Is Saturday the new Friday for the UAE?
- United Arab Emirates: Saturday, September 02 - 2006 at 08:57
This weekend the UAE has introduced a two-day weekend, running from Friday to Saturday, harmonizing a chaotic system of multiple weekend arrangements. Nothing could more perfectly symbolize the commitment to modernization and progressive thinking by its government.
It has to be said that the situation where government officials took Thursday and Friday off each week, while the private sector was away from its desks on Friday and Saturday or even Saturday and Sunday, was not terribly efficient. Schools for example were out of phase with the working week of parents.
Of course, some people got used to this muddle and even liked it, but times change and people will soon adapt to the more efficient model. Many businesses in particular appear not to have planned for the change, and banks are reluctant to implement the new weekend.
It can even be argued that with stellar economic growth the UAE hardly needs to change. But that is not the point. The UAE wants to change. It wants not merely to be a part of the modern world but to be a leader within it, particularly in business and finance within the Middle East.
Flexibility and a willingness to change are crucial to any country that wishes to progress. This is not just a matter of slavishly copying Western practice - and the UAE weekend will still be one day out of step with most of the rest of the world - but it is indicative of a vision of the future.
This is the same vision that has embraced the Internet, liberalized home ownership rules and created a powerful free market, enterprise culture in a country barely 35 years old. It is the same vision that has attracted huge inward investment in recent years which shows no sign of slowing down.
In the troubled world of the modern Middle East, the UAE is a haven of peace, security, prosperity and tolerance. Increasingly the UAE fulfills the role that Switzerland once played in a divided Europe, or Hong Kong or Singapore in the days of Red China.
Encouragingly these former safe havens are less important today than in the past as the regions around them have copied their example, and become economically progressive as well as far more peaceful.
In this context a new weekend in the UAE might seem a small step forward. But the success of the UAE is a beacon of hope for the Middle East and a sign of what can be achieved with stable, peace-loving government and the right economic policies. Others will surely follow for the benefit of their citizens and children.
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