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  • Wednesday, May 31, 2006

    Naji al-Nuaimi freed.

    Thank God. No doubt we will here more in the coming hours. In the mean time, here's the beeb link.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Another Example of Status

    I happen to be have a fairly easy extension number - the 2 same digits, followed by the preceeding digit repeated. I was allocated the number by random in the place that I am currently working, and within two weeks of being allocated it, I was offered a 3 figure sum (in dollars, not Dirhams) for it. I didn't think this wholly professional and declined. However, you can see the lengths that people will go to to attain something considered "status worthy" in the UAE. It wouldn't have been particularly if I had told you about mobile numbers - those get traded all the time. And "special" car number plates are an ultimate symbol of power, assuming you have the right colour...

    The reason I got thinking of this was due to a little experiment called One Thousand Paintings. I'm not sure that it is a status thing, but it does have that "got to have one before they run out" mixed in with the million dollar home page. Who knows? Maybe this guy, Sama, will get lucky. Think he sold close to 50 today, at a total of 175. And if it does get successful,watch the bandwagon follow suit, with the same concept being copied by someone out here, selling the same in Arabic numerals or the like. Creativity or a Con, I'm itching to see whether it reaches 1000, which no doubt it will. And then the "collector's item" will be auctioned on ebay, or perhaps Sama has other ideas to bolt onto this, so that the numeral paintings are actually worth their value. Markets eh?

    Posted by at 4 comments :

    Tuesday, May 30, 2006

    The Importance of IFRS

    Standards present themselves in different ways. In accounting terms, standards are a mark of quality. International standards are international marks of quality, and specifically the IFRS. In the most part, IFRS is widely recognised as the leading standard to be adhered to. The quicker that local orgnaisations move to working within this framework, the quicker the investment will flow. It's all about quality and transparency, a transparency that is not so apparent in the region.

    "The Middle East could follow the example of India, which is experiencing major investment growth. India is moving towards IFRS because its major trading partners like Russia and China are doing so." The UAE has no legislation mandating the use of IFRS by all companies, although the banks follow IFRS on directives of the Central Bank and listed companies because of stock market guidelines.


    Those without IFRS, looking for investment could struggle against those that do, in an increasingly competitive arena, locally in the UAE, regionally in the GCC and in the greater emerging markets. Where super powers are rising up, adopting IFRS will assist in the ease of linking with the bigger players and continue in cementing the UAE as a global hub.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    From monopoly to duopoly

    Competition changes people. Forget the brand relaunch for a minute, whether you like it or not, and whether it represents what you think of Etisalat. Moving away from monopoly status means that it must move away from doing as it pleases. Essentially, any wrong could be pointed at Etisalat up to now. At a higher level, the power has moved upwards to the TRA. They are now in control, and while gripes will be allocated to Etisalat over the coming 2 years, some fairly and some unfairly, people should really now start looking at the landscape within which telecoms now operate. The TRA will become the soothsayer of local telecoms, and while service issues will remain at a lower level, real local strategic issues will be due to the regualtions enforced up top, with the VOIP policy decision being a prime example. As the lanscape changes, look at who you point your finger at - Etisalat will be changing for the greater good, I am sure of it. To not do, would be market ignorance of a high order.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Gold Value compared to Consumption

    Let's take global instability versus precious metal price. There is a general link that says that as instability increases, gold increases. There is an almost direct relation. And as the dollar value has decreased, so has the price of gold increases. The Gulf News headline with regard to gold stated "Value of UAE gold sales climbs in first quarter". While this, in itself is true, the real story is of the decrease in demand. Gold is now expensive, and as demand for gold has increased, so has it's price. The real headline is buried in the second paragraph:

    Due to the rise in gold prices, gold consumption in the UAE in terms of tonnage declined by 17 per cent from 33 tonnes in the first quarter of 2005 to 28 tonnes during the corresponding period of 2006. A similar drop in tonnage was also witnessed in other parts of the region.

    Consumption decreased - that's the real story. But throw in the fact that the shopping festival was cancelled and the gold value increased year on year, you have a story that spins the focus of what is really going on.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Monday, May 29, 2006

    Racism in the workplace

    Acknowledge that it does exist. Maybe you have been part of the problem, or maybe you are on the receiving end. Or maybe you just turn a blind eye. But yet, we all know that racism is there, whether you like it or not. Why is it so prevalent? Is it an unspoken class system?

    According to the Ministry of Labour:

    "We receive very few complaints specifically regarding racism. Such cases are very difficult for the employee to prove. They come with complaints over wages but rarely point to issues of racism as being a cause of why the employer might pay them less than other nationalities," said Umr Khouri, the ministry's legal researcher

    I have seen it, tried to change it, been reprimanded for trying to change it and experienced it myself. I've been treated one way and treated another. And this is the only country that I have been treated differently. It's not everyone. It's just some. And, by heck, it's a horrible thing.

    The truth is, on the recieving end, most are too scared to complain. Any risk would jeopordise stability. I have tried to fight it, but there comes a time, where you realise that you are punching a brick wall.

    One thing that I really hate is the 3-tier grading scale: One for UAE Nationals; One for "Europeans"; and one for "the others". It kills me every time, and it kills me that some people think that this is normal.

    /end rant

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    The East/West Divide

    I have blogged before concerning dubai and the burbs, village mentality and the like. Tim Burrowes from CampaignME gives a specific example, calling it the two Dubais. I think that as that grey area between Dubai and Abu Dhabi becomes more populous as developers search for even more places to build their monstrosities/works of art, people will begin to really have to make some decisions about where they will live. While traffic in itself plays a big factor currently, distance will become a bigger factor to the point where if something is too far, you'll just stay within your comfort factor.

    I mentioned monstrosities. The FT thinks Dubai is an architectural flop.

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    Sunday, May 28, 2006

    The Offside Rule - Preamble to the World Cup

    If you haven't noticed, there's a world cup starting in less than a couple of weeks, and if you haven't got a dodgey satellite receiver with 750 channels, or forked out the ridiculously steep 400 or 500 dirhams to e-vision and you are into the beautiful game, you better sort out your schedule pronto, find out which bar is showing the game (and with which supporters) or piggy back off a mate who has managed to scam the channels.

    As a preamble to the most watched competition on the planet, I present you with the definition of the Offside Rule, so that those who don't actually understand it won't bother those that do, in those crucial minutes when concentration is more important than when you have a speeding Hummer swerving behind you on the Sheikh Zayed Road.

    Officially Fifa define Offside as this:

    It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position. A player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. A player is not in an offside position if he is in his own half of the field of play or he is level with the second last opponent or he is level with the last two opponents. A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by interfering with play or interfering with an opponent or gaining an advantage by being in that position.


    A bit long winded. How's this:

    Infraction in which an offensive player does not have at least two defensive players between himself and the goal line when the ball is played forward by a member of the attacking team.



    OK, that doesn't really help. How's this (courtesy of Everything a Girl Needs to Know About Football):

    Imagine you're out shopping with a friend and you see a lovely pair of shoes you want to buy. You stand in the queue and wait to pay for them. In front of you are two ladies who are also waiting to pay and are standing between you and the till. You realise you have left your purse with your friend who is at the back of the shop.
    It would be rude to push in front of the ladies in the queue without your purse. However, if your friend was to throw your purse and you caught it behind, or side-by-side with, the ladies in the queue, it would then be OK to run round in front of them to pay. Just remember you can't move in front of the ladies without having your purse with you first. All you have to do is swap your purse for a football, the till for a goal and the ladies in the queue for defenders and you'll soon be able to argue the off-side rule with the best of them.

    So, just for clarification, here are the pictures so that you have no doubt whatsoever (courtesy of localdial):





    Further analogies regarding the offside rule and Dubai traffic, cost of living, or anything else are welcome.

    Whether Tunisia V Saudi Arabia will be the most watched match locally doesn't really bother me, I'll be supporting England, with the regular chants of "Who are ya?", the obvious "Come on England", "Who are all the pies?", "The referee's a w***er", and other obscenities when the Ingleezi are finally kicked out by some lesser opposition. I just hope to get to the group stages so that I can hear the excited Arabic commentary of "YALLA YALLA WENRONNI"

    Over the coming month and a bit expect different toned blogs depending on the success or failure of En-ger-land. Come on UAE!

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Freedom of Speech and "Loyalty"

    I'm not sure I really understand this from the main man at AMG. You can have freedom of speech as long as you are positive and are "loyal" to the UAE. About radio stations, but one specifically:

    "If the country is bad, if the people are no good, if we don’t have security, if you don’t have safety, if you complain about all of this, my question is: what are you doing here? If we want our government to open up we have to show them we have to be loyal. If we come to understand that, then only by that time licences will be allowed to be owned from people outside.”

    So does this mean that you can not be negative about the country if you want a radio licence? What happens if you promote a balanced opinion? Is that good enough?

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Make the Dowry Symbolic

    COL145 brings up the high rate of unmarried women in the UAE (I assume UAE Nationals) This has brought up the issue of the dowry. While dowries are usually paid to either the couple or the groom's side on the point of marriage by the bride's side, it appears, here, to be the reverse. This means that the groom or grom's family must pay a certain amount to the bride's family. This could be anything from AED 30,000 to 500,000 (and beyond!) according to a couple Locals that I have spoke with. With the lavish weddings that happen here, the total wedding cost can be quite hefty. A part solution has resulted in the Marriage Fund where up to AED 70,000 is allocated to cover the cost of the wedding, assuming both parties are UAE National.

    COL145 suggests fining the UAE National males who marry outside. While keeping the UAE blood as pure is an honourable thing in this society, I do not think this is workable. Furthermore, I think that those females who marry outside should be given equal rights as well as their children.

    COL145's other suggestion is to reduce the dowry. I think this would help alleviate some of the problems. I don't think it should be removed completely, as it would foolish to think you could remove an element of culture. However, I think it should be reduced to a symbolic amount rather than one that demonstrates wealth.

    The workability of this is difficult as this is not an issue of law, and more so of culture. But if it became a suggestion from those higher in society, many eligible UAE National females would not have to face the current issue.

    Not everyone in this world is rich and this should not be a penalty on society or individuals.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Is this the beginning of the end of tax-free?

    At some point in the future, be it in 5 years be it in 30 years, some sort of income tax will be enforced in the UAE. It just depends on when is the right to enforce it. Of course, getting that balance will be crucial to a country such as the UAE, which depends much on foreign workers to keep the economy moving. Implementing a tax system, could have far reaching effects for the economy, and would need to be investigated significantly before anything was to be implemented.

    News today that Kuwait is proposing a study of a flat 10% rate on income is one step closer to T-day for the UAE and the Middle East, in general.

    "Financial and economic reform cannot be achieved without developing the tax system similarly to what is being applied in both industrial and developing countries," Humaidhi told the cabinet in a statement. The agency said the new draft law "aims to provide a suitable investment climate in Kuwait, restructuring public finances and supporting economic development". It also envisages "establishing social justice ... organising the tax ties between Kuwait and other countries and reforming the current income tax law".

    No doubt, the UAE and the rest of the GCC states will be looking at this closely, to see how, when and why this is best applied.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Topical and Amusing

    Tim Newman has some strong views. He's also very amusing. Today he posted a joke that got a laugh from me, which is a rare thing.

    Check out his Local Joke

    Posted by at No comments :

    Saturday, May 27, 2006

    The Intrigue of the UAE

    Dubai at Random posted about the New York Times placing an article aboue RAK on its front page. A few months ago I might have thought that they were making a mockery. I just think that people are interested about what the UAE is about. They're not prepared to be brainwashed that the UAE is a terrorist nation.

    Aside, here's a travellers account of his short time in Dubai. He loved it - of course it's difficult to get past the wow factor in a short period of time.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    On Zebra Crossings

    Blame the pedestrians for getting run over - that's what the new Capital Law on jaywalking infers.

    The Abu Dhabi traffic and patrols department will launch a campaign to make pedestrians aware of the importance of adhering to zebra markings for crossing roads, the source said.

    While this may be an issue, actually making Zebra crossings a safe place to cross would be one point to address. Drivers do not acknowledge such crossings, and so such a rule wouldnt really make a difference.

    The real problem lies with addressing those drivers who drive in a way that should not be tolerated, yet day after day,they get away with their ego driving. The mad drivers are the problem, not the pedestrians.

    Posted by at 4 comments :

    Friday, May 26, 2006

    Web fronting

    The importance of the your web presence, these days, is just paramount to the basics of creating an impression. The Internet has a power be that for for branding, showcasing, information flow or otherwise. As the Middle East integrates with the West, the Internet will become an important point of entry for business, and Dubai as that first point of entry for Western Businesses, if they haven't already.

    I was recently introduced to Saleh's blog, dotone. Saleh does a good job of critiquing DMC's latest offering in Old Grumpy DMC. He says:

    A business or let’s say it how it’s said in the news; The Middle East Media Hub doesn’t care about it’s own version of online media? When you’re targeting international prospects your website is a central information bank for their apetite and for your own benefit and awareness.

    If DMC aren't bothered, this will translate downwards to the many other companies looking to transact from this region, many of which don't even have a web presence, as the region starts to become web savvy.

    Check out Saleh's Blog to get an unerstanding of branding and usability online issues.

    Posted by at No comments :

    A look back to Child Camel Jockeys

    A few years ago, child camel jockeys was the main issue that human rights organisations had with the UAE,and although it took two stabs to get rid of this practice, we hope that it is now banished to history, perhaps replaced by AI. Why am I saying this? Well, now that human rights organisations are on the case with regard to the migrant workers, we must have hope that such criticism will win through, and although it may take some time, justice will prevail.

    For those of you who didn't see the HBO documentary about the camel jockeys in 2004,it can be found at the Ansar Burney Trust website who campaigned to save the children. Worth a peak, for sure.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Thursday, May 25, 2006

    Dubai Property Hedging (a thought)

    The Economist, this week, talks of the opening of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange opening a futures market, trading in contracts tied to American housing prices (which are expected to nose dive, by the way). For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of shorting, it essentially allows investors to profit on trading in stocks which they believe are overvalued. This is in contrast to traditional long investors attempting to profit on stocks which are undervalued by buying those stocks. (Of course many long investors have been stung recently as stocks plummeted in the Gulf Markets)

    With all the construction that is gong on in Dubai, there is always some talk of supply and demand, that there is not enough supply right now and thus prices are just too high. And with all accommodation coming to fruition, won't this lead to an oversupply? Won't there be too much? And thus, won't prices crash?

    There are two camps here, those that believe that the prices will hold, and those that don't. This is thus prime market for such a concept. Homeowners, worried that their investment in property will crash, might theoretically hedge the risk by selling contracts on an exchange, if there was one. And those, that believe that the price would still rise could buy those contracts.

    Of course, hedging is inherently risky, especially on the short side (as the downside is limitless), and if such a market was ever set up, say at DIFX, there would be huge hoops to jump through first, with regulation and perhaps Sharia compliancy. However, it's not such a crazy concept, in theory.

    Posted by at 6 comments :

    Wednesday, May 24, 2006

    On Rebranding



    Rebranding is always a tricky thing once you have reached a significant size, as Etisalat have. But in rebranding, you need to consider all thing that come with the package. The logo, creatively is fresh, but corporate. I'd like to call it a work of EtisalART (boom boom). Their teaser ads this week were good. The tagline of 'reach' is inspired, and could even be used if they were venturing to western markets. I like the logo, it reminds a bit of BP, but that's just me. I think it stacks up well against other similar industry logos (vodafone, t-mobile, at&t, cingular, orange, verizon, sprint, du) and is a big improvement on the old one!

    The issues that I have concern what Etisalat currently represents to the consumer and what will it represent in the future. Without any clarification, we remain in this middle grey period. The expectation is killing me! ("over the coming weeks you will see many changes, as we introduce our new brand identity"). I think they should have just come in and gone straight for it all in one go. Bang! Bang! The perception now is that we have a new brand, some promises but no action, which raises the bar for what's coming. While there may be many happy consumers, as with all monopolies, there are bound to be many disgruntled ones, and not clarifying detailed propositions at a relaunch could amount to negativity. Saying that, I hope that the service offering is changed to reflect their new mission and beliefs. That's the key in gaining trust.

    I'm sure that they have this under control, but perhaps someone should remove their old "new corporate identity" which is still on their site. And I honestly hope that their website is rewritten from scratch. To be taken as a world player, especially one that is within the technology arena, it's important to be leading edge. Aside, the copywriter should be shot. The penultimate sentence is incorrect use of English. And i just don't get the "We believe in Energy" - it just doesn't sit right - now that is BP for you!

    So, all in all, a good new logo and brand ready for new markets, but perhaps could have been launched a little differently. Maybe time ran out, and the launch was forced. In any case, we all look forward to the real changes, beneath the gloss.

    Posted by at 17 comments :

    The Shelf Life of your Car....

    ...is 15 years.

    In a bid to reduce the rising pollution levels, the RTA has decided not to renew the registration of cars which are more than 15 years old, as the amount of carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons emitted from old vehicles is higher.

    Is there a resale value? Is there a substitute public transport for anyone who cant afford another car? Can people really afford to do this?

    Perhaps they should use a car pooling system, whereby anyone who has a Hummer or any other gas guzzler (which I am sure are environmentally friendly, should be forced to take at least 20 people to work, maybe in a trailer at the back, farm-style.

    Frequent braking and speeding also contribute to increased emissions from vehicles

    Really?

    Posted by at 4 comments :

    Conned Sub Cons

    A couple of blogs worth reading regarding worker abuse, from Sepia Mutiny:

    There is a definite disconnect on the lines of urgency between labour demands and government proposals. Any movement towards improving workers lives seems to be borne of external pressure, whether in the form of international opinion or labour protest. Significant action is required on the government’s part as workers begin to realize and act on their own market value, these folks who have given their lives to build other people’s dreams should not have to settle for any less. What the U.A.E. needs to understand is that they probably won’t:

    and Aqoul:

    An obvious Dubai type solution is to have the Emirate provide mass worker housing somewhere, allowing companies to externalise housing costs (or continue to do so to be more accurate).


    And all this while officials deny the latest report from Amnesty:

    "[The allegations] are the same talk we usually hear. Right now our priority is working with the ILO because our work is directly connected to that organisation and we have signed conventions with them."

    Human Rights aside, this is slowly eating away at the brand value of the UAE, as most people get affected by mistreatement. And that could even end up keeping the punters away from the country.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Tuesday, May 23, 2006

    Combat the stress of UAE Society

    There is no doubt that living in the UAE will result in some sort of stress. We recommend taking a new form of yoga, that you can do in the privacy of your own home. Next time, your rent increases by 50%, you get stuck in traffic, you get queue jumped, try this calming approach to life:

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    The Biggest Punt in History

    Other bloggers have covered the Sunday Times articles in a lot more detail.

    The growth of Dubai has been penned in so many different ways. Singapore on Speed, the Middle East Dream, etc etc all get a little boring after a while. I like this paragraph a lot:

    It begs one simple question: Why? What makes a city state where gambling is illegal take the biggest punt in history: that it can use its entire current and projected oil revenue to become a modern global power. No state, no dictator, no megalomaniac Bond villain has ever tried to pull off anything so epically extravagant.

    As far as the Bond villain, I'm sure he's messing with nuclear weapons or something.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Abu Dhabi in the background

    By normal standards, the projects announced by Abu Dhabi should have got larger press, but with the scale of something as big as Bawadi and the mega projects in Dubai, everything else remains in the shadows. Over the last couple of weeks, Abu Dhabi announced $100bn investment in infrastructure, the Emirates Pearl hotel, and the Golf Gardens project. Although the speed is much slower and smaller in comparison to Dubai, it's again a case of lessons learned:

    Aldar officials say that they have learned from the experience of the Dubai development boom. For example, the impact of the new projects on traffic flow in Abu Dhabi has been carefully considered. They want to keep the time taken to cross the city to 20 minutes.

    However, with enabling work finally starting on Saadiyat Island, which is what will really change the focus of the capital over the next 10 years, the capital is growing at adequate pace. While it doesn't draw the 'wow' factor of Dubai, in isolation it is a complete transformation that will enable it to drop its nickname of the "sleepy city".

    Posted by at No comments :

    Abu Dhabbling

    In my research of Abu Dhabi, I stumbled upon an Abu Dhabi blog, covering what life's like in the capital. Real expat life, and you can be selective when you want to brave the traffic of Dubai. I hope it develops to give a different view of the UAE.

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    Monday, May 22, 2006

    Take it or Leave it - the Catch 22

    That seems to be the attitude to the workers, since what the workers are requesting are not legal by current UAE labour law

    "I worked non-stop everyday from October to February and then they cheated me on my overtime. When I complained, the manager told me, 'Take it or leave it'," said the worker who did not want to be named.

    Horribly, it leads to suicidal desperation, and even if they are resigned to their fate of working for nothing, they could be beaten up by their colleagues who are disgusted that they are not striking.

    So here it is. Workers take a loan to get a work permit. Wokers realise they have been fooled in accepting bad pay and conditions. Workers have no choice because they must pay back loansharks for the safety of their families. Some workers die because of the accidents. Some workers realise this is unjust. Workers strike. More workers strike. Government unhappy. Human rights make an issues of it. Government promise to make changes. Workers return to work and make demands, using a union approach. Employers say no. Government says it's not covered under the law. Some workers commit suicide. Some go back to work. But get beaten up by striking workers.

    On top of this, there won't be a 4 hour break during the heat this year.

    Try walking backwards for a while - it's easy for a while, and then you fall over.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    Surreal Dubai

    Dubai is the in thing to write about:

    So beneath the glitz and gleaming skyline Dubai is a theocratic Islamic state that no American would want to be a citizen of for more than an hour. But it's spectacular proof that the Middle East is not monolithically backward, hopeless or anti-Western. And it shows that relatively good things can evolve in the Muslim world without the United States having to use force to create them.

    Another take from the Pittsburg Tribune Review

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    A Business Standard

    There is obviously a need for a daily business paper in the UAE. Together, all the current papers provide a certain amount of coverage of what is going on in the UAE and the region. However, the depth of coverage is sometimes an issue, whereby simple analysis of the issue is provided, or just a provision of syndicated news or press releases. Too often, data is offered without any backing to the numbers and, in many cases, glaring basic errors demonstrating a lack of understanding of the most simple concepts appear, leading to a domino effect of quotes that turns fiction to fact. While this doesn't happen all the time, the innocent reader will take everything at face value leading to a ramped up opinion. Whether that is the point of the some of the mouthpieces, shoddy media or a combination of both is debatable.

    All this being said, new entrants to the market should be able to raise the bar somewhat. And when you have the former business editor of a quality paper such as the Observer heading up a publication, you can hope for good things:

    Kane edited The Observer’s business section for five years and stepped down last month. Prior to that he was news editor of Sunday Business, was deputy editor at The Sunday Times and editor of its Insight investigation team.

    With calibre in charge, you may indeed get a quality reporting. I hope that the Arabian Business Standard will provide just that - an Arabian Business Standard.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Saturday, May 20, 2006

    Regulating the People Dealers

    Finally,some movement on this.

    DUBAI: The UAE government has announced plans to shut down the labour recruitment agencies, which charge labourers heavily to arrange for jobs and visas in the country, leaving them with large debts before they even start work.

    More here and here.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Dubailand - Disneyland on Steroids

    There is no doubt that Dubailand will compete with Eurodisney when it is launched. But you worry when the CEO makes comments like this:

    Dubailand's Chief Executive Officer, Salem Bin Dasmal...went on to describe Dubailand as 'Disneyland on steroids'.

    It's fine to talk of such comments in jest, but when the CEO does it, you start to worry whether he is ramping it up or indeed, what the negative results of steroids are! It's not an appropriate comment.

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    The Release

    If Naji Rashid al-Nuaimi has been released, this is obviously very good news, but it was as a direct result of meeting the terrorist's demands. Some countries are against doing this, with Britain as a notable example. Where does this leave the UAE in the perception of terrorists? The terrorists canattempt to do as they please to some degree. Either that or as a result of this, the UAE will distance itself from Iraq. There is no best method of dealing with terrorists, in whatever form. But the people they affect can not be ignored.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    The US Dollar Decline

    I've been keeping a more active watch on the US Dollar recently, as its crash will have a detrimental effect on the Dirham earned here. And while the effects of the decline have a direct effect on numerous issues in the UAE and there are contact calls to appreciate the dirham, it's worth understanding the basics behind what is going wrong in the US. This is it:

    Behind the problems of the dollar lies the huge and growing US trade deficit, and the large Federal budget deficit.


    The BBC piece provides a basic understanding,if you are interested.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Consumer Confidence

    These "surveys" that say that they reflect public sentiment sometimes amount to propoganda. From what I have heard from officials, people on the street, media etc - it appears that people are hopeful over the medium term but are a little worried over the next 2 years.

    What struck me is particularly odd was this:


    In the latest survey UAE consumer sentiment on employment grew from 69.5 in the second half of 2005 to 77.4, while positive sentiment on Quality of Life jumped from 65 to 74.


    I mean compared to the last survey, did they just decide to intervie the new guys at DIFX? I'd be interested in seeing the weighting on the factors, the sample base and what they actually asked. Too often we just get fed information which is just not accurate.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Barclays Dubai Mortgages

    The deal that ties Barclays to Dubai Properties is smart for both. Barclays have just entered the mortgage market, and have secured themselves some business, at a time when the property law is coming into place. DP have done well in securing a high calibe name, which will also be good for business as Westerners will attach more of a viability factor to the UAE property market. And as the trust factor will come into play, DP may even gain some business. Either way, the fact that an old financial instituton is in the property market is a big plus for Dubai.

    Barclays, which entered the mortgage market in Dubai, two months ago has "has been in discussions with Dubai Properties for several months," said mortgage director, Philip Ward who describes the agreement as a "partnership with a small p." He said Barclays decided to enter the mortgage market in response to strong customer demand, from the UK and Western Europe as well as from those living in Dubai.

    Posted by at No comments :

    The besix workers

    Would a minimum wage sort out issues in this regard?

    On the other hand, workers say the legal process is slow and employers sometimes simply ignore adverse court rulings. The Besix workers, none of whom wished to be identified for fear of deportation, said they earned far less than the sums promised by labour agents in India. They are demanding a basic fixed salary of 1000 dirhams ($272, €212, £144) a month, with an eight-hour day and an annual holiday.

    An Emirati labour official however said that the law was not on the striking workers’ side, as they had signed a contract with their employer on their arrival, and the problem of dishonest recruiting agents was a matter for the Indian authorities.

    A statement from Besix’s subsidiary Six Construct said that the salaries and benefits were equal or superior to those of other UAE construction companies. It claimed that a survey of the camps indicated that the vast majority of workers were willing to return to work, and “a few unknown agitators are physically threatening the others”.


    Or would a minium wage be abused to pay those who should be paid more?

    Posted by at No comments :

    The theory of FTA

    The Free Trade Agreements appear to be at somewhat of a stalemate. There is no doubt that they will be resolved, but from these negotiations come more than an agreement of free trade. What the US want is probably more than what would usually be required from such an agreement.


    The difficulty of talks between the US and GCC countries is manifested in two points. The first one is that the US demands are not limited to economic and commercial aspects but also extend to social and labour issues.

    However, what they are actively doing is pushing the UAE a littler further towards Western ways. And that may not be such a bad thing, if the balance can be drawn with the Traditional.

    More from the Gulf News

    Posted by at No comments :

    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    When you are in love with Naomi Campbell

    If you want to go bling for your birthday,then hiring out 18 floors at the Burj al Arab is the way to do it.

    Naomi Campbell’s multi-millionnaire boyfriend Badr Jafar is set to throw her a £1million birthday party next week.

    They’re hiring out all 18 floors of the exclusive Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai and will have a three-day themed party: Sunday’s theme will be “All White”, Naomi’s actual birthday on Monday will be a “Hip Hop” theme and the finale on Tuesday will be “Brazilian Samba.”

    The guestlist apparently includes many of Naomi’s celebrity friends including David and Victoria Beckham, and fellow supermodels Eva Herzigova and Linda Evangelista.


    Sure seems like a waste of money, but I guess, if you have it....

    Posted by at 4 comments :

    UAE police have skills

    I'll give you my Labour Card, if you show me your dance routine.

    Posted by at 5 comments :

    Dubai is like stealing your Dad's Car

    A take from a traveller to these parts:

    You can't believe that anyone would be so far out of their minds to attempt to do something so utterly ridiculous. Don't get me wrong - it is extremely cool but it's the kind of extremely cool feeling you get when you know something won't last much longer. Like when you steal your dad's car and you know he's gonna catch you but while you're driving you don't really care. I guess that's what Dubai feels like to me.

    from Jon Eat World

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Modhesh to get Family and Friends!

    Modhesh, the "Mickey Mouse of the Middle East", won't be going anywhere soon.



    Motorists and pedestrians who spot a bright yellow figure with a wide grin at the side of Dubai's roads should not be alarmed.

    Sorry, but Modhesh scares me silly, wherever I see him. I wonder whether his family will look as drugged up as he is.

    Posted by at 5 comments :

    DIC@Malta aka SmartCity@Malta

    Investment overseas by Dubai can sometimes lead to heated opposition. Not in the case of Malta.

    There is an interview by the Times of Malta with deputy chief executive officer of TECOM, Abdullatif Al Mulla. Also a taste of DIC, which may (or may not ) be what it is really like.

    In fact, DIC is almost a victim of its own success: about 200 companies are on the waiting list. And as the complex expands - that is the most common word in Dubai - the space available within each new building is filled within 60 days of being advertised, and that is long before it's complete.

    Interview with Abdullatif Al Mulla
    Overview of SmartCity
    A taste of Dubai Internet City

    Worth a read to get an outside view, albeit a little biased.

    Posted by at No comments :

    The UAE Kidnapping Ramifications

    The UAE has managed to stay out of any real controversy, on an official level, with regards to insurgence in Iraq and terrorism in general. The fine balance that it sits on between Western and Islamic ideals has just been toppled. And while the UAE has thusfar protected its own soil, to police diplomats overseas is more difficult.

    The UAE will not take this situation lightly. Not to put a price on a person's life, but the fact that this is a diplomat, in essence representing the country, this is a direct attack on the UAE.

    Expect official and unofficial action to this. We hope that the UAE isn't dragged into what is fast becoming a civil war in Iraq.

    We pray for the safe return of Naji al-Noaimi and that Iraq will one day return to peace.

    Reuters
    Washington Post
    BBC

    Posted by at No comments :

    Thursday is the new Wednesday

    A standardised weekend (from September) moving from Thursday/Friday to Friday/Saturday is a good thing all in all.

    Already well covered at Secret Dubai Diary and UAE Community Blog

    Practically, Saturday will be complete gridlock, just like any other day. Great.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    Crafty Kandura Computer Criminal Caught on Camera

    Is he actually holding that between his legs or has he got a shpeshul compartment?

    Posted by at No comments :

    The Sports Hijab

    According to Springwise, who "scan the globe for smart new business ideas", I read about the joint initiative between Capsters and Nike to produce culturally sensitive sportswear.



    Capsters is a range of head-accessories that can be used for different purposes. It can be worn for different sports activities but it can also protect you against the wind or cold weather during outdoor activities.

    The concept is based on the idea to give Muslim girls and their gymteachers in the Netherlands a safe alternative for the traditional hijab to wear during gym-class. The designs are realised in close co-operation with Muslim girls and an Imam.

    Smart concept for the fastest growing religion. Will it catch on? Personally, I think they're quite funky and will allow those who do wear the Hijab to play sport in more comfort. Hopefully this concept will transfer to past just the Netherlands.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Saffron as an example of Re-exporting

    Saffron is said to be the world's most expensive spice. Why exactly is this important in the context of the UAE? Well, until recently I thought that Spain was the largest producer of Saffron in the world. I have now been convinced that Iran is the biggest. (I previously though that Iran was probably a close second)



    If, indeed, 57% of Iran's saffron passes through the UAE and 90% of the world's saffron is produced by Iran (Spain seems only to be a major re-export market), by a quick calculation, you can deduce that more than half the world's Saffron passes through the UAE, either for use, but most probably for re-export.

    Is this wholly important? Not really, even if the numbers are exaggerations, but it is just a prime example of how the UAE does well at
    (1) producing the value added; and/or
    (2) acting as a tax-free point of transition to the rest of the world.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Monday, May 15, 2006

    Blackberry won't be a Raspberry

    What I love about the UAE is that when a new product is launched, everyone is all over it as if there's a limited supply. Watch how the introduction of the Blackberry will go crazy as it becomes the new status symbol, the Cayenne of the phone world, if I may.




    "The end-to-end BlackBerry solution is now launched in the UAE and fully supported through Etisalat," said Essa Al Haddad, Chief Marketing Officer for Etisalat. "Results from pilot testing show that the market in the UAE is ready for BlackBerry. We are confident that the BlackBerry solution we offer - the handheld devices, software, wireless services and on-site professional services - will all be embraced by the corporate and technology markets. BlackBerry from Etisalat will address the serious business needs of the UAE's high powered, and very mobile, corporate workforce."


    Of course, the Blackberry will be a success in the UAE, and RIM are smart cookies to launch here. Perhaps there will be a few that will make the purchase for illusions of grandeur but I am sure that the monopoly telecom provider of the UAE and Research in Motion won't mind one bit. Me - I'm a 2nd mover, let me know when there's one on souq.com.

    Posted by at 4 comments :

    Tit for Tat

    Gimme yours and I'll give you mine. When I first read the title of this piece, I thought someone had got it wrong:

    UAE Urges US To Open Up Telecommunications Sector

    Indeed no. The UAE is making a stand:

    Al-Mansouri said his country would liberalize its telecom sector by 2010, five years prior to the deadline set by the World Trade Organization, should the U.S. agree to open up its market.

    "The UAE is suggesting to advance the date to 2010, as a compromise from our side, given that we get something in exchange," Al Mansouri said.

    The WTO wants the global telecom sector, currently guarded by governments and protected from competition to maintain high prices, freed from monopolies and government protection by 2015, the paper said.


    Why should the UAE open up its Telecoms sector if the US won't allow the UAE to buy into theirs?

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Theme Park Lessons

    The lessons from Disneyland Hong Kong are apparent. Small theme parks don't work. Dubailand, I assume won't fall down this trap, with the money that is being ploughed in for tourism. The Time Asia article talks about other lesson's learned, notably:

    "Disney knows the theme-park business, but when it comes to understanding the Chinese guest, it's an entirely new ball game,"



    Hong Kong's Magic Kingdom has so far been a little short on magic. The $1.8 billion theme park, which opened last September, was touted by Disney executives as its biggest, boldest effort to build its brand in China, a potentially vast new market for its toys, dvds and movies. The Hong Kong government—which aggressively wooed Disney and is the park's majority owner"hoped Disneyland would help secure the city's reputation as one of Asia's top tourist destinations. However, the conservative approach of Disney and its partner has produced a pint-sized park that so far hasn't matched visitors' lofty expectations.

    With regard to Dubailand, it's all about understanding what the tourists will want from Dubailand and not can be provided, but I'm sure that's under control.

    Posted by at 4 comments :

    Nationality and Jobs

    Everyone knows the hidden preference by employers for nationality is evident in the UAE. Some call it discrimination/racism, some say that it is a requirement for the position. The general speak of job appointments is usually so:

    UK/US/AU educated
    - White, with a good degree

    UAE Nationals will be given priority
    - We're trying to be proactive about Emiratisation, but maybe that's a front

    Bilingual
    - Arab national, don't worry if you're English is not so good

    Asian
    - We're not paying well

    You must be single
    - You're in for some hard time, my friend

    Fluency in Hindi
    - Asian

    Send 5 passport pictures
    - We went to make sure whether you're good looking enough

    I have also seen some shocking adverts inlcuding one actually asking for a certain nationality and looks, but I wont repeat it here. I have also seen a top qualified English guy, fluent in Arabic from a elite university in the UK being rejected at a first round for a "bilingual" position. Equally, I have seen some very intelligent UAE Nationals with Masters Degrees from good universities, being rejected without a look in.

    Some of it is requirement. ie if the job requires Arabic, then sure, you are more than likely to need an Arab National. And while the universities here are not yet in the same league as the top ones in the West, it doesn't necessarily mean that the person is less capable. I don't see any of this changing soon, but it might be beneficial if people changed their perception somewhat.

    Aside, today, top page of the Gulf News Appointments section:

    "Finance Controller - Arab/Asian"

    Now, that can be considered as discrimination against those that are white skinned. (and out of context, some dark skinned) There doesn't appear to be any real reason why the the recruitee has to be Asian/Arab.

    Someone once said that racial superiority is a mere pigment of the imagination. Whether what we have is discrimination or preference for jobs at hand because of discrimination is a fine line, both of which need to be tackled over the coming years. How to deal with this to banish the stereotype mentality, however, is a tricky, longer-term issue. I may be over-exaggerating the problem, but, there is no doubt that it does exist.

    Posted by at 7 comments :

    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    Pegged Common Currency?

    I'm a little confused. I thought a GCC Common Currency is on course for 2010, or thereabouts, maybe a year or two late. Let's say it is in place for 2012. That is 6 years from now.

    According to Dr Farid Al Mulla, the Chief Executive and General Manager of the Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait,

    Dr Al Mulla told reporters after the opening of the HSBC headquarters in Seef, that there was a need to achieve the GCC single currency target as set by the GCC countries. "In my view the de-linking with the US dollar is not possible in next ten years."

    So, that would take us to 2016. Does this actually mean that a common currency would be pegged to the US Dollar? Surely not? By 2010, there should be some sort of stability, economic convergence, etc etc to give weight and strength to the currency to exist off its own back.

    Someone explain this to me please. Have I missed this fact all along, or is Dr Al Mulla saying that we wont get to a common currency until 2016? Or is this a case of lost in translation once more?

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Buying a Goat

    If these pictures continue, I'll be visiting this blog daily to get a real taste of culture.



    Link: The Image Village

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Appointments

    There seems to be an inclination for every publication to publish "high profile" appointments to positions in the UAE, and in general, the Middle East. Sometimes these job announcements can grace the earlier pages of the papers, making it seemingly highly important news. This would probably interest niche publications in the West, as it also does here, but for these appointments to be of interest to the general populous, I find a tad bizarre. I can understand why companies in this region may think they have snagged key talent, and lured them away to come to work out here. I can also understand why it is big news for a company to transfer important staff from their Head Office to head up new ventures here - but to make it all headline news? Maybe it warrants a line or two as part of a bigger story - but to make the story about someone specific and weave in some generalities about the company that they will work for makes the story a little boring. Perhaps it's a bravado thing, perhaps it hides inherent problems in the company or perhaps it's just that I am not part of any "scene" to not know the majority of the people and am just bitter. However, I do wish to know if someone is appointed to Modhesh' position of "goodwill mascot" next year.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Saturday, May 13, 2006

    Growing Grapeshisha

    Finally a landmark for the newsletter!

    Posted by at 5 comments :

    Currency Reevaluation and The Waning Dollar

    Have you noticed how your dirham is not going as far these days. The Dollar is on a slippery slope, and even the Canadian Dollar is looking like a better pegging partner. For those unhedged and converting to sterling or euros, there must be a cursing of a high order, every time the red downward arrow of decreasing power appears on your screen. You may even be feeling it in the supermarket, but have just dismissed this as our good old friend - cost of living.

    Kuwait's lead in revaluing is a bold one, but needed in the run up for a single currency. I suspect that the UAE will follow suit by the end of the year, if not sooner. And this will happen. Why:

    1. Dollar denominated exports versus non Dollar pegged currency imports.
    Although no immediate reaction was available from the UAE central bank, a banking industry source told Khaleej Times that while more than 90 per cent of the country's direct export revenues are dollar denominated, there is a significant amount of imports (approximately 70 per cent) denominated in euro, yen and other Asian currencies which are not directly pegged to dollar and that is causing big losses to the country in imports involving cross currency transactions. (source)

    2. Non intention to drop the Dollar peg prior to a Common Currency
    Since the issue of abandoning the current dollar peg has frequently been mooted, the notion that such a decision might happen prior to the planned 2010 introduction of the GCC single currency has seemed unlikely. (Source)

    While there are sceptice who dont think the rest of the Gulf will follow, it looks likely that Saudi will follow, which could lead to a riple effect. This was surprising, but it was a smart move and a good ongoing interim approach to the single currency in 4 years. 2-5% is the prediction with further moves. I would say that if it is not higher that now, there would need to be further reevaluation over within the next 12 months, with no respite for the dollar any time soon.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Rich Arab Travellers

    Some interesting stats from the New Horizons in Shared Ownership report which is all about time share in the Middle East. Here are a few for your perusal:

    # Destinations chosen for leisure travel are selected for choice as a "family solution" rather than activity or adventure travel.

    # Shopping is the principal activity.

    # 40% of Saudi Arabians take household staff with them on trips; 46% of UAE travelers take their parents.

    # Travel is definitely a "group" experience.

    # There's a new trend of religious timeshare in the Islamic centers of Makkah and Madinah as these destinations are popular for Muslim pilgrims.


    Travel, as a concept, is completely different across the world. Culture plays a big role in daily lives, which is reflected above.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Stock Market Volatility

    To give you an understanding of how drastic the recent fall is, I pulled off the DFM and ADSM graphs off gulfbase

    Here is the 3 year change. Remember, this shows percentage change. (DFM in black and ADSM in red)




    Here is the one year change.



    This is epic. I suspect there will be some sort of stabilising intervention by the government soon. It's getting to that stage.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Halal Hub

    All things to all people

    UAE halal hub partnership
    MISC Integrated Logisitics Sdn Bhd (MILS) will enter into a partnership with a Dubai-based logistics company to set up a halal hub in the United Arab Emirates. MILS chief executive officer Hilmi Mohd Nashir said the partnership would help the company to enhance its presence in the global logistics scene, particularly in West Asia. An agreement between the two parties will be signed in Kuala Lumpur on May 18.

    I am waiting for Halalland (the new food park), Halal Heights (a ocean front property with a strict entry policy) and Hello Halal (the new socialite magazine).

    Where is the Haram Hub?

    Posted by at No comments :

    Thursday round up

    The Lounsbury at Aqoul provides a good analysis of the FT article on cannibalism of the freezones and competition of the main cities to be the Middle East's Financial Centre.

    I like Loundsbury's final paragraph:

    Now, it is a pity Wallace focused exclusively on the fin sector, although that is presently the buzz as the Khalij has stupid amounts of liquidity and all the world's scum are circling about like buzzards around a corpse looking at ways to get a piece of the action.


    M&J's Halt the Hype talks of the risk of borderline sustainable projects, quoting the tradabrabia article. M&J also goes on to look at the viability of the UAE to become a first world country:

    The term "First World" refers to so called developed, capitalist, industrial countries, roughly, a bloc of countries aligned with the United States after World War II, with more or less common political and economic interests: North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia.

    In terms of industrialisation, I think that there’s a long way to go before the UAE will be seen on that list of countries, especially taking into consideration the other listed criteria such as Human Development and Freedom of the Press. As well, the recent DP World saga caused damage to the “common political and economic interests” which still has some healing to do.


    Mama Duck gives the logic "on the street" view:

    It’s not all about the money, not for the people who live, work, raise families and support the economy here. Well, not for most of us; but the handful like DI's landlord, whose idea of good business practice is a 40,000 Dh. rent increase could well screw it for all of us, Emiratis and expats alike.


    In other news, the Central Bank has asked the financial institutions to report their level of exposure to the timbling stock markets. If some accurate data is obtained from this exercise, it will make for some very interesting. With large numbers of investors borrowing significantly to invest in the hype of ridiculously unsustainable growth in the markets, I wont be surprised, if many of the banks have been compromised. Oh, and by the way, DFM has reached a new 15 month low.

    I think the recommendation to move to more Euros is a sound one, especially with the dollar on the wane in recent weeks. But what about the man on the street. For people living here, the Dirham loses its value, as the Dollar dies.

    Finally, Fahad's highlighting of the Wudu Washer is worth a peek.

    What I really am itching to find out is what went on in the FTA talks over the last two days, is Chilton on holiday, and how many people are in the "hate Modesh" camp. The worm needs a rebrand. On a bad day, I would prefer to see this guy. I can't help thinking that Modesh has a dark side.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    The Weekend Happy Dancing Feeling

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Luxury Submarine

    If Hydropolis, the underwater hotel becomes a reality, there could be some peeping toms peering into your window, if the luxury submarine from Exomos drives by.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Dubai Ports World Redux

    Despite what happened with the P&O deal, DPW are ready to go back and try and enter the US market:

    "Once (the) process is changed and new legislation comes in then we are ready to go back," Mohammed Sharaf, the chief executive of the container-port operator controlled by the Dubai government, told AFP in an interview.

    No doubt the US critics will be out in force to hit back at this intention. But you can't knock DPW for effort. This is the stubborness that got them to number 3 in the world. This is the time for the US to sit up and change, before other economies come into play to join the superpower status.

    Posted by at No comments :

    The 2nd Mover and a Tale of Two Cities

    The news that public transport will be arriving to Abu Dhabi shortly will be good news for those that live there. While the replacement of the taxis had always been talked about, the real need was for a public transport system of buses and a new fleet of taxis has been a long time coming. With plans for a metro system for the city which will also link up with the Dubai metro, Abu Dhabi is just a couple of steps behind on the city modernisation front. And that is just it. The second mover advantage, or "wait and see" strategy is good for Abu Dhabi.

    "We are learning from their experience of the Dubai Metro and other public transport projects"

    It doesn't need to lead on projects like this with all the oil that is available. It can glean off the knowledge that Dubai gains, and most importantly, can learn from Dubai's mistakes. Dubai will always have that international prominence, and Abu Dhabi will always be that slightly different. It's beneficial that these emirates aren't competing like for like - what results is a benefit for the whole of the UAE in totality.

    Posted by at No comments :

    What goes up

    If Andrew Shouler is writing it, I'm reading it. He sums up very eloquently about the ups and downs of the stock market:

    Unfortunately, it is typical of stock markets everywhere that retail investors arrive and leave too late. People may turn instead to money managers, but it is difficult to blame those who don't, considering their reputation (in Western markets) for under-performing the market index, but profiting themselves anyway. Moreover, even spreading your investment across the market in mutual funds doesn't help if your timing is wrong and the whole market drops. The bottom line is that short-term speculation is riskier than drip-feeding your savings for long-term investment.

    But here isa worrying thought: If, like he says, "A vibrant stock market is an integral part of a well-functioning market economy", how will they get them to invest their money again

    Posted by at No comments :

    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    Dubai Dreams

    Picked up this standard overview fare from dubai@random (which, by the way, is fast becoming the blog I look forward to most). This got me thinking. It would seem that there is now, more than ever the same old reporting being repeated over and over again from a few international papers. I would guess, that they have a few facts, and regurgitate them with a different spin every time. They're probably not too sure what is fact or fiction. And I don't blame them - Dubai seems likes someones's dream. That would be Sheikh Mohammed's.

    Posted by at No comments :

    The Blackpool of Arabia?

    That's a bit harsh. I prefer Vegas without the Gambling.

    Here's a great quote for you:

    "In the nineteen years I've been working in the Dubai, I've never seen the Maktoums fail in any big project, so don't write off all this building as a bubble," said Mike Derrett, a consultant to Dubai World Trade Centre.

    Excellent article from the Telegraph

    Posted by at No comments :

    Pressure on Labour Rights

    The fact that the resumed free trade talks between the US and UAE will be closed to the press, mean that some significant discussions and probing will be under way. With human rights at the forefront, along with other obvious topics, this could be the first real time that pressure has been put on the UAE, officially, to intervene in the mistreatment of workers:

    A US embassy official, describing ties with the UAE as "extensive and positive," said human and labour rights issues were being discussed, irrespective of commercial interests.

    At some point, your voice will be heard.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Centre of the Modern World

    How Dubai compares to New Zealand. Good overview video for the uninitiated to Dubai. But, as always, there is either a bit of spin, or some misconception. Supposedly, spin and misconception make for better news.

    Kiwis part of Dubai's boom

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Labour Camp Tours

    Let me play devil's advocate for a minute. If there was admittance that there was a problem regarding conditions, we could follow the slum tour approach and let tourists see the 'other' Dubai, for a fee. That money could go to the workers. If it's catching on in Delhi, Rio, NYC, for example, this could be a chance for reality to be more real. Big Bus Tours - it's time to bring out a new route!

    Posted by at No comments :

    Kempinski goes Islamic

    Tailoring to markets is an obvious strategy, yet, rarely implemented as big brands choose to bulldozer their Western successes. The hope, when tackling the Middle East, is that a little translation, a Middle Eastern product or two, and you are ready to roll. And if the product gets acceptance in Dubai, then it will probably do acceptably in other areas of teh region.

    What Kempinski have done with their new brand Shaza, is to say, yes, we've done well with our brand, and now it is time to tailor to the market. But why Kempinski are especially smart is that they are tapping the Islamic Finance market to get investors who only really want to invest in Islamic-financed projects.

    "I don't think that one would ever imagine a day when a pub in Dublin would be smoke-free, or in London for that matter," said Christopher Hartley, chief executive officer of Shaza Hotels and former senior vice-president for marketing of Kempinski. "The need to light up in a hotel lobby is gone. People have got used to it. The same thing could well happen for a beer in a minibar."

    On top of this, Kempinski are market leaders not followers. Watch the trend follow what they do. Asked if the group was prepared for ridicule from critics in the West, Mr Hartley said, "Anyone who criticises and ridicules it has no understanding of the region's culture."

    Posted by at No comments :

    Diversifying with Doncasters

    What's next? First P&O, then Doncaster - I think that the strategy of going abroad is a sound one, and its initial investments in Daimler Chrysler and the Tussauds Group were wise moves.

    The takeover is the latest foray into Britain by the Dubai government, which is increasingly keen to use its oil revenues to diversify into a wide range of businesses. DIC already owns the Madame Tussauds operator Tussauds Group, and is the third largest shareholder in DaimlerChrysler.

    Doncasters was formed from businesses including Rolls-Royce's Ross & Catherall division and Honeywell's Precision Casting Foundry. Its aerospace clients include Boeing, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce, while its gas turbine operation sells to Alstom, GE and Siemens. The company, which has a total of 4,700 employees in Europe and North America, also has growing automotive and medical technology businesses.


    The thing is, that the diversification is not just overseas, DIC's strategy remains equally spread within the region also, and this, in itself balances off the portfolio quite nicely.


    More from
    the Independant
    Reuters

    Posted by at No comments :

    Form Filling Falsely

    While I am dubious about Mr Millsand his links with Berlusconi, I can see how things went pear-shaped with his application for business in Dubai:

    "They say I filled out the Dubai application wrongly," Mr Mills told Legal Business. "In the form I said I have no money laundering procedures in my firm, because I don't handle client money. But the reason they rejected me, and so offensively and unnecessarily, was the fact that I'd given false answers. It was absolute nonsense that I had given false answers."

    Based on "official" translators that I have experienced, this really could have got lost in translation.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    Internet Censorship

    If you thought that internet censorship was bad in the UAE, it would appear that it is tame in comparison to the proxy in place in Pakistan. Including a ban of blogger/blogspot, they also ban Wikipedia! Apparently there are quite a few Grapeshisha readers there, and I was asked to highlight their cause. I am not sure what I can do apart from post their press release:

    BLOGSPOT APPEARS TO BE BANNED AGAIN IN PAKISTAN
    6th May 2006, The Don’t Block the Blog team (Dr. Awab Alvi & Omer Alvie) & Society Against Internet Censorship in Pakistan (formerly known as The Action Group Against Blogspot Ban in Pakistan - AGABBIP) regrets to inform the free world that the Government of Pakistanappears to have resumed the blocking of the entire blogspot domain. Reports have come in from a number of cites around the country that the entire Blogspot domain is blocked in its entirety. Just recently only three days back, specifically on the 3rd of May, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had lifted the entire ban, allowing all internet users unrestricted surfing to the 10 millions websites hosted on the blogspot.com domain. It appears as if the three day relief was just to appease the United Nations in its annual 3rd of May celebrations for the Freedom of Press.

    The PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) had initially blocked access to the blogspot domain on the 3rd of March 2006, due to a Supreme Court decision dated 2nd March 2006 instructing the PTA to ban 12 offending websites which highlighted the blasphemous cartoons on the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In adherence to the Supreme Court ruling, all 12 sites were blocked including one that was hosted on the blogspot domain. But rather than block the offending blogspot website, the PTA blocked the entire domain (www.blogspot.com) which happens to be one of the most popular blog hosting domains hosting approximately upwards of ten million blogs globally.

    We strongly oppose this blanket ban on any website, and ask the world to join hands to peacefully protest the censorship of the internet.


    Good luck with the fight for free speech!

    Posted by at No comments :

    Arabic Superheroes - The 99

    Before the Danish cartoon fiasco, this is the what I thought cartoons were all about. This was announced some time last year and according to the ITP article:

    Kuwait’s Teshkeel Comics has revealed the identity of the world’s first superheroes based on Islamic culture. Called The 99, the comic books, which will have both English and Arabic editions, are due to go on sale across the region from June.

    The profile of the UAE superhero, Noora the Light, says this:

    Dana Ibrahim was a sheltered, rich kid who grew up with all the material things a girl could want. Designer clothes. Big houses. The latest mobile phones. Everything except love from her father.












    Surely this could be the X-Men of the Middle East?

    ITP Article
    Teshkeel Comics
    The 99
    Noora the light

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    Beautyland - for the vain only

    Is this taking it a little too far? The latest project to be announced by Dubailand is Beautyland, "premier location for the most exclusive and comprehensive range of beauty, natural treatments, luxury spa facilities, and products."

    Mohammed Abdulrahim Al Fahim, said that some of Beautyland's main attractions and components include a Beauty Museum and a Beauty Academy as well as Designer and Branded Beauty commodities, managed by international designers. "There will also be office space and conference facilities for associated businesses and beauty consultants, production facilities for tailor-made fragrances as well as a Boutique Hotel," Mohammed Abdulrahim said.

    Again there seems to be viability for the niche, and again, there is nothing like it in the world. But, the name? - it sounds somewhat discriminatory.

    Me - I'm looking forward to the beauty museum, but I don't think I'll be good looking enough to get in. Maybe, there will be Beastland for me.

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    Newsletter: Islamic Finance

    A Basic Guide to Islamic Finance

    Islamic finance is becoming more and more prevalent, not only in the UAE and the Middle East, but also in the West. On request, we give you the bare bones guide to Islamic Finance to understand the basics behind the concept.

    Read the full article

    Coverage of the basic terms:
    Islamic Finance, Sukuk, Riba, Shariah, Murabaha, Ijara, Musharaka, Mudaraba, Istinaa, Sukuk, Takaful.

    Although not fully specific to the UAE, the subject is topical to the UAE, as well as a number of Western countries. Hope it provides some level of understanding.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    Dubious Tourism Projects

    The wow factor of Bawadi has not yet subsided, and the critics are out. Does Dubai need more projects right now? Is anything finished yet?

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- With the Middle East's travel and tourism industry expected to generate $66.8 million in revenue this year, Dubai is working round the clock to cater for the growing industry in the emirate, whose reputation for the extra-ordinary has attracted millions of tourists worldwide in the past few years.

    But announcements made this week at the Middle East's biggest tourism event, the 13th Arabian Travel Market (ATM), rekindled the debate on whether or not Dubai is overdoing it with mega tourism projects and ambitious plans to host several huge hotels and tourism projects.

    Dubai will soon host the world's largest hotel, Asia-Asia. The 6,500-room hotel will be shaped like the Petronas Twin Towers of Kuala Lumpur. Part of a project dubbed Bawadi, Asia-Asia is one of 31 hotels and other facilities to be launched over the next eight years.


    The whole reason why these projects are needed is due to the demand that is projected, and thus any developer will qualify the need due to the projection. I do not doubt that there is a strong demand, especially for hotel rooms, but I would say that the demand needs to be dummed down a little. If Dubailand was trimmed down or rescheduled, so should the estimates. If there are further projects that are in the offing, those should be disclosed now, or else 8 years down the lin, there may a hell of a lot of empty rooms.

    I think it is time for some accurate numbers to be projected. And the real information that we need to know is how those numbers are projected.

    My basic projections are on par with about 50% of the growth that is being talked about. If that is the case, then there should be something else in the offing to supplement DubaiLand. I look forward to hearing what that is.

    More from the Midle East Times

    Posted by at No comments :

    UAE Reforms

    It is now time to reform how business operates. It is also time to put laws in place to protect the consumer. According to Sheikha Lubna:

    The country, she said, will issue a competition law, a rent control law, and change the Commercial Company Law and Commercial Agencies Law, among others. She also said that the government will privatise the utilities services.

    The UAE is in the process of amending the Federal Companies Law. The main amendments pertain to the removal of the equity capital restriction, which presently is that 51 per cent should be national equity. These amendments will also streamline the authentication procedures by giving investors several options to attest through public notaries or registered law firms, she said.

    Lots of change on the way, apparently, from a legal standpoint, with effects that should continue the growth based on protectionism since the UAE was established.

    These types of policies sometimes get overlooked here due to the "big bang" stories concenring major construction projects. Behind all these stories, a legal framework needs to exist to maintain the stability behind what is apparent in the foreground.

    The UAE is stepping into a new era, and these new laws, which may be unpopular to some, will assist in the UAE success story.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Dubai is a Model for Africa

    Although Dubai itself it in development mode, developing countries who are at an earlier stage of modernisation are looking at what has worked with the boomng Emirate. The most recent example is Ghana, hopeing to emulate Dubai's success with a free port model.

    Mr. Kyerematen mentioned 26 different projects under the Programme, and said the purpose of making Ghana a free port country is to make "it the Dubai and Thailand" of West Africa

    Ghana to become the Dubai and Thailand of West Africa

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Dubai Drivers get their groove back

    Fed up with the traffic. Join these guys:

    A few years ago, the contests were mainly informal affairs. "We used to just meet on Sheikh Zayed Road" -- the city of Dubai's main thoroughfare -- "on Fridays or at night when it was empty," Mr. Khawaga says. Drivers would pull up next to each other, roll down the windows and nod their heads to mark the start. "Instead of just cruising, we'd race," he says.

    The races are mainly about reputation and machismo, but in the United Arab Emirates bets are another draw. Wagers from racers or spectators have reached as much as 100,000 dirhams, or more than $27,000, according to participants.


    A worrying sport which apparently is difficult to stop.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Dubai Druggies

    An article about rehabilitation and the escalating problem in Dubai.

    "I tried everything I could get my hands on," said the man, a grim-faced 33-year-old who insisted on anonymity to protect his privacy. Along with friends, he began experimenting a decade ago, and soon recreation led to dependency. "I got hooked on pills and alcohol," he said, and his arms showed telltale signs of old needle pricks. "Then my brothers and I agreed that I needed to get help," he added.

    Bustling Gulf City Finds It Has Imported a Drug Problem

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    The Case of the Sour Milk

    Once upon a time, many moons ago, there was a man. He was a simple individual, and wanted only to carry on with life without bother. The man lived in the countryside which meant that the farm in the area were the main suppliers of the milk. This was not a problem, as the farm's delivery boy would deliver the milk to him every morning, and at the end of the week he would pay the farmer's son. The delivery was usually punctual, and although it was a little expensive, he was happy to pay for the milk since he needed it. He certainly did not want to go the village everyday to buy milk from them. And so he was happy with the milk that he received.

    And so life carried on for the man. His milk would arrive every morning and every friday afternoon the farmer's son would come to collect payment for the previous week. The man would thank the farmer's son. The farmer's son sometimes told the man about other things that farm produced and occasionally the man would buy extra milk, even some bread or cheese. This carried on for many years, without issue, and although he had heard from the villagers nearby that the milk was sour or that it didn't arrive or that it was expensive, the man had no real issue with the quality of the milk, the delivery of the milk or even the cost of the milk. After all, he was the one who had made the decision to live way out in the countryside and he was happy that he could even receive milk, and that it was delivered to his door. Before he had moved to the countryside, he had thought that a milk delivery service did not even exist!

    One day, on a Wednesday morning, the man woke up bright and early, and opened the door to get his milk, that was usually delivered about that time. Surprisingly, it wasn't there. The man scratched his head. This was strange. The man got worried. Perhaps the delivery boy was ill? Perhaps he had forgotten to deliver the milk? The man continued his day, a little concerned but he could live without the milk for one day. He was sure that milk would arrive the following day.

    The next day, again the milk wasn't there. The man grew a little more worried. Why hadn't his milk arrived? He needed the milk. Even his cat needed the milk. The farm was far away, so he decided that he would go to the village to buy some milk from there. On the way he saw some of the villagers and told them of what had happened. He wondered if those who had milk delivered had still received their milk. Strangely, the villagers had received their milk. Why hadn't he received his? The villagers laughed at him and said that this kind of thing happened all the time, and that he shouldn't be surprised.

    On the friday, in the afternoon, the man received a knock at the door. This was expected and the man would be able to ask the farmer's son why he had not received his milk. The farmer's son, however, asked the man to pay for the milk for the week. He even asked the man to pay for yoghurt. This was strange. The man had never asked for yoghurt. Indeed, he didn't even like yoghurt. The man told the farmer's son that he hadn't received milk for three days and that he had never ordered the yoghurt, ever. The farmer's son said that, according to his log book, this is what the man had ordered and received and that he would have to pay. And if he had a problem, that he would have to go and see the farmer himself. The man reluctantly paid the farmer's son and asked him when the farmer would be at the farm so that he could visit him. The farmer's son said that the farmer is always at the farm on a Sunday morning and this would be the best time to go and visit the farmer.

    On Sunday, the man got up early so that he could go and visit the farmer. The man was a little bothered by the situation, not least because Sundays were when the man would walk to the river and go fishing to catch his fish for the week. Sunday mornings were the best time to go fishing since he was able to catch the biggest fish since the rest of the villagers would go later in the afternoon. When the man got to the farm, the farmer was no where to be seen. He saw cows and chickens but but neither the farmer nor the farmer's son were around. The man waited for a while, but still no farmer. The man left, a little angry that the farmer's son had said that the farmer would be there, and that he had wasted his morning. He went to the lake to catch some fish, but the best fish were gone and he had to be content with the smaller fish. He then made the journey to the village to get his regular supplies. The villagers laughed at the man's misfortune saying that it was only a matter of time before something like this had to happen to him. After all, it happened to them all the time. They told him not to worry, because they had heard about another farmer having bought some land nearby, and soon he would be able to get his milk from this new farm, who would also be providing a delivery service. This made the farmer a little happy, despite his current situation.

    On his way back from the farm he bumped into his neighbour. The man told his neighbour about the predicament he was in, and that as soon as the new farm started producing milk, he would be getting his milk from this new farm. The neighbour sighed and told him that the new farm would not be delivering milk for some time. The cows needed to be bought from a faraway village. There were even rumours that the new farm may have to buy some of the cows from the first farm, which was worrying because the neighbour thought the milk was sometimes sour. The only thing that the man would be able to receive would be bread and eggs. This did not help the man, because while he liked bread, it was the milk that he really needed.

    The man thanked his neighbour and bid him goodbye. The neighbour promised to tell the man if he heard anything else about the new farm, but told him not to hold his breath about it. The man went home, gave some milk to the cat and went to sleep.

    On the Monday, the man got ready to go the village to get his milk. When he opened his door to go out, there sat some milk! Evidently, the farmer's son had told the farmer about the situation and the delivery boy was now delivering the milk as usual. The next day, the same thing and the same the following day. Things were back to normal, the man was happy - even the cat was happy!

    On the Friday afternoon, there was the regular knock at the door from the farmer's son who asked him to pay for a week's amount of milk. Everything indeed was back to normal. The man was not even bothered about paying for the extra yoghurt from the previous week, since all he wanted was his milk. The man thanked the farmer's son for sorting out the problem and that he didn't even want a refund for the yoghurt. The farmer's son looked at the man blankly. He said to him that he didn't know what the man was talking about and that last week the man had paid as usual for a week's worth of milk that he had received. The man was a little confused by this, but he thought to ignore it, since he now had a regular delivery of milk. The man thanked the farmer's son and said goodbye.

    On the Monday, the man woke a little anxious, just in case the milk was not there again, since he was too busy to go to the village to get milk. He opened the door. Slowly. There lay the milk. The man smiled. Even the cat purred. He poured the milk for himself and a little for his cat.

    But the cat didn't lap up the milk as usual. And the man sipped his milk, and spat it out immediately. It was sour.

    The man got down on his knees, with the cat by his side and they prayed for the swift opening of the new farm.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Jealousy

    This article is tinged with jealousy.

    May 4 (Bloomberg) -- When Omar bin Sulaiman takes delivery of the red Ferrari F430 he ordered in January, he'll have two of the company's sports cars in his collection. He also owns a Bentley Flying Spur and a Porsche Cayenne sport-utility vehicle.

    ``If God blessed you with wealth, you should enjoy it,'' says Sulaiman, 33, who runs the Dubai International Financial Centre, a hub for investment banks in Dubai, a sheikdom in the United Arab Emirates. The F430 is an eight-cylinder, 483-horsepower speedster that goes from zero to 100 kilometers (62 miles) an hour in four seconds.


    Ferrari Fever Hits Persian Gulf as Sheikdoms Spend Oil Billions

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    Pick a Cricket Wicket- UAE Stadium Wars

    Yesterday Sharjah, Today Abu Dhabi, Tomorrow Dubai

    Even without the sniff of corruption, Sharjah would still probably have fallen by the wayside. In a region where money is not an obstacle, the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council had already committed to ploughing millions of dollars into building the 20,000-capacity Sheikh Zayed Stadium, with plans to make it the unrivalled home for offshore cricket.

    ...but with ICC relocating to Dubai Sports City, which, with all things in Dubai, will provide a bigger stadium, Abu Dhabi looks to play second fiddle, while Sharjah remains the home of chickens.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    And while we are on the subject....

    ....of planes and airports and the like, here is proof that Etihad have gone large in their advertising.

    So large, that if I saw it in the middle of nowhere, I would probably drop my shisha pipe.

    Posted by at No comments :

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