Four Decades For Bahrain

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Interview with H.E Mr. Mohammed Al Mutawa, Minister of Cabinet Affairs           

The esteemed politician H.E Mohammed bin Ebrahim AlMutawa has served Bahrain for more than four decades,
in a career which included roles as diverse as the head of Youth and Sports, Executive Director of the Prime Minister’s Office, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Minister of Information, Minister of Implementation and Cultural Advisor to the Prime Minister.

He has been part of numerous historical processes in the founding of Bahrain. In fact, he drafted the first speech which H.H the Late Emir Isa bin Salman gave to the new Bahrain National Assembly. The speech laid out the first ever Government Action Plan, a process AlMutawa works on to this day.

Mohammed AlMutawa the family man is an avid art collector and enjoys daily leisurely lunches with his wife and five children. Bahrain For All explores the history of Bahrain through the life and career of H.E Mohammed AlMutawa.

You are with the government for nearly half of a century. What initiated your career with the government and what roles have you represented in your long career?

I graduated from Alexandria University in Egypt in June 1970 as the British presence in Bahrain was declining and Bahrain transitioned from being a protectorate of the British to an independent country. We had the exciting opportunity and responsibility to ensure the development of our country. This vast and unbounded opportunity motivated me to join the government.    

There were relatively few University graduates during that time, and the country demanded our services for the creation of the Kingdom’s constitution. Driven by this call, and our dream to prove that we could do better than the British, we commenced our efforts to build the country. My contemporaries and I were assigned to create the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and I took my first responsibility in charge of Youth and Sports in it. 

Soon after the independence, Bahrain became a sovereign member of the United Nations on September 21st, 1971. The Government began to envisage the first constitution, and the first National Assembly was created in 1973.  We then had to create an entity to connect the National Assembly to the government.  H.E Jawad Al-Arayedh became the minister and I was part of his team, who established the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs as a line of contact and coordination between National Assembly and the government.  I continued in this ministry from 1973 to 1976. In 1975, the Parliament was dissolved and based on the orders of HRH Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa,  I moved into his court and became the Head of the Prime Minister’s Office.

I remained at the service of HRH Prime Minister in the diverse roles I’ve held, which included the Minister of Cabinet Affairs  in 1993, and the Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Information in 1995. The role of the Minister of Cabinet of Affairs was different that time. I was responsible for several operational departments, which now fall under separate entities: the Civil Service Bureau, the Central Bureau of Information (now the Central Informatics Bureau), and the Legal Affairs entity (now the Legislation and Legal Opinion Commission).

When we created the Majlis AlShura (Consultative Council) in the ’90s and I was in charge of coordinating between the Council and the government.  During my service as the Minister of Information, I also undertook the charge of the Departments of Culture, T.V, Radio, and Tourism from 1995-2002, when I became again the Minister of Cabinet Affairs solely.

Bahrain had entered another phase at the demise of the Late Amir HRH Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa in March 1999.  His Royal Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa became new ruler of the Kingdom.  His Royal Highness Sheikh Hamad (at that time not yet King) had a vision to revive the parliamentary life, and I was a part of the committee which created the National Charter and amended the Constitution.  The amended constitution was accepted by 98.4% of the population, showing the high degree of acceptance for the King’s strategy in creating two Representative Houses, constitutional institutions, and for the far-reaching political, legal and social developments that begun with his rule.

As the current Minister of Cabinet Affairs, we produce the Government Action Plan every four years.  The Government Action plan implements the strategies of HM the King, HRH the Prime Minister and HRH the Crown Prince in addition to Vision 2030 by laying out the entire set of programs all ministries are undertaking in Bahrain and ensuring that they feed into our ultimate vision. My work centres on the timely and effective implementation of these programs throughout the government.

In your view, what are the milestones in Bahrain’s history after independence?

Joining the United Nations in 1971 and establishing Bahrain as a sovereign state with recognized borders and authority marked the most important post-independence history.  With this began the creation of the constitution and the start of parliamentary life.  The era of His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa revived constitutional and parliamentary life and ushered in the creation of important and active supporting entities like the Supreme Council for Women and the Economic Development Board.   

In preparation for economic independence, the numerous international missions of HRH the Prime Minister as far as places like Australia and Japan jumpstarted the economy by garnering support for large projects like Alba.  After independence, key to our development was the establishment of Bahrain as an offshore banking hub in the 70s. It necessitated the creation of social and legislative infrastructure which propelled our growth and allowed further infrastructure development.  The creation of the King Fahad Causeway linking Saudi Arabia to Bahrain is a prominent example, as was the creation of more roads in general.

When the British left, the number of schools were minimal and could be counted on one hand. Now, if you look around the Kingdom, we have hundreds for different phases and types of education.

The same development happened in the Health industry, where we the Kingdom receives the services from multiple both governmental and private hospitals in addition to the earlier existing two hospitals.  The skilled and intelligent way Bahrainis took advantage of our circumstances soon after the independence, laid the foundation of the modern era.

We are currently in the knowledge era of our history, with ongoing developments in telecommunication, information and administration.

In your current role as the Minister of Cabinet Affairs and in your previous role as the Minister of Implementation, you have created mechanisms to measure the effectiveness of government projects. Can you tell us about these mechanisms?

All projects in Bahrain under the budget are put into the four year Government Action Plan, and our team created a very successful electronic system to monitor the implementation of these projects.  We divide a project into goals and phases and assess the percentage of their completion on the electronic system. We can therefore, measure the degree of successful implementation of the Action Plan as a whole.  Based on our monitoring, we present quarterly reports to the cabinet on the extent of implementation and together we tackle reasons for delays.

When we began in 2012, the measured percentage of timely implementation was 53%.  In the last quarter, we saw improvement to 73% successful project implementation. The data proves the massive success of this strategy. In addition, we apply numerous models designed for supporting not only the degree of implementation, but also the effectiveness and quality of government work.  Examples are our model of Public Governance and supervision through the National Audit Office.

Have you ever dreamt of another career?

I went into my career out of a sense of duty and to fulfil the need of my country, but then I must say I loved it and felt the effort I contributed made me internally happy and content. Therefore, I have no regrets at all when it comes to my career choice.

Having said that, when I was younger, my studies in Philosphy, Psychology, and Social Studies left me with a dream to discover the psychology of people and I dreamt of becoming a writer of stories inspired by the human lives around me. However, instead of becoming a writer I became a reader of biographies, history, and philosophy in general.

Which leisure time activities give you the most happiness?

My favourite hobby is reading, which I don’t do superficially- I dive deeply into the fields I love like philosophy, history and politics. I believe those who don’t read history cannot predict the future so I think any politician should be well read in philosophy and history.  Islamic philosophy is my favourite, and I consider myself an avid follower of writings on the matter.

I also love to collect antique artefacts and artwork, especially Persian carpets.  I see these carpets as an embodiment of the craftsman’s spirit and the height of mastery of craft, effort, and creative expression.

I have to add that I do have a new hobby! I could play with my grandchildren all day and be happy.

What are the essential elements a person must possess in order to achieve a successful life? What helped you achieve such a life?

Ultimately, success is by the grace of the God.  What one can do, and what I consider myself fortunate to have been able to do, is to offer unlimited efforts for the sake of mastering one’s profession.  This mastery comes from a deep love for the work you do and continuously learning, reviewing and assessing oneself in order to better the outcomes of your work, to understand what aspects of your work require more focus and finally to rest with an assured conscience.

In my personal career, the encouragement and support of HRH the Prime Minister was a huge motivator to my success. I am also thankful to my wife for committing herself to our family and home as this allowed me to give most of my time to serve our country.

Our slogan which we raise with pride is “Bahrain for all and all for Bahrain”.

Where do you see the strategy of Bahrain heading and how can civil society as a whole contribute to these goals?

Bahrain is a home that fosters all its inhabitants, and I also believe that citizens have a duty to their homeland.  Whether at school, at work, or at home we should always seek to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.   I believe that we receive back the loyalty and service we put in to our community in multiplication. 

As far as strategy, Bahrain’s vision 2030 is considered the guideline for the country’s immediate future both in government and the private sphere.  In addition, our future cannot be separated from the future of the region, especially the GCC and I personally am optimistic for this future and the contribution our people make to it as modern, cultured and educated people.