x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Building a better workforce

GCC governments face a bigger challenge in nationalising the workforce than just quotas, an Arabic language columnist writes in today's roundup of regional opinion. Other topics: over-reach in Egypt and shared Arab fate.

GCC governments face a larger challenge in nationalising their workforce than just quotas

Nationalising jobs in Gulf governments - reserving them for Gulf citizens, for instance - is not a magic wand that can be turned into a reality, nor is it a process that will come to fruition within five or 10 years, wrote Salem Al Nuaimi, an Emirati writer, in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

"Gulf countries are not removed from the rest of the world … and our development and progress cannot be premised on the shallow, traditional approach to nationalisation, which doesn't take into account all the factors that combine to make a modern society that keeps abreast of worldwide dynamics," the author said.

Gulf governments should be encouraged to buy stakes in successful private companies that guarantee certain levels of nationalisation. Government tenders should also consider nationalisation rates in the companies that submit bids.

But more work should be done at the cultural and strategic levels, the author suggested.

"We live in societies in which children undergo a long process of mental and psychological conditioning. At an early stage, their families set them up to become, say, doctors, engineers or officers. They push them to complete their university education regardless of their own inclinations, skills and capabilities, and regardless of whether they have the potential to excel in those areas."

Handicrafts and vocational training are derided, he added, and education is generally understood as a means to a job, not as learning for learning's sake.

"This is why you rarely hear about a world-renowned Gulf scientist," the author wrote.

A nationalisation strategy should involve Gulf citizens "at the cradle", he noted, and it must be informed by a meticulous process of data collection that pins down each country's "social development factors and challenges".

"Yes, nationalisation is both a governmental and popular demand; there is no question about that. But nationalisation isn't about the numbers of those who are hired; it's actually about the added value that these people bring," the writer said.

Inadequately studied nationalisation policies "lead to a national predicament, if we keep talking about nationalisation targets, instead of the degree of competence and excellence of those hired nationals", he observed.

"In my opinion, nationalisation as a strategy for sustainable human resource development in the Gulf is not about … replacing an expatriate or a foreigner with a Gulf national, just because he or she is a Gulf national," the author said.

"That isn't what societies striving for world-class status are supposed to do. Merit must be the key selection criterion for employment if we are to improve growth and discourage idleness."

Brotherhood's ballot mandate is a farce

By downplaying the ability of Egyptians to challenge them, the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohammed Morsi are making a mistake, Ilyas Harfush wrote in an article in yesterday's edition of the London-based daily Al Hayat.

The Brotherhood's pretext in defying the majority of Egyptians is that they are "playing the rules of the democratic game". Their president, they say, was democratically voted into office, and their constitution was backed by the majority of the votes. They also say they want to quickly put Egypt on its feet after almost a two-year pause.

Such arguments do not hold water when this majority that voted for Mr Morsi did not exceed 50 per cent of Egyptians. As far as the constitution is concerned, more than two thirds of Egyptians did not participate in the vote - only 20 per cent of the population voted "yes" on the constitution, the writer observed.

The Brotherhood's arguments do not stack up when the Egyptian economy is in perilous decline, particularly in terms of tourism and foreign investment.

"And how can Egyptian society bear the much-needed austerity measures in the absence of strong leadership?" he asked.

The anti-Brotherhood demonstrations have shown that most Egyptians are against the use of religion for political gains, and that the revolution's goal is to achieve a real democratic society.

Arab Spring is proof of Arabs' shared fate

Arabs are undergoing decisive historic transitions that have shown how the Arab nations are bound by shared emotions and aspirations, noted Sayyar Jamil in the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan.

The Arab Spring revolutions are a fait accompli. Those who go against them are either unaware of the powerful dynamics of history, or just siding with the wrong parties against them.

The Arab uprisings are a genuine, popular reaction against dictatorship and corruption. Some might argue that these revolutions are part of a regional or an international conspiracy. Yet history shows that popular revolutions cannot be triggered by foreign agents.

The revolutions first started in Tunisia, then affected the rest of the Arab fabric until it reached Syria. This proves that "our societies are still culturally bound".

An Arab mentality is at fault imagining that revolutions are merely fast changes, the fruits of which can be reaped overnight. True revolutions last many years before achieving their goals.

"We believe in the Arab revolutions because they mark the end of a difficult period, when tyrants trampled on our nations for 60 years," he said.

The Arab Spring has bridged the political gap between people, and ended a state of despair and fear.

* Digest compiled by Tranlsation desk