Minister Muizz: the second Umar Zahir

If any Maldivian was asked who was the most dynamic Minister in the nation's history, almost all will agree that it was former Minister Umar Zahir. His work ethic, speed and involvement are few of the characteristics that set him apart from the rest. Minister Umar Zahir is an exemplary visionary; his work, contribution to the nation will be noted for decades to come.

When former President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik had announced his cabinet, his appointment of Dr. Mohamed Muizz as Housing Minister came to intense public scrutiny. A silent person by nature, many had said that Dr. Muizz would be a mere figurehead. That he would be ineffective in managing Housing Ministry and projects. At the star of his tenure, there were some moments that would ring true with the statements. But when Dr. Muizz was reappointed to his position under the President Abdullah Yameen's cabinet, Dr. Muizz became the wining horse. The Housing and Infrastructure sector was finally rewarded with the real successor to Umar Zahir.

Dr. Muizz was shaped to the role, under the tutelage of Umar Zahir. A man of few words, Dr. Muizz had preferred to walk the talk and let his actions speak for themselves.

Umar Zahir had high praise for his protege. He said Dr. Muizz was the only Minister who had been able to pass his expectations.

"Muizz is a remarkable figure. His work ethic and speed had astonished me. Whether it is a port or a beach, he is a remarkable person. A perfectionist," he said.

"From the first day onward, I have been telling Muizz to finish the projects swiftly and to the best standard. Today he has become a Minister accepted by all. I observe his work, even today," he said.

Dr. Muizz is a child of Usthaz Hussain Abdu Rahman. Nephew of Vashafaru Adam Abdu Rahman (Adambe).

Dr. Muizz's father Usthaz Hussain Abdu Rahman, had served the judiciary and religious education fields for years and had passed away last year, while completing his pilgrimage in Macca, Saudi Arabia. Like his son, Usthaz Hussain Abdu Rahman, was a soft spoken man, but a highly respected scholar. He was commended for his work in religious education. Dr. Muizz had emulated his father and Umar Zahir in many aspects.

Upon completing his O-Levels, Dr. Muizz had joined civil service in Housing Ministry. His national service began under the tutelage of Umar Zahir in 1997.

"I was in Umar Zahir's ministry. Mauroof Jameel, Haidar and Rafeeq were also in the Ministry. At the time they were senior officials at the Ministry. I worked under that layer," Dr. Muizz said, speaking about the start of his national service.

He had departed to United Kingdom, on a scholarship while he was working in the Ministry. When Dr. Muizz returned back to Maldives after completing his Degree in Structural Engineering and Masters Degree in Civil Engineering, the Ministry was divided.

"When I returned back, Maldives Housing and Urban Development Board had been formed. Haidar, Rafeeq were in that office, I was assigned to work under Rafeeq," he said.

Dr. Muizz worked for three years in the Board, which was founded to bring rapid development to Male'. He rose to prominence in the sector, but was not known to public.

"After three years with the Board, I left for England again. The English government had given me a scholarship for PhD studies. I got the assistance of some when I left in 2005. When I left, Housing Ministry was formed for the first time, with Rafeeq as the Minister. Mauroof Jameel at Construction," Dr. Muizz said.

Dr. Muizz was catapulted to a cabinet position when a Government fell and a new President created his new Cabinet. When President Yameen assumed leadership, the Housing Ministry became a serious heavyweight contender for the nation's development. Major development projects, amounting to MVR 4 billion, envisioned by President Yameen, became a reality under the skilled administration of Dr. Muizz. He was a Minister constantly on field, observing first hand the progress of the project tirelessly. He is a visible force within other initiatives run in the Government, a constant face on TV programs, constantly and consistently in touch with press and achieving the Ministry mandate, well ahead of the key deadlines.

"Many projects involving Muizz are connected to STO. Those projects have viber groups. I am amazed at how closely he monitors the initiatives. Even if I check the groups at dawn, there will be some question posed by the Minister. He will be physically involved at the project site. Sometimes I am reminded of former Minister Umar Zahir, he is exactly the same," STO Managing Director Ahmed Shaheer said.

Like Shaheer, Umar Zahir said that Dr. Muizz was a man of few words.

"I see that even today, he works to finish the project on time. I see his work and I am amazed and glad," he said.

"My attitude, behavior is that of my parents. My father was a person who prioritized work and preferred to be a soft spoken person. He was a person who spoke and advocated for the truth. I do believe that I have those characteristics," Dr. Muizz said.

"From a very young age, I was taught determination, excellence at every endeavor I attempted. I was taught that perfection and excellence was key. The biggest lesson I learned from my school years up to now was how to be a part of any initiative, ensure that my participation was to the best of my abilities. I believe that is my character," he said.

Dr. Muizz said that he always spoke the truth on the issues, speaking at the right time.

"I want to include my employees in the process. I administer the projects in Male', some which people see as controversial, with careful planning, deliberation and determination. I see the same aspects in the President," Dr. Muizz said.

Dr. Muizz said that during his tenure as Minister and Ministry employee, Minister Umar Zahir had closely observed his day to day work. He said this was one of the biggest positive enforcement and support he had received in his career.

"From the first day onward, Umar Zahir had observed my work closely. He will occasionally ask questions on issues. When he was the Minister and now even he would ask other members on how my work was. He will inquire on projects, the speed, the Ministry and my work. Even the smallest aspect does not escape his keen eye. He will call, advice me and offer support. I believe that if we are to bring about an excellence model, then we have to follow Umar Zahir. He always took initiative in carrying out projects. I have been taught that. Umar Zahir did not believe in delegating and staying afar," he said.

He said delegation occasionally causes delays, confusion and a loss of general direction; that's why he prefers to observe work first hand.

"Most of the time, I am at work, observing field work. President Yameen had tasked me with the ministerial post, to deliver high standard. I will ensure that President Yameen's vision is realized. President Yameen and Umar Zahir was successful because of this. My family, my wife and Umar Zahir support and guide me," he said.

Muizz is father to a six year old and an 11 year old child. Dr. Muizz confessed that he was only able to spare a few hours every month; noting that his family was extremely patient.

"I spend most of my day away from my wife and kids. Even when I'm home, most of the time, I'm on phone. Constantly on viber, checking updates of the projects; basically viber has hijacked me. Sometimes, I'm on site after midnight. So, no I don't get to spend much time with my family. It's not right, but some sacrifices have to be made. I try to make time on Friday, but when duty calls and I have to go, the kids used to ask whether if I was going again. They are used to it now," Dr. Muizz said.

He added that with these sacrifices he now has a sense of achievement, having been able to fulfill the agenda set by President Yameen. Dr. Muizz credited President Yameen's guidance, assistance from his family and Ministry as cornerstones of the successful implementation of the agenda.

Senior officials and employees at the Ministry say that the Minister can be seen at work sites at any time of the day. When we went to Housing Ministry to meet Dr. Muizz for the interview, we were not able to meet him. The Ministry was abuzz with activity. We first ran into a long time employee at the Ministry; we jokingly asked where the Minister was. "Probably at the construction site nearby,"

We met the Minister after a while. Around 8 were in the queue with files. Avas asked if he oversees all the projects, even after setting procedures.

"I can't observe it as much as I want to. For now I can physically check projects run in Male'. Most projects are run in atolls, I cannot go to those sites as much. I get updates from viber, meetings, phone calls. I ensure that system is in place using available technology so I can check on the status," Dr. Muizz said.

The projects carried out in Male', though small in number, are actually huge project. Dr. Muizz said he wants to implement these projects using contemporary methods. He wants to revolutionize the Housing Ministry systems. Bring in the Ministry to new technologies. The Minister said all projects run have to show results to the public. That can only be carried out when the Minister becomes "high tech".

"We have to inform the public on what is being done, through platforms like twitter, facebook. Its my responsibility. President Yameen's manifesto is vast. My part is the urban development section. If I cannot achieve that then, the state has no need for me. Citizens must be made aware of how much of the presidential pledges are being achieved. We are yet to reach that level, myself and the rest of the Ministers. PR has to reach a new level. I'm not satisfied with the way the successes is communicated to the public. PR efforts have to be pushed two or three levels higher,"

What would happen to your family if the mandate was geared two or three levels higher? Dr. Muizz paused at this question. He gave the same reply as before: success demands sacrifice.

Dr. Muizz has set a goal: fully achieve the set agenda he was tasked with as the Minister and ensure that the agenda was acceptable to all citizens.

"I have much to improve on. With that I will try to complete all projects assigned to me in this five year term. Biggest waves are towards me. Along with the Bridge, I'm responsible for projects worth four billion rufiyaa. More challenges are ahead in the next two years. I'm prepared to weather this phase,"

"Team work with one goal is crucial. My tasks involve many people, have to keep them motivated and on board. That can only be achieved if I'm there on time, get involved and empower others,"

Dr. Muizz had definitely measured up to the high standards set by his mentor Umar Zahir.