Ajwan’s Adventures Continue, Book Review on @NouraNoman’s Sci-Fi Series

Maitha Almuhairi (@Maithani)

Maitha Almuhairi (@Maithani)

Column: Pocket Full of Books
An avid reader, Maitha has always dreamt of being a recognized novelist and poet. For the last decade she focused on HR as a career, which has taken her away from her dream, but it’s never too late. Her column Pocket full of Books focuses on book reviews and doesn’t necessarily focus on a specific genre.
Maitha Almuhairi (@Maithani)

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

The author reviews the second part of Ajwan’s science fiction series by Noura AlNoman, and compares it with the first part in terms of plot and characters maturity.

Mandan's book cover, published by Nahdet Misr

Mandan’s book cover, published by Nahdet Misr

Ms. Noura Alnoman keeps a consistent pace in her ability to grab the attention of her readers once more. Ajwan’s story continues in the second book of the series under the name Mandan. For the second time in a row, the writer has succeeded in translating every single emotion into words. This novel is bitter in a very good way because of the love-hate relationship that develops between the reader and some of the characters. As I have finally gotten into watching the Star Wars series I was able to see that the author was inspired by the series. It is so amazing that nothing in the world of Ajwan imitates the world of the Star Wars franchise and the author was able to easily keep the originality of her characters, settings, and plot intact.

The brilliance falls under the author’s writing style. It was free of gimmicks and philosophical approaches and still, she had managed to keep the novel vibrant and intense. Mandan as the second book of the series is, in my opinion, stronger and more fast paced than Ajwan the novel. Ajwan had focused on a universal disaster, which would make it a little more confusing to some of the readers because that led to the creation of many planets and characters. Mandan focused a little bit more on the characters, and that seemed to bring them to life. There are characters that would absorb nothing but pure hate from the readers and yet the readers will find themselves eventually sympathizing with these characters.

The characters in Mandan are more developed. Ajwan, as the protagonist of this series, is less whiny in book two of the series. She is stronger and rounder than her old self. Her physical, mental, and emotional growth is witnessed by the readers throughout the book despite her physical limitations, and her will to find her child and protect him is stronger than ever. The antagonist has grown to be far more twisted in Mandan, and the novelist did not shy away from being brutal in writing off some of the characters in the most violent ways.

The themes in this novel are very relatable to the political state of the world these days. It discusses the themes of survival, hope, the true ugly face of terrorism and how it brainwashes the youth into making the worst kinds of mistakes, and the struggle to survive the turmoil to be able to create a better peaceful future for the generations to come.

Mandan is not a novel where its writer did nothing but show off her ability to imagine and create a fictional world full of high-tech creations. The novel is far deeper than just a science fiction piece. It is a reflection of what is happening in our world and how brutality cannot be sugar coated. Hats off to Noura AlNoman once more for successfully creating such a complex world and making this novel part of an Arabic science fiction saga.

Politics and the English Language: An Essay By Orwell

Deenah Rashid (@Deena_Rashid_)

Deenah Rashid (@Deena_Rashid_)

Editor at Sail Publishing
Deena is a recently graduated student who completed her Bachelor’s in International studies with a specialization in Culture and Society. She currently works at an art gallery in Dubai, but is also a freelance editor/proofreader and writer.
Deenah Rashid (@Deena_Rashid_)

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

The author discusses George Orwell and his essay “Politics and the English Language”.


In pop culture, George Orwell is known for the creation of the concept of Big Brother, which many people now relate to the reality TV show. While Orwell is best known for his books 1984 and Animal Farm, his essays have had an equally strong impact on the world of writing, literature, and journalism.

Funnily enough, for how famous Orwell seems to be, 1984, published in 1949, is number one on the list of books that people claim to have read but actually have not. It doesn’t shock me; 1984 is a difficult read, and the world of newspeak, thought crime, and telescreens seem very distant to us, even now. Despite this, the book has had such a big impact that people can pretend to have read it just because they already know so much about it. Just that much of the culture in the book has seeped into our everyday language.

Orwell wrote quite a lot about our everyday language. One of his most popular essays Politics and the English Language is a detailed description of the flaws in the everyday lingo (of that time, which was the 1940’s), and how that harms our society. Orwell was obsessed with politics; so much of what he wrote always had something to do with it. The essay highlights the decay of the proper usage of the English language in speech and especially in writing. He gives examples of bad writing, of writing that lacks creativity and imagination, and accuses several writers of using ready-made phrases to make it sound like they are saying something intelligible, but actually are not saying anything meaningful. He ends it with something to help us fight this decay and not succumb to it:

“(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

For any reader who has read even half of what Orwell has written, these are very confusing, mostly because Orwell’s own writing is filled with examples of things he wants us to avoid. In fact, even the essay itself (Politics and the English Language) presents examples of the use of passive voice, long words, and “foreign phrases”.

Of course, in literary language, all of these rules seem ridiculous, and he admits that this is only for political language. Language that is meant to convey a very specific meaning, not an effect, feeling, or emotion.

But that confines language so severely, and handicaps our ability to express so much, not only because it would take away words from our vocabulary, but also because it would change the way we express. If you tell people that every writing piece that is not literature can only express one meaning, that means there is only one way of looking at that writing, and that limits everything that makes language and writing fascinating.

When I read Orwell’s writings, I find myself relating to some of what he writes, and disagreeing with a lot. But you must remember that no writer with a collection of writing as Orwell would have all his opinions continuously consistent with each other. Just like painters, a writer’s style, techniques, perspectives, and opinions change over the years, and to be honest any who might not change may not be the best thinkers. And Orwell is no exception to that. But what he has never failed to offer is ideas, ideas to argue and think about and sleep over at night, wondering whether you are also one of the writers that just uses ready-made phrases from a selection of textbooks that you read. And you wonder if the evolution of language is really that bad of a thing, or if the usage of language should have rules put on it at all.

Orwell will never fail to offer you something to think about. This is why writers like him invent words that are used so popularly, because they make words for things and ideas that we did not even know existed.

As part of the 8th Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, in the video below David Crystal examines Orwell’s views about language and how he refers explicitly to linguistic topics in developing characters and plot, with narrations of different Orwell texts by Hilary Crystal and Ben Crystal.

Why Do Some People Read Whilst Others Do Not?

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Why do people read? What do people read? Why do some people not enjoy reading? Being an avid reader and a true believer in the benefits of reading, I will try to answer some of those questions from my own observations and experiences.



As many of you know, the year 2016 has been announced to be the year of reading in the UAE, with all efforts directed towards creating a sustainable reading culture in the country. But the announcement has brought forward some questions like: Why do people read? What do people read? Why do some people not enjoy reading? Being an avid reader and a true believer in the benefits of reading, I will try to answer some of those questions from my own observations and experiences.

I started reading from a very young age because I was blessed with parents who are both enthusiastic readers. My parents till today are regular visitors to bookshops and the annual Sharjah International Book Fair. I only recently realized that that was something not to be taken for granted, and that not many parents enjoy reading.

I have read throughout my childhood and adolescence. I enjoyed reading everything, from the most imaginative and unbelievable fiction/non-fiction to the most scholarly research papers. Whether I was happy or upset, there was always some joy to be found in reading. If I felt low, reading fiction would, within a few pages, make me forget my surroundings and everything else, transporting me to the magical life of the book. I recall that even when I was in the middle of writing my Master’s dissertation, I would write for an hour and take a 10-minute break to read whatever fictional book I had at the time.

I admit, I’m more of a fiction fan than of non-fiction, but I try to balance and add to my knowledge through non-fiction reads. I have friends who prefer non-fiction; it is all a matter of preference. Never be ashamed of preferring either of the genres. I believe reading shaped who I am, through the peace it gave me, the varied perspectives I learned of, and through the extensive vocabulary that I continue to grow.

Now, the most frequent questions are: why do people not read, and when did society stop becoming a reading society? Here is my own explanation of the situation we are in. People start as readers through their parents and school, and when you look around, there are plenty amounts of books that are available for kids ages 3 to 10 years old, whether in English or Arabic. But when the kid reaches his/her tween and teen years, the number of books in Arabic tailored for them dies out. The Arabic content for those ages that currently exists and has been for some time are the translated classics, such as Jane Eyre, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Around the World in 80 Days, The Miserables, and so on. In my opinion, those are not ideal: they are translated and are not original from within our region or reality, and they are so old that kids can’t relate to them, neither to the early 21st century nor to the World Wars eras.

Those who continue to read through that age to their adulthood are the ones who move to reading English literature because of the amount of books tailored for their age group. This, I recently found, is actually frowned upon by some families, who refuse their kids to read in anything except Arabic, and don’t encourage them to read translated literature as well. So we are left with no original content in Arabic for that age, and no proper contemporary translated works of literature for their age. These combined means they are left with nothing to read, and so they stop reading. What we must understand is that reading is very much like sports; if you stop practicing, it becomes harder and harder to return to it. And when you stop practicing for an entire decade of your life, it’s natural that you stop reading all together.

So if you’re from the ones who continued reading, then you’re lucky, and do keep going. If you’ve stopped and are trying to get back to reading now, you need to forgive yourself. Acknowledge that just as you can’t start running a ten km marathon without practicing for a few km first, you will have to apply the same for reading. Start with children’s literature, trust me they’re FUN! You’ll enjoy them. Then move on to books for tweens. Continue upgrading the age group from there. Some people enjoy comics, so try comics and graphic novels; there is an amazing wealth of books in that genre. Ask around, Google your preferences, and don’t give up. And please, do read in English, don’t stop reading just because there isn’t anything in Arabic, that’s not an excuse!

Reading is like a muscle that needs to be gradually and constantly exercised till it becomes a habit in you. And just like there are many different forms of exercise, there are many genres of literature to read from. Keep looking till you find your preferred genre. Lastly, it’s important to remember that even regular readers have dry reading phases during which we can’t figure what to read next. It’s ok, just ask for recommendations and you’ll be surprised with what comes through.

May this year be an inspiration to everyone to get back to reading and to start enjoying it like they must have done so at some point in their childhood. And if you ever need recommendations, I’ve always been getting requests on my social media accounts to give book suggestions. Just ask me and I’ll love to help out. Through Sail this year, we’ll be creating some programs and publishing articles that will better help you choose what to read next, so keep following us on our social media account and our newsletter to stay tuned.

Book Review on “Revelation: The Story Of Muhammad” (@revelationthebk)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Review on a new book about the Prophet Mohammed’s life, that portrays his life in a new approach and methodology. The book was written by Dr. Meraj Mohiuddin, a neuroscientist & anesthesiologist who teaches at Harvard Medical School & its affiliate hospitals.

Picture from the official website of the book.

Picture from the official website of the book.

The story of the Prophet Mohammed, portrayed in the book “Revelation“, is one about transformation of the heart, mind, and actions. If you approach this book with a sincere and open mind, and reflect upon how the transformation occurred within the Prophet, his companions, Arabian Peninsula, and ultimately the rest of the world, you will understand that each person is capable of complete transformation to something better and greater. To something closer to the truest nature that God had intended for every human being.

Through reading the book, you will be able to see for yourself what it took for those in the past to achieve their inner transformation, and what it requires of you to achieve the same. But in order for that to happen, you have to look inward and take yourself into account as you study how the Prophet Mohammed and his companions took themselves into account. You will find that the questions that will form in your head were already there for you to reflect and ponder upon.

Reading this book was an emotionally powerful experience. It is the only book I have read on the Prophet Mohammed’s life that allows the reader to connect the dots between the prophetic traditions and draw parallels between the past to the present, and then to yourself. Through diagrams, notes, commentary, and summaries, the reader is given a comprehensive and complete exploration of the Prophet’s life throughout every stage of his life.

The book builds on a detailed study from different scholars of what and why events took place. This book is presented in a way that paints a holistic picture of who the Prophet was and still is. You can see and understand his perspective, the companions’ perspectives, and the community’s perspective all together.

It was through all of these presentations that I also was able to connect the dots within my own life experiences and see what it takes for me to transform into a different, better version of myself, something closer to what God had hopefully intended for me.

Written by Shatha Barbour, BA from the prestigious Northwestern University and an MA in Healthcare Management from the University of Michigan. She is one of the co-founders of the Good Tree Institute.

Kids These Days, They Want It All

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Column Name: The Words Within
Bahar is a recruiter by profession, an aspiring writer by night, and a mom of toddler twins. She has an unending thirst for learning, as she completed her BComm in Canada, an MA in Dubai, and continues to develop herself with reading and research.
With her column, she shares her journey as she grows and learns more about this crazy beautiful world we live in.
Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

The author looks at the increasing demands of children and the youth on lavish and superficial needs, and discusses ways to combat this.

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

Today’s children want it all. They compete with one another and want the latest gadgets, and parents feel obliged to provide this so they are not left behind. Living in an environment where bigger is always better can be damaging to the new generation as they may tend to place more value on superficial or monetary things rather than our innate human values.

I remember watching something a long time ago about managing our finances and its message was that as parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children the value of money and the following advice was provided. It was mentioned that we should teach children early on how to manage their money – whatever little pocket money that may be. In order to do so, we should advise them to split their pocket money to three parts: one for their own spending, one for future savings, and one to be donated or spent towards others. This really resonated with me and has stuck with me ever since. I felt this was a great way to responsibly enjoy our money without being reckless or frivolous and at the same be charitable as well.

If a 10 years old demands an iPhone, what will they want when they reach adolescence or are older? As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure that our children are not raised with a sense of entitlement, and instead, appreciate the value of a hard earned dirham. In my opinion, even if parents are financially secure, they should not allow their children to be blindsided by it and assume that money comes easily. We all need to work for our money and recognize its value, and the sooner children realize this, the deeper this message will be embedded.

This could also be a result of the changing times where working hours tend to be longer, and many households have two working parents, with less time available to spend with their children. Some parents could be compensating for this by splurging on expensive things as means to ensure that their children feel loved.

The occasional spoiling of our children will always be there; after all, that comes with the territory of being loving parents, but there should also be boundaries set to ensure a mature and responsible upbringing. We may be privileged to live in a country where we are given priority and support by our government, whether it comes to free medical, interest-free loans, or marriage funds (to name a few), but this should not hinder us from appreciating what we have been given and wanting to give back to society as well.

It is our civic duty to ensure that we teach our children the right morals so that the current and coming new generations do not grow up to be arrogant and self-entitled. It is important that children also learn to be grateful for what they have and not always be on the lookout for the next big thing. This will allow them to grow up understanding that abundance isn’t only attributed to superficial things but also on having an open heart, generosity, and gratitude for the little things in life. A small act of kindness can go a long way and this should not be replaced with things that only money can buy.

The Latent Functions of MUN (@AUS_ModelUN)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The article explains the importance of MUN and tackles some problematic stereotypes about MUNers.



Those who take subjects related to the social sciences essentially investigate the impact of different phenomena on humanity; meanwhile, in other sciences, the situation is often the opposite. These impacts can be direct and indirect, depending on the context. Within the field of sociology, we speak of the manifest and latent functions of things. Manifest function refers to the official role a thing plays, while the latent function is the indirect consequence or role of that thing. I am more interested in latent functions. In case of Model United Nations (MUN), its latent functions are quite fascinating, which is why I engage myself in activities related to it and lead my local MUN organization.

Some people have established stereotypes about individuals who enjoy MUN. For instance, in the field of politics, some of us view MUN as a United Nations fan club, and that is far from the truth. Some of the wittiest critics of the UN I have ever met were in MUN conferences. After all, these individuals know exactly how the UN functions—i.e., they are experts in this particular international organization’s history, mechanics, and so on in addition to its strengths and weaknesses.

Outsiders who establish stereotypes about MUNers often lack sufficient knowledge about the UN in the first place. Having said that, not all MUN conferences accurately simulate the UN. Some misrepresent it on purpose (or inadvertently), in fact, by abiding to parliamentary procedures instead of the UN’s consensus-based model. That is particularly true because there is more to MUN than the UN.

Indeed, MUN has a significant share of diehard UN fans, and that is fine. While I share their idealism, I am also very aware of the international order’s limitations. The UN is not a perfect organization; furthermore, the UN acknowledges its own shortcomings. Even so, one must not forget that the UN has achieved tremendous milestones over the years, in fields and through affiliated organizations we are not necessarily aware of! One of many examples is the World Food Programme (WFP), based in Rome, Italy. It is, by far, the largest organization fighting hunger worldwide. This is one of many initiatives managed and funded by the UN.

The UN is not a world government with awesome powers—it does not even have a standing army, for starters. Instead, the UN is an organization funded by its Member States, to serve its Member States. It is as simple as that. It may evolve in the future (like the EU did, perhaps?), but for now, we must acknowledge its limitations and support its many efforts in promoting peace and security and improving the dire state of this world in many arenas. Due to this grand mission, MUN conferences often attract high achievers. You get to meet globally-minded individuals from all over the world, who want to make a positive change in their communities and planet at large. The energy, the drive, the exchange of knowledge and the engagement in dialogue is what MUN is all about. It is not just about simulating the United Nations, although that is an essential part of it, too.

Written by Omar Al Mutawa, Secretary-General of AUSMUN 2015 and 2016

To register, or know more, please access our website AUSMUN.org

To find out more about AUSMUN:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Books Made In UAE – Open Call for Comic Artists (@UAEBBY)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 10.29.30 AM

The UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) and the Goethe-Institut Gulf Region continue their “Books – Made in UAE” project with a comic workshop for ten Emirati / UAE-based artists from 24 to 28 April 2016. The 5-day workshop will be conducted by German comic artist and Mangaka Inga Steinmetz.

Participants will be given the opportunity to develop new stories and to learn how to tell them in a convincing way. Inga Steinmetz will work with the students on their drawing techniques, e.g. for facial expressions, emotions, hair style and clothing, and give them tips for background visualization, perspective and how to use time effectively while narrating. In the end, every participant will have a completed comic in full color that will be exhibited at the Illustrators Corner at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2016.

Before the workshop, interested participants are invited to think up stories which are related either to the topic of “friendship” or the topic of “nature”. They should submit a short outline (ca. ½ page) including the following:

  • Introduction – who is the story about?
  • What happens to this person(s) (conflict)?
  • What happens next?
  • How does the story end?

In addition, interested comic artists and illustrators should also provide the following documents:

  • A short bio (ca. 60 – 100 words)
  • A portfolio of their comic art (PDF)
  • A personal statement of motivation and objective to take part in this workshop

The workshop runs with an all day long schedule (9:30 am – 4:30 pm) from Sunday, 24 April till Thursday, 28 April 2016. It will either take place in Abu Dhabi or in Dubai, depending on the number of applicants from either city. For commuters, daily shuttle transport or accommodation (single occupancy only) for four nights can be arranged and will be covered. The language of communication during the workshop is English.

If you are interested in participating, please send an e-mail and the required documents by 20th March 2016 to:

Have You Heard Of Remote X?

Latifa Al Azdi (@Latifazdi )

Latifa Al Azdi (@Latifazdi )

Latifa holds a BA in PR and Advertising from Zayed University and an MA in Tourism from King’s College London. She enjoys all forms of art, reading and running towards a half marathon. Through her column “The Art of Observation” she shares her experiences of art events, exhibitions and talks.
Latifa Al Azdi (@Latifazdi )

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Introducing Remote X, a project by Rimini Protokoll that is currently taking place in Abu Dhabi. The project is meant to give a whole new feeling and experience towards places that are common and familiar.

Artwork by Amna Al Saleh (@Tepingi)

Artwork by Amna Al Saleh (@Tepingi)

Remote X is a piece of production by a group of artists who work under a Berlin-based label called Rimini Protokoll. German artists Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel, and Swiss artist Stefan Kaegi’s work mostly centers around the world of theater. Rimini Protokoll’s aim is to utilize sound, radio, film and installations to shed light on different perspectives of the reality we live in. Some of my favorite Rimini Protokoll projects include:

“Situation Rooms”: These rooms play a soundtrack of voices from people around the world living in areas that are controlled by weapons. Participants are offered a chance to dislocate themselves and see how it feels to be in someone else’s dark reality.

“Cargo X” is a truck that carries people through a ride between different cities, whether in Europe or Asia. The inside of the truck is converted into a hall supported by an audio system with a window at the side of the truck overlooking the streets. The audience gets to sit and observe cities from a moving perspective. The most intriguing part of this experience is that the truck drivers share stories and insights from their personal experience in transporting goods between cities.

“U-deur”: each space has its own distinctive odor and based on that an analysis of the smell in the U-Bahn underground lines in Berlin is reproduced in a laboratory. The scent is then installed in a vending machine for people to purchase at the station itself for them to re-enter the realm of the station whenever they smell it.

Going back to Remote X, X refers to the city the project takes place in. It is a virtual treasure hunt that takes place in real cities; the New York Times refers to it as a “pedestrian-based live art experience”. A maximum number of 50 participants get the chance to experience it together. It begins when all participants gather at a starting point, wear headphones, and listen to a synthetic voice that directs their movement. The city becomes a canvas in which participants can be found in streets, parks, garages, rooftops and so on.

Picture from the official website of Remote X Project

Picture from the official website of Remote X Project

The main objective of this project is to explore unknown territories or familiar areas in your city in an unusual way. The project wants to highlight how humans function from a remote perspective. Since Remote X takes place in public, everyone passing by will not understand what the group is doing. All participants will eventually feel a sense of alienation which is all a part of the experience. What is worth noting is that each city Remote X takes place in has its own audio and storyline that would relate entirely to people from that particular city or those who live in it.

Remote X took place in 17 cities including Sao Paulo, Bangalore and New York. For those who are intrigued by the concept and want to experience it themselves, I have great news. Remote Abu Dhabi by Rimini Protokoll is currently taking place as a part of Durub Al Tawaya, a group of performances alongside Abu Dhabi Art. According to a friend of mine who lived her entire life in Abu Dhabi, Remote X made her perceive the city from a complete different angle. It also made her step out of her comfort zone, since it took place in public. Keep in mind that it requires prior registration and it happens on selected dates until the end of March 2016.

#EAFOL Fantasy Fiction Panel With @BrandSanderson & @NouraNoman

Reading Time: 1 minute

In this Emirates Airline Festival of Literature session (moderated by our editor in chief: Iman Ben Chaibah), Brandon Sanderson & Noura AlNoman tell us about the world of creating fantasy and science fiction books, what it takes to construct those fictional worlds, how they find their inspiration to the different elements in those worlds, the direction of female protagonists, what helped their writing journey and much more.

The UAE’s Diverse Approach Towards a Diverse Economy

Salman Karmostaji ( @S_Karmostaji)

Salman Karmostaji ( @S_Karmostaji)

Salman is currently pursuing his undergraduate studies at the AUS. Born with an entrepreneurial spirit, he has always strived to succeed as an entrepreneur. He is currently working on launching his upcoming company, The Matjar. Salman’s column conveys his message in a clear and concise manner with the sole goal of bettering the world.
Salman Karmostaji ( @S_Karmostaji)

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

The UAE’s recent governmental structural reform is not the country’s only action towards reaching economic efficiency. What are the other actions done?

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

On the 10th of February 2016, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced the biggest structural reform in the Federal Government since the country’s formation in 1971.

Using Twitter as the main channel to make his announcement, Sheikh Mohammed revealed that several ministries would be merged while creating more ministerial positions, stating that “Governments must be flexible. We don’t need more ministries, but more ministers capable of dealing with change.” Amid low oil prices, rapid climate change, and regional challenges, many saw the structural reform as a way for the UAE to become more efficient on a governmental level in order to withstand the current regional environment.

There is a grand strategic goal that is currently on the government’s agenda, which is the need to achieve economic efficiency. As part of the reform the Government’s role has become one that does not intervene in the intricacies of healthcare, education and other sectors. Current ministerial tasks have been divided amongst newly established independent and semi-independent authorities, those will be obliged to abide by rules and regulations set by the ministries.

The structural reform will help the country attain better economic efficiency as well as enhance the quality of the sectors now being controlled by newly established authorities; however, it cannot be seen as the UAE’s only effort towards creating a sustainable economy as the government currently has several endeavors in pursuit of the matter.

Two months prior to Sheikh Mohammed’s announcement, a UAE delegation was sent to Paris in order to represent the country in the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). Dr. Thani Al-Zeyoudi, who was appointed as the new Minister of Climate Change and Environment as part of the structural reform and was also part of the delegation, deemed the conference as “a great success,” emphasizing that the agreement that was made amongst the involved countries benefited the UAE in diversifying its economy.

Today, the UAE is on track to provide 24% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2021. This leads us to understand that the UAE is using eco-efficiency as a tool to further improve economic efficiency. Eco-Efficiency, which focuses on producing more goods and services with less resources and without excessive pollution and waste, is a tool that promotes transferring from unsustainable development to sustainable development. A signed agreement in COP21 serves as an indicator that the government is using more than one approach in order to restructure the economy into a fully efficient one.

When 2015 came to an end, it was announced that the Gulf countries had agreed to introduce value added tax (VAT) by the end of 2018. It was also revealed that the UAE expects to generate AED10 billion to AED12 billion in revenue in the first year of implementing VAT, which will further diversify the economy; hence, improved economic efficiency. Furthermore, earlier this year, a ministerial retreat along with economists and government officials was organized to discuss the UAE’s economy post-oil. The goal of the retreat as Sheikh Mohammed described it was to “build an economy that is independent of oil and market fluctuations alike.”

Today, the UAE is investing heavily in different fields and restructuring the government in hopes of creating a “sustainable economy for future generations,” in the words of Sheikh Mohammed. By using an extremely diverse approach, including a Cabinet reform, eco-efficiency, and VAT, the government clearly understands that a diverse economy requires a diverse approach. So, it is safe to say that the structural reform is only one element in the grand scheme of things rather than the UAE’s only approach towards economic efficiency.