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  • Friday, June 30, 2006

    Oman joins in on the action

    Oman, known to us as the country whre you can indulge in a spot of culture, is fully in on the construction action.

    Oman's Blue City Investments 1 Ltd's plans to sell bonds worth $900 million to finance the development of an upmarket residential, hotel and leisure resort on the Indian Ocean coast, Fitch Ratings said.

    That's pretty bold for a country that really wasn't interested in this whole boom. You need only to visit to realise that. However, the issue is this: The project is a private one, although it appears that it has the stamp of approval from Qaboos. Is that reason enough for Arabs to invest their hard earned cash, at a time where they are low on money after catastrophe on the financial markets.

    No doubt, the Omanis are not the wealthiest, the other GCC Arabs are a little short on cash, and the Westerners won't see the value of being in Oman versus Dubai, where all the perceived action is. It will be interesting to see how this one develops. No GCC leader will want to see this fail, so if it gets into any problems, Qaboos will reign in some capital from his friends to make up the $20bn.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Thursday, June 29, 2006

    The UAE Price Watch

    The point in monitoring baskets of goods is to view price differentials and to in same way, to protect consumers from some gross increases that go on. The point of publishing them could be to demonstrate the changes to the public. I thought this was a good idea in light of the obvious cost in goods that exist here. But on closer inspection, the only point of this weekly exercise is to prove that they are tracking the prices.

    The ministry says it is producing the weekly update in the hope of boosting competitiveness among UAE supermarkets rather than tracking the country's inflation rate.

    That's what they said when they released the second weekly list of goods.

    In the first week, it was:

    The purpose of this move is to spread public awareness and ensure a cap on price increases.

    However, when the second release of prices were released, it was a second basket goods, unrelated to the first one. For me, the man on the street, that doesn't really give much value added. I'm sure that the Ministry is doing their job, and don't need proof by a weekly column in the newspaper.

    How about this instead: A weekly column on 30 or so goods, and the percentage changes week on week, to get a better picture of what is going on. I can get the prices by visiting the stores myself, so what, apart from the proof that the Ministry is doing their job, does this exercise bring? After all, if the Ministry can't control prices, then we will be going down a very narrow road to hyperinflation.

    That's my two dirhams worth. Well, actually one, as there was a hike.

    Posted by at 4 comments :

    Wednesday, June 28, 2006

    CPI and Inflation in Dubai and the UAE

    Firstly, John Chilton has more than adequately covered and referenced the housing weighting issues of the CPI as well as scepticism on the actual inflation rate.

    My issue with using the CPI in such a changing economy is that it does not reflect the changing weight on a year by year basis. While it may be useful in mature economies, since it is possible when taking time-series measurements of financial instruments, such measurements can only sense if they are expressed in "constant" money terms. This is where the CPI is useful. People also can make important decisions after hearing the actual rate, since it supposedly measures the "rate of inflation."

    But, in the UAE it doesn't. Why? The weight of housing as a proportion is always changing. We're not talking a few point here. We're talking big scale issues, that would affect the CPI significantly.

    What you need to bear in mind is that the CPI is not an economic variable. It is a statistic that, at best, gives an inaccurate picture of the economic phenomenon of inflation. To calculate the monthly or an annual CPI, the Central Bank or another body takes a weighted average of prices of various things that consumers purchase, and then statisticians try to figure out the various proportions of different items in a "typical" household budget. For example, that weight may be that housing costs are 30 percent of household expenditures, food costs 20 percent, petrol another 15 percent, etc. But typical in the UAE, is wide ranging. The average is skewed. What about expat versus local? What's the best way of looking at it?

    The problem is that it is very difficult to monitor. Legislation loopholes mean that that the housing proportion changes based on a landlord's whim and the the speculators frenzy. The predominance of imported goods depends on other countries, in the main, the distributers and how much the shops wish to pass on those price changes. And even though there is now a government price watch in place, Keefieboy's example of egg-stortionate price rises come into play, perhaps even for a short period of time.

    My recommendation. Ignore the CPI. It's not accurate in this changing market where price changes are extremely difficult to control.

    With regard to inflation, even though an announcement today states that inflation will decrease from 7% to 4% by the end of the year, take that with a pinch of salt - the number may reduce, but we're really looking at a higher base.

    Forget the basic concept of inflation or CPI for a minute. Take it down to its base level. What was your like for like outgoings 2 years ago, last year and now this year? How much does it cost to lead that same life, without dropping your quality of life, this year, compared to previous years. The answer is probably significantly more, no matter what level of income you are on. That's what you have to bear in mind. The man on the street has no control over inflation, in real terms. All you can do is change factors to accommodate the price rises, including dropping your the quality of life. The story in the Mercer Human Resource Consulting Cost of Living Survey 2006 is indeed that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are now the 25th and 30th most expensive cities in the world to live. But there should have been more of a highlight on quality of life. Neither city made it onto the top 50. Make of that what you wish. Is the glitz and the glam enough?

    Posted by at No comments :

    On Cranes

    When I was a child, the word "crane" meant Crazylegs Crane from the Pink Panther cartoon. It was always called the "The All New Pink Panther Show", which bugged me because I felt cheated that it was never "all new", apart from the first time of course. It didn't matter, because I loved the closing credits which mixed cartoon with real life film, with that guy driving off with the usually super cool Pink Panther running behind like a maniac.

    In later years, "crane" meant Dr. Frasier Crane, formerly of Cheers fame, spinning off to produce one the most amusing sitcoms of all time. (apart from Seinfeld!)

    Mention the word "crane" now and you think Dubai, with people throwing statistics of the percentage of all cranes that are here to help build the uber-buildings.

    Earlier this month, Dubai's Gulf News daily claimed the city harbors 24 percent of the world's construction cranes _ or 30,000 of 125,000 cranes worldwide. Less ambitious estimates range from 6 percent to 10 percent.

    Binder believes there are between 1,100 and 1,200 tower cranes in the Emirates, mainly in Dubai, which is roughly 5 to 10 percent of the world's active tower cranes _ one of three varieties used in construction. Dubai harbors many thousands more mobile cranes and crawler cranes _ those on wheels or tracks.

    In years to come, this period of growth in the UAE will be referred to as the Crane Years. Whether the actual percentage is 5 or 24, it's a hellova lot of cranes.

    (The latest AP article on Dubai - Dubai Sprouts a Forest of Building Cranes )

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    Google chooses Cairo over Dubai

    Setting up in the region usually points you towards the UAE, and it has to be a consideration for the number of companies coming here. Many choose Dubai due to the benfits associated to the freezones, especially those in Dubai. However, according to the unoffical SEO Blog, Google has plumped for Cairo rather than Dubai, because Yahoo appears to have got first footing in Dubai. If that is trues, that's particularly interesting. However, there must be other factors thrown in as to why a giant such as google would make the bold decision to pick Egypt. It may just be that the location of Egypt offers forays into two regions, namely the Middle East and Africa.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    You may think you have it bad...

    ...but spare a thought for those in Kuwait who marvel at our supposed 'freedom'

    Posted by at No comments :

    Monday, June 26, 2006

    The Hymen Repair Shop

    One of my Local friends told me how mothers requested the sheet to prove the wife's "pureness". To this day, I do not know if he was jesting. But this article from USA Today showing the lengths that Muslim Girls go to 'restore their virginity' is an eye opener. In Islamic cultures, shaming the family name is similar to blasphemy.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    The 6 month slide

    2006 - the year of the sliding stockmarkets (courtesy of Emirates Today)

    The crash has probably been reversely proportionate to perception of markets, creating that bubble effect. In Western markets if you had a 12% drop, similar to Kuwait's drop, sentiment would be very low. Dubai's 57% is a catastrophe. No worry. Everyone is still smiling. It's not just about the stock market after all, is it?

    Posted by at No comments :

    Sunday, June 25, 2006

    Word of the day: Diaspora

    The term "diaspora", that I learnt today, is wholly relevant to the UAE, despite the word having being used in the context of Jewish communities.

    Definition: Leaving Home or Staying in Touch. People who live informally outside a homeland while maintaining active contacts with it.

    This definition implies a distinction between those who leave home and those who stay in touch. These are overlapping but not identical concepts. Some of those who leave home do not stay in touch, even though many of them do. Some who stay in touch never left home - they were born and raised outside the homeland but, for various reasons, want to return or create links with a place they think of as their home.

    The word, diaspora, has been used for both of these concepts, but we need to be able to distinguish between them. Actually, the word dispersion is often used as a synonym for diaspora. Historically, they were just different versions of the same word, in two separate languages.

    Can we use diaspora and dispersion to make a distinction? Dispersion is the act of leaving home, and diaspora is the act of staying in touch. Dispersions link up with studies of migration and immigration. Those who leave home often settle elsewhere and, in due course, become part of the hostland where they make new homes for themselves. Thus dispersions tend to dissolve to the degree that their members eventually lose their old identities and take on new ones. Much of the literature on "diaspora" is, substantively, part of the literature on immigration and assimilation. It tells the story of those who left one home and created new homes in a different place, perhaps for a temporary period of time.

    The UAE is a collective of temporary and permanent diasporas.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Eurabia, Londonistan and Al Washington

    The Cartoon debacle amongst other things brought home the issues of integration of the West and Muslims. Is there an issue? I think so. The Pew Global Attitudes Project highlights that Muslims and the West view each other in a negative way, while the Economist believes that integration is possible. While both sides of this argument require high amounts of analysis that I am neither qualified nor able to go into, it warrants your attention. From the other side of the coin, the UAE represents Islamic values trying to compromise to Western ones, with some success. But with compromise comes negative perception from both camps: the stricter Islamists view the move towards the West as a play to the devil while the right wing west considers anything related to Islam as potentially having a terrorist agenda. We are no doubt living in a time of conflict, but the UAE represents an opportunity in more ways than one. Above all the daily squabbles, will that balance be established? If anything, the UAE is the closest thing to it thusfar.

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    Sectoral Emiratisation

    My position is clear on emiratisation. Qualified UAE Nationals who meet the skills, education and other specifics of the jobs at hand should be first preference for positions. The country is, after all the country of the UAE Nationals.

    However, I believe that fully emiratising a certain industry, especially within a lead time of 18 months, presents a number of problems. While there are a hugely disproportionate number of UAE Nationals out of work, this solution is potentially a quick fix that does not cater for the longer term.

    UAE Nationals may be forced down career routes that they do not intend to follow, just because of the lack of overall jobs. Indeed, work arounds have existed for a number of years to get emiratisation levels up by pulling the incumbent expatriate out of the company, and recruiting him or her as a consultant to the UAE National. While this may solve the problem somewhat, it creates an extra burden on the organisation. Emiratising complete HR departments, for example will result in an increasing amount of work for the number of HR consultancies that exist within the region.

    A longer term solution would involve a shadowing of general positions, but strictly enforced, so that theory is reinforced by on the job type training. While this may be the aim with the latest legislation, 18 months within one sector does not do justice to the more technical areas of HR, such as OD, Compensation and Benefits and Manpower Planning.

    The problem is a big one. Swapping expat secretaries with UAE National ones, does not benefit the long term career prospects, since it reduces the expectation of education levels, since, in theory, these type of positions do not require much more than a diploma or higher diploma, which is relatively easy to obtain. What should be promoted is the forced education to a minimum of degree level or at worst, the carrot approach should be adopted whereby UAE Nationals should be offered larger incentives to complete their education to graduate and, ideally, post graduate level.

    The lack of adoption of emirtisation by the banking insurance and trade sectors is based on the fact that there is a skill gap in an increasingly competitive arena. Whether this latest announcement will result in the desired end state is debatable. There is some merit to it, but, a long termist solution is needed to: one; increase the average education level of UAE Nationals; two, create transition periods to achieve company emiratisation levels; and three, to integrate UAE Nationals rather than force and employer into a corner. With a larger amount of UAE Nationals joining the job pool every year, Tanmia will have larger problems when they try and decide which is the next sector to emiratise.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Saturday, June 24, 2006

    The battle for an Islamic Finance Hub

    The importance of Islamic Finance as a growth industry is starting to take central stage. Last week, Gordon Brown threw down the gauntlet, to make London the capital. But, as you would have also heard, Yasaar which is UK based has been given approval to be the first Sharia Advisor in DIFC. Any market with a predicated minimum 15% growth for the next 10 years will create shoulder barging by anyone and everyone. The eastern ecomominies will also be jostling, but expect much backing amongst the Gulf states to make one of its own the lead market.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Friday, June 23, 2006

    UAE Key Financial Numbers

    These are the numbers you need to know.

    2005 - UAE Real GDP Growth - 8.5%
    2006 UAE Current Account Surplus estimate - USD 27Bn
    By 2010 - UAE will experience 60% GDP Growth

    Last week, someone told me that GDP increased by 26.4%. What he really meant to say is that the growth during the year 2005 was an increase of 26.4 per cent over the same period in 2004.

    It's important to understand the numbers if you reference them and express that understanding in a correct way. Even if you don't reference them, it's a useful statistic to have to hand.

    Posted by at No comments :

    All the Dubai Towers aligned by Size

    Right click, save, open and zoom in!

    Posted by at No comments :

    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    Fake Education

    Excuses that I have heard for staff having fake degree certificates:

    1. I know as much as people with degrees
    2. I didn't have time to do the degree
    3. I couldn't afford to do the degree. This was cheap.
    4. I needed to get a job
    5. I didn't realise that it was not real.

    It's amusing how people will stick to their story that their "degree" is legitimate, and how they learned so much from their "time at university" until you actually tell them that you have checked it up. This kind of practice is not so prevalant in the West, but most of the fake certificates come from the West, and hold an air of prestige western education. One univeristy I was asked to probe for a client was the University of Canterbury. Now there is a University of Kent at Canterbury, but not a University of Cantebury. They are just a phone number based out of Manchester, from whom you can buy a doctorate for a couple of thousand bucks. I'm sure you can get one cheaper if you shop around. Just don't think this kind of rubbish will hold any weight any more in the UAE.

    Posted by at 5 comments :

    Tuesday, June 20, 2006

    Fabba Abu Dhabi

    Apparently Abu Dhabi is the "in thing", as far as perceptions go with regard to tourism. Personally, I don't think it is quite there just yet, but give it a couple of years, and Abu Dhabi should represent a niche that should attract a certain crowd. Like many cities in the region, there is no real central spot to Abu Dhabi, but the central market should become the hub and heart of the city when it is complete in 2008. Aldar are making significant headway in stablishing a brand for themselves and the city, and that brand recognition will follow through from the corporate level down to the project level as strategic niche marketing approaches are implemented on a case by case basis. With Aldar at the helm, focusing on those little things that matter, Abu Dhabi will become a shining example of what can be achieved with a slower approach. A lot of the responsibility lies with Aldar, despite the ADTA and Cultural Heritage and the like, since they are reponsible for some high profile projects in the city. I don't think they will fail - there are some talented people there.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Monday, June 19, 2006

    Maxim of Wasta

    The more the Gulf economies try to veer away from the concept of Wasta, the more robust will be their development.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Market Fundamentals and Levers

    Despite the correction in the UAE markets, the strategy to maintain the economy still veers onwards and upwards. Who lost? The man on the street. A very sad thing, especially with UAE Nationals borrowing significant amounts to result in nothing to show but unpayable loans and worthless pieces of paper. Who won? The banks who had a mammoth year last year. That won't happen again this year, but this aside, the oil price remains high and money is being ploughed back in to projects to keep the UAE at the forefront of development, whether this be property (which I don't see crashing), mammoth projects, such as Bawadi and many other industries including industrials, tourism and business finance.

    What people fail to realise is the value of the "freezones". While essentially a little expensive to operate within, it is a major reason why many expatriates are here. A haven to operate from without the burden of taxes and the like. The freezones were fundamental to the UAE and Dubai's economy, and one thing that is often forgotten when looking at the bigger picture of growth. The freezones, from my perspective, represents a key lever in the development of this once barren land.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Where are your savings?

    If you are able to save in this increasingly costly environment, where do you put your money? Do you repatriate it? Do you send it offshore? Or do you keep it within the confines of the UAE?

    From speaking to a diverse group of expatriates, many do not trust keeping their money here "in case something goes wrong". Frozen accounts once you resign are always a worry, sometimes imposed on those who seem to be running from paying their debts before they leave. Indeed, many come to the UAE, take the maximum loan and return to their home country without cancelling their visa. We're in a catch 22.

    How can you have a banking industry conducive to saving if the expatriates who live here are scared of being the "one" who loses out because of someone else's misdemeanours set the precedent for mistrust.

    Flexible laws to keep the money onshore benefit high net worth individuals who were based here but do not remove that element of worry that the expat has that one day they will br "frozen" out of their savings.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Mini Dubai

    Dubai is an inspiration for other developing countries. Expect the cranes to go to Khartoum next.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Sunday, June 18, 2006

    Foreign Pests in the UAE

    I thought that this "article" may have been in reference to the number of expats in the UAE. No, it's really about non-native creepy crawlies.

    Posted by at 9 comments :

    FDI into the UAE

    FDI, for developing countries, is a key indicator of perception of other countries regarding the stability or growth associated with that particular market. With high oil prices aside, the fact that the UAE is the key market amongst the Arab World, is a stamp of approval that what is going on here. If you include oil prices, Saudi Arabia is still only in third place, and overall the UAE takes more than a third of total FDI for the region. Comparisons to other developing nations can not be accurately compared because of the rise in oil prices, but for on its own, that's pretty amazing. The fact that the UAE is heavily investing overseas also means that it is a country (or Federation) on the cusp of developed status. Aside from teething, social and other infrastructure issues, on paper, the UAE is pretty damn HOT, in more senses than one.

    Posted by at No comments :

    The Process formerly known as Renaming

    Example 1:
    The artist formerly known as Prince, then known as Symbol, now known as Prince
    Example 2:
    Puff daddy, formerly known as Puffy, then known as P.Diddy, then as Diddy, now known as Sean Combs, maybe known as Daddy or Sean to his friends and family.

    I get confused enough by the UAE companies, especially with some of them being similar in name, and yet, some get renamed or reassigned or whatever.

    What will happen to ADIA? What will happen to the MOI? I predict that Etisalat will rename as its current tagline "Reach" when it hits the overseas western markets, if it reaches that far.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Cartels and Collusion

    With a duopoly in place, and the two firms are in collusion about prices, both firms are able to achieve super normal profits, and even if there is a shift in demand that may go to either party, both will still receive super-normal profits within the market in which they operate. That's worrying.

    However, price fixing and cartels could fall apart if there is an economic downturn, the exposure of price fixing by regulatory bodies, over production of products or services.

    These are hardly going to happen in the UAE: downturn - doubt; regulatory bodies - wel...; over production - unless there is a significant investment in technology (e.g. 3G and Vodafone), there would seem no reason to change pricing structures.

    The good news is that, even though firms operating at super normal profits, cartels usually break down because either firm is not profit maximising. The way I see it is that etisalat will strategically invest overseas using the UAE as a cash cow. Don't expect a radical change in services or price reductions when Du comes on board.

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    The EU Islamic lexicon

    BRUSSELS — Austria, the current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, has drafted a document of common vocabulary on Islam as part of linguistic efforts by the 25-member bloc to issue the first public communication lexicon aimed at avoiding stigmatizing terminology in dealing with the other.

    How many words in the lexicon?

    The common lexicon, for the moment, consists of just three terms: "Islamist", "fundamentalism" and "jihad".

    Posted by at 1 comment :


    I was once looking into the market of 'old people' in the UAE, and how technology could take them out of old people's homes and make them more independant. Oh the benefit of market research! While this could have been a lucrative market, with the money dedicated to health, I quickly found out that old people's homes were culturally insensitive. For Muslims, they must look after the parents through the difficult years. What the means is that when they can't look after themselves, the family looks after them, up until the point that they need hospital care.

    historically, the market has been like this:
    west: independant - old people's home - hospital
    gulf: independant - childrens's home - hospital

    The western market is moving to replace old people's homes with home living, assisted living, with general montoring solutions. But the Dubai, UAE and Gulf market is a difficult one for a telecare provider to enter. There is no doubt that old people's homes exist here, but not worthwhile to try and tackle the cultural element.

    Understand nursing / old people's homes from a Muslim perspective - IHT
    Understand the telecare market from the lead worldwide provider - Tunstall

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    Revolutionise Television

    In April 2002, the world was informed about the news that the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had been removed from office and had been replaced by a new interim government. What had in fact taken place was the first Latin American coup of the 21st century, and the world's first media coup. And so the now legendary film entitled “The Revolution will not be Televised” was borne citing history's shortest-lived coup d'├ętat. The coup was both a lesson in the power of the media in the modern world and, ultimately, the limitations of that power in the face of popular protest.

    Of course, we live in a different place and although not so long ago, these are different times. However, the message is clear, the viewer, the reader, the listener, the audience - they are in control of the successes of the media, under the constriction of legislation. However, without them, TV is nothing, nada, rien, nichts, niente. And remember, audiences are a fickle bunch – one false move and they will leave, never to return. However, the other side of the coin is this: prejudge the market and the audiences will flock in their thousands. Either way, TV Media needs to be in a position to change when the market dictates or when they want to dictate the market. This is driven by the need to meet the audience expectations with a new found malleability unsurpassed in the Arab world.

    For much time, I have been unimpressed by the TV here. The problem is the very diverse audience that exists, especially in the UAE, the minimal expenditure on production and difficulty in montoring the real stats that could drive the advertising revenue. Words are thrown around like radical upheaval or shake up. TV Channels should think of retuning and identifying their audiences, refocusing their strategy and recreating the backbone that will propel the taker to further success. The leader will be recognized both in the Arab world and beyond. Let the revolution be televised.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    The Thriller from Manila

    One of the most legendary boxing bouts in history was between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier when Ali professed "It will be a killer, and a chiller and a thrilla when I get the gorilla In Manila". The bout, titled the "Thrilla in Manila" is a whole world apart from the Filipina girls forced to ply their trade on the streets of Dubai where punters are offered the "thriller from Manila".

    Luckily the practice of luring girls to a new world in Dubai, where they get forced into the sex industry working as prostitutes under the connected pimps has now been exposed by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration:

    Here is how the syndicate works:

    • The illegal recruiters scour their hometowns or malls and bars in Metro Manila for prospective victims. They also seek former entertainers in Japan who could no longer get entry visas to that country.
    • The recruiters promise the women they would be hired in Dubai as waitresses, salesgirls, mall or hotel employees. They are lured into entering Dubai with visit or tourist visas which can be easily obtained from travel agencies in the UAE.
    • The victims leave the country on the cheapest airlines for Dubai. On arrival, the women are escorted by the recruiters’ contacts past the immigration booths.
    • To facilitate their departure, the victims are given roundtrip tickets. The return tickets, however, are fake. The contacts immediately take hold of the women’s passports, visas and plane tickets.
    • Brought to their quarters, they are told not to communicate with the consulate or embassy. The victims are threatened by their “mamasans,” or caretakers, who boast connections with the UAE immigration and police authorities.
    • Most of the mamasans know each other and even lend “girls” to suit the tastes of their customers.
    • Closely watched by the mamasans, the women are taken to discotheques and bars to look for customers.

    Human trafficking of any sort is despicable, whether this be illegal purposes (prostitution or camel jockeys, say) or for other "jobs" sold as better paying than they actually are. The UAE is clamping down on such practices in general, but prostitution has taken a back seat in the headlines as the contruction workers took centre stage. It's time to clean up the streets of Dubai, and repatriate these girls so that they can try to rebuild their lives.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Dancing Towers Dubai

    I saw this a few weeks ago, and thought someone was jesting. For some reason these Dancing Towers reminded of those battery operated flowers from the 80s that would move to the beat of the music. My take it that as a concept, it is cutting edge. It is ingenious. If the building moved, that would be insane. And Dubai constantly treads this fine line between both of these, veering either way.

    Posted by at 9 comments :

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    3,4,5,6,7 star

    Time to measure our hotel stars - all true. When I pay for a 3 or 4 star, it should at least be clean. When I am paid to stay in a 5 star, it should be plush, and I should be treated well. I haven't ever staying in anything better, so I'll just imagine. The current star rating is a mess, for sure, and this should be tackled before then next wave of hotels are built at Bawadi. However, I still don't think that 75% of hotels in Dubai should be 5 star. I don't want to be forced into making a choice between squalor and luxury. Standard does me just fine, sometimes. Not everyone is a tourist, and not everyone rents by the hour.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    The Ramadan effect comes early

    If you haven't noticed, Summer has arrived. The Summer's end will more or less coincide with the beginning of Ramadan, bringing supposed levels of lower activity in some industries. While higher level decisions may be made, from now until September, lower level commitments aren't necessarily made. Around the 24th of September this year (2006), Ramadan will start where the business will really start to be talked about, with a mint tea and grape shisha. Come the middle of October, people will be forced to work long hours to: catch up with the lag of the summer period; rework the changes made on previous decisions that were committed up on during Ramadan; and plan for the coming of 2006. It's a weird cycle, but that's life! There is always talk every year that the Summer effect is less of a factor in an increasingly Western business environment, but you just need part of an industry to slow down, and the knock on effect will follow. Couple this Ramadan, and your planning could go pearshaped, unless you planned for it - which most companies do!

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Lies about Dubai

    We've talked about topicality before, and so CNBC have decided to write a 3 article "special feature" on Dubai. I skimmed through the first one today. This sentence caught my eye:

    “There were two buildings when I moved here in August of 2004, and that is no lie. Those two buildings and nothing else existed,”

    Yup, two years ago, everyone was living in tents in the desert, and travelling up and down the Sheikh Zayed Road by camel.

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    The Talented "White Arab"

    As a precursor to this post, let me say that my intention in using the term "White Arab" is not to be derogatory. I use it in reference to discussions mentioning the term. If it is taken badly, I apologise at the outset.

    The Western expatriate is afraid. They are afraid of the increasingly educated Arab who has been educated overseas and posess the skills that used to be short in supply. The UAE Labour Law states that preference in employment should be given to UAE Nationals, Other Arabs, followed by other nationalities, in that order. In previous years, especially at the Middle to Senior Management level, there would be a shortage of professionals, say as a senior accountant. And while there used to be some Arabs in these positions, Western expats would bring Western education, and Western experience to the table. The tables are now starting to turn. Many Arabs are choosing to educate themselves and gain experience overseas before looking at the UAE to continue their career and bring their supposed "best practice" here in the UAE and within the Middle East. And so those who had generic middle management type skills are now having to compete with Arabs who are higher up on the UAE Labour Law pecking order, speak Arabic and have the skills and experience to boot.

    Does this mean that the numbers of Western Expats will reduce? No - what it does mean is that specialist type positions, in the banking arena, for example, will be the main area for Expats and specialist skills will be required to be in such positions. I don't forsee a major shift any time soon, especially in the free zones, but just be aware that this shift is occuring beneath the surface. While business transactions generally occur in English, Arabic is becoming increasingly important. And with the Middle East taking the stage as third in the sentence of developing regions, after China and India, and with double digit economic growth an everyday occurrence, the "White Arab" will continue to lead this growth.

    (Aside, I don't like the term "White Arab". I would prefer the term Western Educated Arab)

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    No need to overly wow

    People in the know have been party to the fact that Abu Dhabi has been planning its own ski slope for some time, and while it will not be as grand as Ski Dubai, it fulfills exactly what Abu Dhabi needs. Abu Dhabi doen't need the wow factor. It doesn't really need to compete with Dubai. Abu Dhabi does what it needs as does Dubai, and in that sense they complement each other. A ski slope is nice to have, for the residents, and won't be a pulling factor to come to the emirate. What Abu Dhabi has, at present, are many of the things that Dubai has, but less numerous, and less busy. Therein lies its charm. Many will rubbish Abu Dhabi, but many of those negative factors exist elsewhere. Abu Dhabi aims to woo a few tourists and make it a nice place to live. In that respect, it is well on course. And, after all, it is a government city.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    Three jokes

    Someone anonymously posted these jokes to me. Some were very bad, some were verging on racist. I particuarly liked these three:

    What is it called when you are on growth hormones in the UAE?

    Why would you move to the UAE?
    You might have had to emmigrate

    What's the best protection against the mad drivers in Dubai?

    Boom Boom. You should have seen the bad ones!

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Dubai versus the Other Gulf Cities?

    Is there really that much resentment between the two booming Gulf cities of Dubai and Doha? Apparently so. We have heard before about conflicts existing, usually due to the shuffle to gain supremacy over the financial markets. And the conflict appears deep, if we take what Lex has said in the FT as fact:

    While Dubai has undoubtedly established itself as the region's financial hub, a base there may not be enough on its own. For example, bankers turning up in Qatar with Dubai addresses on their cards have been known to be sent packing. And other states in the region have much larger oil reserves than Dubai – and consequently more money looking for a home.

    The real competition for Dubai lies in Qatar and to some extent Bahrain and Kuwait. Saudi is a a different kettle of fish, despite its own massive projects. There are more pieces to the Gulf pie than one city can handle - the Gulf states need to look to differetiating themselves based on their strengths. Dubai has just gone out there and said, we're going to do all of this and this and that and whatever else seems good. And people like that - that is its appeal. If either of the other cities could take elements of what is not wholly covered, and become a powerhouse in specifics, there would be several regional hubs rather than just the one.

    But, as we know from living in the Middle East, the main issue is pride - no one wants to play second fiddle to Dubai.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    Cyberflix Vs The Chinese DVD Lady

    The concept of Cyberflix is a simple one and has been shown to work well elsewhere in the world (Blockbuster, Amazon) whereby you pay a monthly fee and can hold up to a certain number of DVDs that you order online, and send back by post) Cyberflix are taking a bold move in a market where this does not yet exist. Why is this bold?

    1. The big guys are not here yet
    2. The postal system in the UAE works on a PO Box basis
    3. The general UAE consumer is not yet Internet savvy
    4. Payment systems are problematic
    5. The Chinese DVD lady...

    While the first four areas are workable, the Chinese DVD lady, who provides dodgey DVDs, usually taken in dingey cinemas in the US or the Far East provides titles, direct to your home, for a cheaper price, and before they are officially released. While this is completely illegal, there is not enough being done to clamp down on such practices. It will be interesting to see if Cyberflix are able to get the consumer to go legit and opt for quality. If they are, they will establish a big market share before other players come in. If not, they will sink and burn in cyberspace. Good luck to them.

    Posted by at 4 comments :

    American versus Foreign Perceptions

    Sometimes you come across a piece that you wish you had written, because that is what you believe but weren't too sure it would be taken seriously, because you had no backing to your inkling.

    Please read Clyde Prestowitz: The View From Dubai at "The Washington Note". It talks of democracy in Iraq, the conflicting relationship with Saudi, how the US depends on the Gulf States currently, and the future of the Dollar.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Bodged up Banking Systems

    The banking industry should become the cornerstone of Dubai as it seems, firstly to compete with Doha and Manama to be the regional finance centre, and then to link in as the centre between the east and the west. However, much still needs to be done, going forward, starting at a grass routes level. I am well aware that the term banking could encompass the basic current account, all the way through to large scale sukuks. However, any problem in one area reflects negatively on the others, whether there is a link or not.

    Much has been made of the skimming device at Emirates bank. This is one way by which criminals have attempted to swindle the public at the cash point. It is an age old trick, one that has been done to death in the West. This should make it easier for the authorities here to clamp down on such things happening again. I am just surprised that there weren't any preventitive measures in place beforehand. However, with big brother in play, I'm sure that criminals will be too scared to pull a swifty once those responsible are lashed and deported.

    Skimming and the like doesn't bother me too much. What worries me is the basics of some of the retail banking operations. For example, are you aware that some of the banks in the UAE have to rekey your transactions between one system and another, overnight so that it is updated on your account. That means you transact something on your bank account, or example pay a bill, but this wont get updated until the next day, after someone has rekeyed that on your main account. Sounds bizarre that such things still happen, and as any techy will tell you, a few bits of code and an interface and you have a feed between two systems to update automatically. Such basic issues in retal baning are things that were dealt with about 15 years ago in the West.

    On another level, with Basel II compliance deadlines somewhat close in many countries, it is refreshing to hear that banks are volunarily investing in risk and compliance systems! Does that mean that risk monitoring was done on a manual basis before? It is high time that the banking industry invested some of the cash that it gained from the naive stock market investors and create robust systems that mitigate against risk at all levels, from credit card scamming, to cash card skimming to Basel II implementations.

    To be treated as world class, you must act world class. That would also go for some of the World Cup teams playing this month.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    The World Cup and Economics

    Goldman Sachs brings out a great guide every 4 years about the World Cup. If you want demonstrate intellectual prowess concerning the beautiful game as you comment to the nearest stranger in the convention centre, I would recommend their guide.

    The World Cup and Economics (2.15MB, 59 page download)

    Come on Ingleezi!

    Posted by at No comments :

    Sheikh Mohammed on the Oil Revenue

    It is not a question of large and accumulating revenues, but it is one of suitable investment environments in Arab countries. Arab investors definitely prefer to invest in Arab countries, but do all Arab countries offer an encouraging investment environment? Improvements were made in some Arab countries, but they were extremely slow improvements. In my opinion, the size of Arab and non-Arab investments in Arab countries hinges on the improvement of the investment environment, and here I mean stability, legislations, procedures, transparency, and skilled human resources, because the greater the improvements, the greater the flow of investments.

    I finally got to read the interview in full. What I really want to read is his ">book when it is translated.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Why Abu Dhabi is what it is

    After the crazily inaccurate Asia Times article on Dubai, it was refreshing to read the Economist's succinct article on Abu Dhabi:

    Super-rich Kuwait sits uncomfortably close to unruly Iraq and obstreperous Iran, and Saddam Hussein's invasion in 1990 burned up much of its fortune. Saudi Arabia pumps far more oil, but must split the proceeds among lots more people, quite a few of them bellicose Islamists. Tiny Qatar is underpeopled and rolling in cash, but its erratic foreign policy irritates Saudis, Americans and others one should not annoy. Even Abu Dhabi's neighbour Dubai, the glitzy boomtown that is another of the seven United Arab Emirates, is troubled by the grumbles of abused foreign workers.

    Great intro to the region and to the article.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Corporate Blogging

    Don't really know how I got lured into the deep dark world of blogging, and it hasn't even been that long, althoguh it feels like a lifetime. For tech corporations this whole arena is getting to be particularly important. So much so that IBM has a "blogger in chief" to blog on their intranet about the blogosphere. The most recent newsletter from freepint carries an interesting interview with Christopher Barger. Robert Scoble does a similar job for Microsoft but blogs to the outside world about general thoughts. Can you imagine if Etisalat did the same? That would be interesting. Especially if they had a comments section!

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Phony Job Ads in Dubai

    I have recently been looking into the recruitment industry in the Middle East for the reason that I get a lot of enquiries from those that are interested in getting a job out here. There has been increased interest in the job market here in the UAE. With financial services companies establishing presences, with tourism increasing year on year and with all the projects talked about in the press, people are tempted to move to the UAE. Many are interested in the potential of lifestyle and savings despite the cost of living increase in comparison to, say, 5 years ago.

    If you are not looking for a job or looking into the industry or know how the industry works - you won't really see what I believe is going on. And of course, if you get super excited by seeing the ideal job being advertised, you might get all starry eyed by that new glam job that could be yours in a couple weeks.

    Before I unveil my concern, here's a very generalised overview of how recruitment agencies generate revenue.

    Recruitment agencies make money in a number of ways but mainly through the following:

    Job Advertising - an agency will advertise your job for a company for a fixed fee and handle all the bits a pieces, potentially break down those candidates that meet the requirements and provide you with a list of suitable CVs.

    Job Placement - similar to Job Advertising, but are only paid if they place a candidate, for which they are paid a percentage of the first year salary.

    Executive Search - similar to Job Placement, but usually poaching key individuals with proven track records. This is sometimes called headhunting.

    Candidate Database Search - clients can search through a full database of those looking for jobs, under specific terms, either for period of time, or for number of employee's details, or for a number of searches.

    Value Added - provision of additional services that an employer may potentially be interested in, such as training, or jobscreening, pre-interviewing and the like, as well as services to job seekers such as CV preparation, interview techniques for example.

    With an increased number of jobs available in the UAE and the Middle East, it could potentially be lucrative to be in this industry as the middle man. I have already voiced my concerns about jobsindubai.com as well as how jobs are advertised. There are a number of reputable agencies in Dubai, some of which I have provided on a spreadsheet on the main grapeshisha site, but this is what you need to be aware of. There are a number of so called "agencies" trying to enter the market. To be reputable, they believe they need to offer a Candidate Database Search to employers. So this is what is happening. They are doing a few things, two of which are:

    1. Harvesting CVs from international sites, posing as potential employers and pulling those CVs of job seekers who would consider Dubai or the Middle East.

    2. Advertising in the press, with dummy jobs to lure jobseekers to send in their CV for specific areas.

    This is concerning because while you may be looking for a job, all they are doing is spending a little money advertising in newspapers (that really don't charge too much) both here and abroad, just to be able to sell your data to employers later.

    While this may not be an issue to some, I believe that this is an unethical practice of entering the market, and one that is unregulated. While this may be the de facto way of entering the recruitment industry for some, it screams of unprofessional behaviour to others. Some say that this is obvious, but others are unaware that this is going on. All I wish to do is to point this out to those looking for jobs in Dubai, the UAE or the Middle East in general. I'm neither tied to any of the recruitment firms, nor do I hope to be - I just hope that, at some point in time, someone cracks down on this practice and forces some old fashioned hard work to enter an industry. I won't name any names, for fear of being libelled, but next time you look at the job section of your paper, just think which jobs are actually real.

    Good Luck with the job search!

    Posted by at No comments :

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    IMF on the UAE

    To get some semblance of the UAE economy and what is really going on, you can always rely on the IMF. Mohsin S. Khan, Director of the IMF's ME and Central Asia Department is the one who is talking the sense, without any rhetoric. The highlights that I feel are important are these:

    1. Inflation
    "There has been an inflationary pressure in some countries in the region, the UAE being the principal one. It needs to be controlled. One part of it [inflation] is the rising consumer price index. The other is being felt in the form of the asset price increases stock market and real estate."

    2. GDP Growth Rate
    To a question about GDP growth rate, he said IMF projects it at 10.5 per cent this fiscal, over 8.5 per cent during 2005. During 2004 its seen at 9.7 per cent coming down from 12 per cent in 2003.

    3. Reforms are necessary
    He said that oil-rich countries in the Gulf region were aware that if they miss the chance to “utilise this period to undertake those reforms and develop the private sector (they) will be back in the 1990s.”

    4. Non-oil economic growth
    Non-oil economic growth in the GCC states has registered some 8.6% in Saudi Arabia in 2005, compared to 8.3% in Qatar and 7.8% in the United Arab Emirates, according to the IMF’s Regional Economic Outlook, which was published in May.

    5. Services are the future
    “The future lies in the private sector development of services and knowledge economy.“(In) information technology ... that is where jobs are going to be created by the private sector,” he added.

    6. Investment strategy
    For countries like the UAE, which does not have the scope of witnessing large-scale industrialisation nor the adequate population to sustain a large industrial production with domestic consumption, the ideal growth model would be the one that relies a lot on foreign investments and investing abroad.

    7. Credit Expansion
    He showed IMF's concern over the massive credit expansion which was seen enlarging by 45 per cent during last year, it had its huge impact on inflation.

    8. CPI needs to be revised
    He said that during his discussions with the UAE economic managers, he raised the issue of inflation estimates which are not indicative of the price hikes and particularly the rent hikes. "We (IMF) have asked them to broaden the scope of CPI and offered our technical assistance to prepare a new index," said Mohsin S.Khan.

    10. Oil Prices
    According to IMF estimates oil prices will hover around $60 until 2011. That will shower the Middle East economies with a huge amount of investible surplus.

    In sum: The UAE and the region has a prime opportunity to build the region, but needs to be aware of the pitfalls that could be grave.

    KT - IMF tells UAE to revise its CPI
    GN - UAE economy will grow 10.5%, says IMF
    AFP - Gulf countries aware energy windfall won’t last: top IMF official
    GN - UAE needs to control inflation, says IMF director
    IMF May 2006 Regional Report

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    Sukuk's go large

    I have been watching Sukuk's for a while now, and they seem to be getting more and more prevalent. A Sukuk is essentially a hybrid bond The most popular structure of a Sukuk is the so-called Sukuk Al Ijara, based on an Islamic leasing transaction and resulting in a tradable certificate with constant returns based on rent instead of interest. Large sukus have been lined up this year, most notably for the Dubai Ports World Takeover of P&O. The next biggest one for the UAE will fund the new Jebel Ali Airport. Watch out for sukuks, they're all over the place. And watch how all the small banks will try and fund all the projects. Let's just hope that they are regulated.

    Posted by at No comments :

    NRIs in the UAE

    Before I moved here, I knew what an NRI was but didn't actually know it by the term. Since moving to the UAE, it is probably safe to say that the non resident Indian splits into three classes, the blue collar, the white collar, and the filthy rich. And those that are loaded have got a lot of money to spend either here or back home. No wonder NRI's are targetted like crazy. The penny just dropped. The lightbulb just went on. DUH!

    Posted by at No comments :

    Somebody change the record

    Make something topical, and everyone will jump on the bandwagon. I'm afraid, internet research will only get you so far, and then you may start making factual errors, faux-pas and get a little politically incorrect. But, all in all, you could write a piece that covers most stuff, talks a little on strategy, but basically repeats what we have heard elsewhere a dozen or so times.

    Asia Times Article

    Posted by at No comments :

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    Real competitiveness

    The GCC as a region really needs to be considered as power on a par with what is going on in China and India right now. There is steady growth here, all driven by the high price of oil and a construction boom. Money is being ploughed back into the economy. Construction activity for the GCC for 2006 is about $30bn, with already committed amounts of $180bn for 2007-2009. That is simply construction on an unprecedented scale.

    If we look at the next couple of years, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar will be roughly around the $30,000/head/annum mark. That is a phenomenal amount.

    (Oh yes, keep your eye on what is going on in Kuwait - it's the dark horse in this long race)

    Posted by at 1 comment :


    Surely, this will price out the average tourist, or really, will Dubai become the number 1 luxury destination. If you had told me that 75% of hotels would be 4 star and above, then I could see the logic in that. As it is this will result in:
    - Dubai pricing itself out of the market,
    - A reduction in room price resulting in lower revpar
    - A reduction in standards.

    Personally, easy hotels at the cheap and cheerful end of the market have a big demand, as well as the plush types.

    I don't think it is doable. However, as with all things in Dubai, time will tell. If grapeshisha still exists in 2010, let's see if the prediction comes true.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    The third language of Sharjah is....

    Russian! Or maybe the Russian's are big nude offenders in Sharjah.

    From Willy's Blog

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Is Dubai Competitive or Incompetitive?

    On entering work today, I was greeted by my office boy with my papers repeating the word "incompetitive". Sounded pretty bad, I must say, but on reading the headlines, I finally understood what he was talking about. "The Dubai in World Competitiveness Report", (which I must admit I struggled saying) was jointly published between IMD and DED. Now IMD is a good business school, and one of the best in the world. They do this competitiveness report thing every year, and I hadn't seen Dubai on this years list, so I had a bit of a gander on IMD's site to find the abstract, which of course didn't show Dubai, because it was a separate report to see where Dubai "fits in" to the world. Slotted in where it is, yes, it shows that Dubai is competitive. I went to the DED website to see what they had to say. It appeared as if the news had surfaced too quick. Nowt. However, there was something about a Data Universal Numbering System (D-U-N-S Number), which looked as if it could be a great sleep remedy for my current insomnia problem.

    Now, this report is based on hard data and opinion. I am not disputing any of this, but something has got to be suspect. The opinion is from 200 CEOs of top private companies, no doubt UAE National Businessmen - which would defy the object of teh report. Here's the thing - I am not doubting that Dubai is very competitive, and probably deserves to feature pretty high, but some things just don't make sense. I found this particularly amusing:

    The report ranks Dubai as one of the top ten competitive economies in several sub-factor ranking. These include 5th place in the criteria of ease of doing business, employment (2nd place), fiscal policy (1st place), public finance (9th place), labor market (8th place), adaptability of government policy to change in the economy (3rd place).

    Remember, while these are sub factors, they are compared against the best in the world. And to place Dubai as number 1 on fiscal policy, when really there isn't one and employment at number 2, despite the problems that have surfaced only recently after years of bubbling - I'm sorry, it just sounds ludicrous.

    Now despite the weight of the findings, something like this really gets my goat, and I can't trust the underlying data. Maybe my office boy was right all along - "incompetitive"!

    PS. If anyone has the report with all the data, send it my way. If the data is indeed non suspect, I'll take it all back.

    Posted by at 3 comments :

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Stock Market Consolidation

    The merger (but really it is a takeover) between NYSE and Euronext was pretty big news, and it looks like superpowers are being created among the borses.

    Something that shocked me was the revelation that DIFX might be purchasing DFM. Globally not such a big deal, but locally, this has a huge WOW factor. ADSM must be shuddering in its shoes.

    But really, is this such a surprise?

    Posted by at No comments :

    My Current Pre World Cup Mood

    Peter Crouch does the Robot Dance (viewer discretion advised)

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Two dates for this year: 7th August and 6th June

    Some Muslims, mainly from the Indian subcontinent, place emphasis on the number 786, citing that the Arabic letters of the opening phrase of the Qur'an, Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim, ("In the name of God, the Compassionate and Merciful") sum to the numerical value 786. Some, therefore, may be looking forward to the 7th of August this year.

    Others, especially some from Michigan, are looking forward to a party in Hell on the 6th of June.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Spread the money

    The John Laing takeover by Emaar is newsworthy, because it continues the investment that Dubai is making across the pond, even after the DP World furore. However, a $30bn dollar investment in Pakistan's economy is a massive investment by Dubai. Go East, that's where the growth is.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Move over Kofi

    The speculation has started regarding who will be Kofi Annan's successor when he stands down at the end of this year. Many are pointing to the East, saying that the next UN Chief, the world's chief diplomat, should come from Asia, showing a big shift in importance of what is happening on the world stage whether or not this idea comes to fruition.

    Another move is on the cards as The UN regional headquarters in Dubai have been asked to shift away from where they currently sit which is where Business Bay will be built:

    One site identified as a possible new home for the U.N. is a warehouse park under construction on Dubai's desert outskirts, 20 miles from the city's glitzy center. The park, next to a seaport and new airport, makes sense for U.N. agencies dealing in aid airlifts. But for diplomats like Ivo Freijsen, chief of the U.N.'s regional office for emergency relief, the move would be like shifting U.N. headquarters in Manhattan to an industrial district in New Jersey.

    Maybe, they'll just move to Qatar or Abu Dhabi. Full Story

    Posted by at No comments :

    The Dubai Bubble Response

    Most of the press who have focussed on Sheikh Mohammed's interview with Asharq Al Awsat have talked that the UAE will not pay a prace in negotiations with the US. Read a bit further and HH quashes the bubble specualtion.

    Commenting on the fast-paced growth of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed dismissed analysts' fears of a bubble about to burst. 'If we had listened to talk of the bubble we would never have done anything ... if you ask those who are speaking of the bubble what they mean, you would get a 'bubble response' that has no relation to economics or development or science or reality,' he said.

    In terms of economic development and growth, I think he is absolutely correct. But,if you define a bubble, it's all to do with specualtion frenzy. And that is exactly what happened when many people threw their hard earned money into the pevious bubble that burst.

    In totality, the bubble on Dubai won't burst unless something goes very wrong, but there will be lots of little bubbles bursting along the way. Maybe you canjust call them "corrections".

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Blogging your Auction - Maktoob mustbe watching

    I'm not sure that the Middle Eastern market is mature enough to follow this lead, but it is interesting to note how ebay is moving to include blogs as part of their strategy for letting sellers market themselves. I'm not sure how it will fare, but maktoob must be watching to see which way this will go for the sakes of souq.com. Maktoob are in an enviable position of being a leading player in a developing market, with the ability to see if trends become long term in the western market, before applying them in places such as the UAE, Jordan etc. An interesting dynamic - how will a large player enter this Middle Eastern market? Takeover? Brand Power? Cash Power?

    Posted by at No comments :

    Qatar is the next Dubai

    As I mentioned, Dubai is topical. Link it in with something else and it'll get good coverage. Dubai has overshadowed what's been going on elsewhere, especially in Abu Dhabi. Qatar has probably fared worse. Its planning is a lot better than Dubai, from what I know, and yet has not got much media attention. Perhaps because there is no controversy factor. It would just need the Emir's there to try and take over NASA or something like that,and it would be on the map.

    Is Qatar the next Dubai - NYTIMES

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Saturday, June 03, 2006

    Ali Baba TV

    I'm not too sure regarding the legitimacy of this story, but I thought I would point your attention to it anyway:

    Wenzhou businessman buys Arab TV station

    A BUSINESSMAN from Wenzhou City in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, has purchased a United Arab Emirates state-owned television station. It is the first TV station in the Middle East to be owned by a Chinese, according to a Wenzhou newspaper report yesterday. The report did not say how much was paid for the station. The new owner, Wang Weisheng, who left Wenzhou for the UAE more than 10 years ago, has changed the TV station name to "Arab Alibaba Business Satellite TV," the report said. Wang will be the chairman of the board.

    I can't see how a state owned TV station out of DMC could be sold off, but this has come from official sources in China... What next? Bush taking over Etisalat?

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Is too much coverage a good thing?

    The New York Times are probably averaging an article a week these days covering Dubai, comparisons to Dubai and the like. While its coverage is welcome, I wonder what its local readers think of this. I like their articles - they are usually acurate, and objective. Their latest piece, Dubai, Where Too Much Is Never Enough, is a tourism piece on what is going on. It sounds a little familiar, but is warranted:

    Pity the cartographers and guidebook publishers striving to capture Dubai's juggernautlike sprawl. With every month bringing announcements of audacious new hotels and leisure concepts — a huge artificial coral reef studded with World War II planes and pounds of gold is being built for scuba divers — today's top draws can easily become tomorrow's fire sales. Dubai travel guides and maps, their shelf life shorter than eggs, can pretty much go straight from printing press to pulp plant.

    Dubai is pretty much cemented on the world stage.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Some predictions on the economy

    I like to guesstimate on what is the future. However, sometimes, I'm completely wrong!

    Here are some predictions:

    1. The UAE stock markets are close to their trough. They'll go down a little more, and then will stabilise with increased trading from long termers but not much more real gain.

    2. The Dirham V Pound will drop from about 6.88 to about 7.3 and then stabilise at about 7.0. It will take about 6 months to get to 7.3. With gloomy employment figures, the US is in trouble. It would hate for the GCC countries to rebase to a basket. And I don't think that will happen this year. If at all, something will happen early '07. Implementing a floating peg for the Dirham at this stage would be to destabilising.

    3. Dubai Property is the next area for correction. I think the value is about right, but some properties will go down about 5-10%, before stabilising. This won't be too much of a problem. The speculators won't speculate so much any more because of the increased supply coming to market.

    Let's see how long it will take for any of these three to prove me wrong. These predictions are all based on my general feel for what's going on, no analysis no nothing, but it's sometimes ballsy to do just that.

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    Abayas and appearances

    If you have ever talked about an Abaya to a local lady, they will talk about them, in the same way that Carrie Bradshaw obsesses over shoes.

    This article highlights that:

    "We here must wear abayas. So, much as (other) people like to show off their clothes, the only thing we can take pride in is our abayas," said Hana Mohsen, a 26-year-old Emirati broker picking a new outfit in a Dubai shopping mall.

    It doesn't talk aboutthe fact that they buy cheap abayas to wear at work because they keep getting caught in the wheels of the chair.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Sir Julian Bullard

    Those familiar with UK-UAE history will know this already, but Sir Julian Bullard passed away recently:

    As Political Agent in Dubai at the end of the Sixties, he had the difficult task of maintaining a semi-colonial relationship with the sheikhly rulers of what were then still the Trucial States, later to be the United Arab Emirates. The political atmosphere was fragile, following the humiliation of the Arabs in the 1967 war and the undignified British departure from Aden. The relationship was evidently obsolete and could only be sustained on the basis of personal friendship, operating almost entirely in Arabic, which Bullard had learnt mainly in his spare time at previous posts (which had included Vienna, Amman, Bonn and Moscow). This ancient and advantageous relationship was kept green by Bullard, only to be abruptly cut off by the Wilson government.

    The rest of his obituary at the Independant

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    New Etisalat Website

    Maybe I missed the launch, but etisalat have a new website, building on new logo. It looks a lot fresher than their previous offering. You can't deny that. And it is a lot easier to navigate. I did check if they had ammended their error that I pointed out previously. They had! Unfortunately, some other errors have crept in:

    Our aim is to open up opportnities

    There is a "u" in opportunities. Maybe that's the point...

    Either way, it looks a lot better, although someone with detailed HCI knowledge will probably have some issues with it. One thing though - the URL is bit long....

    Bring on the service that meets the vision.

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    On Outsourcing

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    Al Futtaim V Al Futtaim

    Familiar with Dubai? Then, if you haven't heard the name before, you would have been touched by their businesses. But the real reason for why the brothers are so prominent is due to their sibling rivalry.

    Often described as the 'pillars of Dubai', the Futtaim brothers, Abdullah and Majid, seem to own half of the emirate, as many here say in jest. But the real humor behind their story is that a quarrel between the two brothers over inherited wealth has actually led to Dubai's expansion.

    This piece gives a great overview of the benefits of competition. Perhaps they should be involved in telecoms?

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    Domino Growth

    This article, highlighted by John Chilton talks of how UAE Nationals don't feel part of their own country any more, and how a number of the locals don't really agree with the super growth of the country. And they are somewhat right. If you became a minority in your own country, it would feel wrong. And that's the balance that Dubai has not been able to meet. Essentially, Dubai is playing catch up on the world stage, to be a place for business, similarly to how it used to be a place for trading in years gone by. And to maintain a certain level for their citizens, the leadership has had to force the balance towards promoting growth, for a future vision. What will Dubai be like in 20 years time? Perhaps a mish mash of a city with all things to all people. But what was the alternative for Dubai? If Dubai did nothing, it would be relying on handouts from Abu Dhabi. As it is, the growth of Dubai has resulted in what I call "domino growth" for the region - starting from scratch to accelerate the process.

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    Arabic written backwards

    Canada is more racially integrated than most countries. So this gaffe is particularly surprising. The first bit of amusement is that the actual sign is to warn people that it is dangerous to drive when smoking pot/ganja/hash etc.

    But those who speak Arabic say both the sentence and words are written backwards. Unlike English, Arabic is written right to left. "I think no Arabic speaker would understand what it does mean. The first time, I thought it wasn't Arabic," said Nasreddine Ben Ali, who is originally from Tunisia. He said that once he had figured out how to read the sentence, he still wasn't sure of its meaning. Ali said the sentence translates to "Don't sacrifice your life." He guessed that it might have something to do with drinking and driving.

    I think the 'backward' meaning is probably a stronger message.

    Full story here.

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    Brand Protection

    Grapeshisha V OrangeSheesha

    I guess I will rely on this and this

    Grapeshisha - there is no substitute.

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