His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his right hand man Muhammad bin Ali Al Abbar, the man who is the visionary behind the first seven-star hotel, Burj Al Arab, and the tallest man-made structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

It is by these very leaders that Dubai is where it stands today.

A key part of that is their long-term thinking. This can be traced back to a story often told by Sheikh Mohammad of his late father, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, in the lead up to the creation of one of the world’s largest port, Jebel Ali.

It was some five decades ago when he was heavily criticised for this monumental project.

“What is the use of another port,” critics said “when Dubai’s Port Rashid (the Middle East’s largest port then) is already adequate? And this multi-billion project during a national recession?”

And so the son asked the father about these matters during one of the many construction site meetings, one which was met with deadly silence.

Only after when they had time alone the father replied: “Listen my son, I never answered your question because I did not want the engineers to hear. But I can tell you the reason I am building this port right now is because there will come a time when you will not be able to afford to do so.”

In Dubai, Emiratis constitute 5 per cent of the population and yet control almost 95 per cent of the rules, laws and regulation in the city. This certainly gave them a solid foundation of power in their own country – nothing wrong with that at all.

However, their goal is not so much to maximise their own wealth but the welfare of the community in general. In his book My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence, Sheikh Mohammad fortold how this has enabled the development of security, social harmony and peace for his own people and expats in the country.

“You do not see many police in uniform in Dubai,” he recounts, “because it is the people, both locals and foreigners alike, who are the police themselves. They look after the city’s welfare as much as they look for their own because they realise that Dubai’s success depends on their own success. The result of such has made Dubai the safest city in the world.”

On asking expats what they thought of working in Dubai, they generally would say it is a very fine place to work and live.

Egyptians, Filipino, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indians etc. working there look up to Dubai as ‘that’ place to be. Because not only the economy in itself accepts their skill sets which have been either denied or unappreciated elsewhere, but they also feel that it provides a safe haven for their family to live well.

It goes without saying that the global labour movement meets efficiency in Dubai – a prequisite in a capitalistic economy. By giving freedom to work for an honest day’s pay, this ensured an ‘open-field’ economy where being the very best actually gets rewarded. This has enabled Dubai to become one of the most competitive economies in the world.

Let me borrow again Sheikh Mohammad’s words in his autobiography, one which I hope all to ponder upon in the lead up to Brunei 2035 and beyond.

“When nations fail to develop, they become vulnerable to a collapse in security and stability, and lose the foundations on which their prosperity was built. They also risk being subjected to tyranny and prejudices, and after a few years of recession, lose most of the benefits, status and respect they had acquired over several decades of development.”

So how can Brunei embrace a capitalistic system akin that to Dubai?

I propose two fronts, both connected to the people’s value system.

The first is for us to realise the geographical importance of our nation in Southeast Asia. Over 600 million people live in this region, and it does not take an intellect to realise how massive the trading opportunities really are.

Building a central port that would facilitate regional trading would be an idea, in fact it is well underway. Named the Pulau Muara Besar project, we have to realise that this infrastructure would enable entrepreneurs to capture wider market opportunities.

Firstly, it is only a matter of time; to paraphrase the prophetic words of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum: “There will be a time when the next generation would not be able to afford the project.”

Food for thought: Was it not for the strategic commercial position of Brunei that enabled the dawn of our golden age under the reign of Sultan Bolkiah the 5th?

Secondly, we need to instill and rediscover the entrepreneurial values that lay dormant in the society. The Bruneian ancestory can be traced back to Kampong Ayer. Dubbed as the Venice of the East, it had countless ‘Padians’ (‘retailers’ in long boats) offering goods that came as far as from China, blacksmiths who made the very best of bronze metal works and vases, capable and innovative builders who made houses on rivers (which is astounding when you think of the technological limitations our ancestors had faced then); and it is they – the entrepreneurs – who kept our economy up and running.

What shocks me is the low rate of entrepreneurship in the society today. Let us look at the ‘facts’, some 70 per cent of the workforce is employed by the government leaving the rest up to private hands. Is it any wonder why oil and gas still accounts for over 80 per cent of the national GDP?

This phenomenon can be attributed to the acceptance of greater security given by the state, which in turn leads to (over-)dependence. Then the prevailing mindset shuns on taking the entrepreneurial journey which involves risk and challenge.

In his hook Road to Serfdom, Friedrich A. Hayek, Austrian-born Nobel Prize laureate and economist, made a sterling remark which somewhat reflects this growing trend.

“We can not blame our young men (or people in general) when they prefer the safe, salaried position to the risk of enterprise after they have heard from their earliest youth the former described as the superior, more unselfish and disinterested occupation….”

He continues “…the spirit of commercial enterprise has been represented as disreputable and the making of profit as immoral, where to employ 100 people is represented as exploitation but to command the same number as honourable”

I also know that the government is doing the very best it can to improve the whole lot of society, but if the citizens remain dependent even after a ‘basic safety net’ has been established then the individual is to blame.

It is time for some of us to wake up. It is time to rediscover our entrepreneurial blood. It is time to learn to stand on our own, though it may take time to do so. Ultimately, let’s realise that we are after all made of the same timber that has produced Sultan Bolkiah the 5th.

Dubai’s inspiration drew from its deep history and appreciation of its rich culture, and combining it with the ideals of capitalism together with unwavering leadership made Dubai to become one of the forefront economies in the world.

If Dubai can do it then why can’t Brunei?

 

Abdul Malik Omar is founder and editor of The AMO Times – The Voice of the Bruneian Youths

To converse with the author about this article contact him on Twitter (@AbdulMalikOmar1) using the hashtag #investvine

New Bitmap Image

See other posts of this author:
http://investvine.com/asean-and-how-it-matters-to-the-bruneian-youths

(Abdul Malik Omar is an Inside Investor contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)

 

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid