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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Government work is an honour and a privilege

The introduction of public-sector performance targets will create opportunities for a young and talented workforce

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, has issued a resolution for the performance targets and appraisals of full-time government staff.  
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, has issued a resolution for the performance targets and appraisals of full-time government staff.  

The news that from next year government workers in Dubai are to be given performance targets, a motivational tool commonly used to great effect in the private sector, is a sure and welcome sign that this is a task that will not be shirked. Since federation in 1971 the leadership has always sought to attract Emiratis into public service. In the early days, especially, it was a way of giving citizens a direct role in the development of their country, while generous pay and conditions shared the bounty of oil with all. At the same time, overseas workers and companies were brought in to tackle the specialist technical and commercial roles in which Emiratis had little experience or training.

All that has changed. Decades of emphasis on education to the highest level, coupled with initiatives such as this week’s Mohamed bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations, have created a dynamic new breed of Emirati − young men and women capable of taking on anything a rapidly evolving world can throw at them. The trick now is to ensure this priceless resource is deployed in their best interests and those of the nation. It is, of course, vital that the brightest and the best continue to be attracted to government work. But if the UAE is to achieve its aim of being a competitive nation on the global stage it is equally important that young Emiratis accept the diverse challenges – and opportunities – of the commercial world.

Conversations with young Emiratis at this week’s majlis reveal that many are reluctant to trade the advantages of government work, from which many of their parents have benefited, for the perceived risks of life in the private sector. The introduction of performance targets begins the important process of levelling the playing field. The system must, of course, be applied seriously if it is to have the desired effect of raising standards and aligning performance expectations in government departments with those in the corporate world. Other adjustments can, and should, be made – the government is discussing plans to equalise public and private-sector vacation time – but give and take must be expected on both sides.

For the UAE to successfully nurture its new generation of outward-looking, talented Emiratis, working for the government can no longer be seen as the easy option. Dubai’s introduction of performance targets sends a message that is both positive and patriotic: working for your country should not be considered a right, but an honour, to be embraced with enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism.