Friday, January 04, 2008

Sheikh Mohammad uses mystery shoppers

Daily Star
Sheikh Mohammad's "spies," known as "mystery shoppers," fan out across government offices to observe and grade the efficiency, competence and attentiveness of local officials. Those who receive poor marks are quietly rebuked, while those who impress move into an informal Dubai fast-track, receiving increasingly more challenging tasks, greater responsibility and more scrutiny. If they survive those tests they gradually enter the rarefied air of the Dubai high-flyer executives, the dozen or so movers and shakers who are transforming the Gulf city-state into a major regional and global trade, tourism, transport, technology and financial services hub.

This survival of the fittest produces a top-notch government elite, not one stocked with cronies and family members of the ruler - and might just be the key to Dubai's remarkable rise. While Western capitals search for an Arab "democratic model," Dubai is providing an Arab "meritocratic model" that underpins its successful growth and development.
While much of the Middle East is burdened by a steady brain drain, Dubai has managed to cut against the prevailing grain by both nurturing local talent and drawing in leading regional money managers, traders, bankers and consultants in what is amounting to a brain regain. An ambitious young man in Karachi, Cairo, Tehran, Jeddah or New Delhi no longer instinctively sets his sights on Europe or the US. The Dubai School of Government (DSG), for example, has managed to attract three leading Saudi women PhD professors away from Europe and the US along with an array of top thinkers from the Arab world and a smattering of World Bank executives. Whether or not Dubai might offer a model matters less in this instance than what it is actually doing: keeping Arab talent in the Arab world.
Afshin Molavi, a journalist and fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, was a Dubai-based correspondent with Reuters. This commentary first appeared at, an online newsletter.
Thanks to samuraisam for the pointer.



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