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  • Tuesday, December 26, 2006

    Resolution for 2007....

    ....run faster, get fit.


    Arab Running The Treadmill - video powered by Metacafe

    Eid Mubarak and a Happy (Gregorian) New Year.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Are you a "quality expat"?

    One aspect that hasn't changed in all these years is Dubai's fixation on 'quality expatriates' - a euphemism for White Europeans, or the rich and famous, or, in particular, the rich and famous White Europeans.

    Read more from the BBC as one Pakistani laments Dubai

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Thursday, December 21, 2006

    Pyjama Khaimah

    From the BBC:

    The Gulf emirate of Ras al-Khaimah has introduced a new dress code targeted in part at people wearing pyjamas to work. The head of the emirate's personnel department was quoted as saying that large numbers of civil servants were wearing sleeping clothes and pyjamas.

    Sounds like a great place to work. Great final line:

    It has recently launched a drive to catch up with the wealthier emirates Dubai and Abu Dhabi.


    I'm sorry, but if your staff are either sleepwalking to work, or arriving non showered straight from shuteye bed to shut eye job, the drive to catch up will be a long one...with a few zzzzs on the way.

    Pyjama ban for UAE civil servants

    Posted by at 5 comments :

    Buy house, get plane

    It used to be good gossip, getting a car as a perk when buying property in Dubai. No doubt, those who gossip will throw in the fact that it is a certainty. It's not, it's a promotion, but a pretty damn good one. I'm waiting for Nakheel to top this one, by throwing in an island. That will kick start the property market again....

    DSF: Damac offers plane, cars

    Posted by at 4 comments :

    Monday, December 18, 2006
    Sunday, December 17, 2006

    Dubai has done it right

    Remember when the race was on to be the finance centre of the Middle East. Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi were all in the picture. The only one that seems to be establishing some level of prominence is DIFC. Saudi will also be successful, but Dubai has done everything in its power to create the right environment, the right market, the right people to put itself in the lead when it comes to world class finance. Now, it's all about growing and keeping it world class.

    The recent Economist article summarises it quite well:

    Dubai has spent a fortune and done virtually everything within its power to establish an attractive market. In the end, though, successful financial centres cannot be created by government fiat. Success now depends on forces that are largely beyond its control.

    All that glisters... - The Economist

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    The end of the Ports saga?

    2006 put Dubai on the map because the US perceived that the UAE posed a security risk. There was some amusing commentary, some bordering on racist, when this simple was a business deal. With AIG having paid an undisclosed amount, let's close this sorry chapter and get on with business.

    Reuters: Dubai Ports to sell U.S. operations to AIG unit

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    Is it really the 'bestest' (sic)?

    Probably very true:

    A good portion of the news coming out of the Gulf was typed up by the government propaganda ministries. Almost every time I see (UAE) next to an article, I'm immediately skeptical as the article is usually a puff piece about some new, marvelous, "world's best," Guiness record breaking project going on in Dubai. It's basically an article that could easily be broadcast on Sama Dubai, the Dubai government's official Dubai promoting channel that broadcasts wonderful things about Dubai 24/7.


    Biased Media in the Middle East From Lebanese Political Journal

    Posted by at No comments :

    A kink in the armour?

    "Sorry, we have a small economy and 3 years is not enough time. If things work out well, we'll join you in the party of all parties. Best wishes. QABOOS "

    Oman ‘will not join Gulf monetary union in 2010’

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    The Skyscraper Curse

    The skyscraper curse is an unscientific correlation between tallest building projects and financial crises. History shows numerous examples of this.

    Be it in Kuala Lumpur in 1997, Chicago in 1974, New York in 1930 or the biblical Tower of Babel long ago, mankind's penchant for architectural overreach is a strangely reliable omen of troubles.

    It's an interesting theory, and while the announcement of all the "tall building" projects in Dubai was not a direct result of problems in the economy, it might have been part of the "ramp effect" that caused people to rush in to unchartered territories. The height is symbolic of the heights that leaders see to what can be achieved here in the UAE. However, skyscrapers are also good curtains shadowing those things underneath that might not be so successful. Whether you believe in the former or the latter, the skyscraper curse is one that always looms, especially for those that believe that the competition for the skies marks the beginning of the end of the world. For those that got stung by the Middle East stock market crash, the symbol of all these tall buildings is a constant reminder of when they thought their world had collapsed.

    The `Skyscraper Curse' Is Worth Watching in 2007: William Pesek

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Saturday, December 09, 2006

    Investment ignores religious conflict

    Islamic Investor buys Jewish Art Deco.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Petrodollar Peg

    A timely article from the Economist:

    America should worry more about fixed exchange rates in the Gulf than the gently rising Chinese yuan

    It might be best for the Gulf states as well as the world economy if they abandoned their dollar pegs and shifted to some sort of currency basket. A more flexible exchange-rate regime would allow them to regain control of their monetary policies and so cool down their overheating economies. By pegging their exchange rates to the dollar, they have had to adopt America's monetary policy, leaving real interest rates too low (often negative) for such fast-growing economies. Credit is growing too rapidly, inflation is rising and the prices of assets, especially property in places such as Dubai, have exploded.

    This, along with massive current account deficits usually, held in dollars, could be the downfall of the dollar as we know it:

    Counting only the Middle East oil exporters, the surplus has surged from $30 billion in 2002 to an estimated $280 billion this year. One reason why this gets much less attention than the smaller $160 billion increase in China is that only a fraction of it has gone into official reserves, which are publicly reported. Most of it is stashed in government oil-stabilisation or investment funds, such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which are much more secretive than the People's Bank of China—but which probably hold just as many dollar assets.

    The petrodollar peg

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    Give women a chance

    The long awaited Arab Human Development Report from the UN points out a number of big ticket items, with much of the focus on the inequality of women. Ask any Arab, and they have high esteem for women, and they are respected across the Middle East. But the fact remains, there is an inequality between men and women, and that is holding back Arabs in general.

    The latest report debunks the Arab conspiracy theory that promoting women's rights is part of a Western plot against Islam. On the contrary, the panelists point out, the advancement of women has long been an Arab goal — Egyptian women's rights organizations date back to 1881, for example. "The rise of Arab women," the report argues, "is in fact a prerequisite for an Arab renaissance and causally linked to the fate of the Arab world and its achievement of human development."

    The report then goes on to draw a devastating picture of the plight of Arab women — while thoughtfully examining the complex background to the issue, and offering some creative proposals for progress.


    This report is no doubt the first of many steps towards equality.

    What's Holding Back Arab Women?
    Arab nations urged to improve conditions, status for women
    Arab women 'are still being denied equal opportunities'
    UN Report: Low Position of Women Hinders Arab Societies

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Robot Jockeys in Effect



    A camel foams at the mouth as he is whipped by a robot jockey during a race at Nad al-Sheba on December 6, 2006 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This is the first season that robotic jockeys have been used to race camels in Dubai.

    The Camel Rights Watch are lobbying for a ban of camels, and robot camels will no doubt be on the race course within 3 years.

    From Foreign Policy

    Posted by at No comments :

    Friday, December 08, 2006

    The Pixel Graveyard

    Remember the Million Dollar Home Page by Alex Tew. And then, remember the hundreds of sites that copied the concept, some with success, but mostly big time failure. None in the UAE did very well. Here are two such examples. Well, now we Alex has started another venture, Pixelotto, which people have already started buying into. It probably veers on that haram/halal borderline that the scratch cards in the malls do, so expect some supposed UAE entrepreneur will copy the concept and send more pixels to the pixel graveyard.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    Forbes 400

    Who made it from the UAE?

    Burj Al Arab And JBH.

    Methinks, noone has visited the UAE this year.

    The Forbes 400

    Posted by at No comments :

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    Building Towers, Cheating Workers

    Hat tip to Local Expat for spotting this report. Part of the finding were released earlier, but the report is the detail behind what goes on, all in the public domain, and with a significant level of punch. Although things are supposedly on the up, there is no doubt that the situation is less than ideal. And this is probably not the best way to end 2006. There are recommendations to the UAE, the country where this is all takes place, to the countries that supply the workers, and to countries that are negotiating FTAs with the UAE to stipulate that this situation must be addressed before any agreement is ratified.

    Here are the top line recommendations:

    To the Government of the United Arab Emirates
    1. Establish an independent commission to investigate and publicly report on the situation of migrant workers in the country.
    2. Prohibit companies from doing business with recruitment agencies, in the UAE and abroad, that charge workers fees for travel, visas, employment contracts, or anything else. Prosecute and implement significant penalties for employers and recruiting agencies that violate the law.
    3. Aggressively investigate and prosecute employers who violate other provisions of the UAE labor law. Impose meaningful and consequential penalties on companies that violate workers’ rights, to put an end to the present atmosphere of impunity.
    4. Provide quantitative and qualitative data on labor disputes, deaths and injuries at construction sites, and government actions to address these issues.
    5. Increase substantially the number of inspectors responsible for overseeing the private sector’s treatment of migrant construction workers. Ensure that they carry out their duties to inspect construction sites to verify that they are safe and meet the requirements of law.
    6. Take immediate action to inform and educate migrant construction workers arriving for employment in the UAE of their rights under UAE law.
    7. Abide by the obligation under the UAE labor law of 1980 to implement a minimum wage.
    8. Allow for the establishment of genuine and independent human rights and workers’ rights organizations.
    9. Ratify the International Labour Organization’s Conventions No. 87 and No. 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining, and amend UAE labor law to incorporate the conventions’ protections.
    10. Ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 155 on occupational safety and health.
    11. Ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

    To the Governments of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka
    1. Enhance labor departments of your embassies and consulates in the UAE to assist migrant construction workers from your country whose rights are violated by their employers.
    2. Raise formally with your counterparts in the UAE the importance of the UAE government’s establishing an independent commission to investigate and report on labor-related abuses of migrant construction workers.
    3. Urge the UAE’s Ministry of Labor to fully implement its labor laws and to hold violators fully accountable under its laws.
    4. Request immediate and full disclosure of causes of death when your country’s citizens suffer fatal injuries, and regular reports of all workplace injuries suffered by your citizens.

    To the Governments of the United States, the European Union, and Australia
    1. Condition the ratification of free trade agreements with the government of the UAE on improved protection for workers’ rights. In particular, insist that prior to adoption of the accords, the UAE reform its labor laws to bring them into compliance with international workers’ rights standards, including by explicitly and fully protecting workers’ right to organize, bargain collectively, and strike. Further require that, before ratification of the agreements, the UAE also take the steps necessary to effectively enforce its labor laws, including by adopting a minimum wage provision and following the other recommendations for improved enforcement set forth above.
    2. Include in free trade agreements with the government of the UAE strong, binding, and enforceable workers’ rights provisions that require that parties’ labor laws conform with international standards and that the parties effectively enforce those labor laws.


    I have no doubt that things are being done, in the background, especially since the initial data gathering happened in q1 2006. However, the response to Hadi Ghaemi's letter paints a picture that there is not really a problem. The response seems only to qualify the concept of "migrant workers", and that is not applicable to the UAE "temporary workers", thus negating any issues, if there were any. The tone of that letter, sent on behalf of HE Ali Al Kaabi, worries me. (See Appendix 1 and 2)

    Never assume anything is fact. Read the report. Get the view of the media. See if you can see the situation firsthand. Then, take away the spin, the gloss, and whatever else that has been thrown in and make your own informed opinion. And then remember, that this is all about people's lives.

    Building Towers, Cheating Workers - Human Rights Watch

    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Cat and Mouse on the Web

    Although somewhat less pertinent to current UAE censorship, with some recent relaxation by the TRA and Etisalat, the Economist covers the game between those fighting for free speech worldwide and those who don't want it. It truly is a game of cat and mouse. As we have seen, the mouse sometimes runs free, but, on occasion, gets trapped:

    The anti-censorship community is developing new ways to evade censors in response. For example, when China blocks a proxy (Anonymouse.org's fate in that country), internet users can find a replacement by consulting a growing number of websites that compile and post lists of working proxies. E-mailed newsletters that provide links to proxy servers are also available. Some anti-censorship organisations spread the word via instant-messaging services: people looking for a proxy simply send an instant message to one of these groups and immediately receive an automated reply with a recently updated list of proxies.

    With Iran's recent clampdown on "unholy sites", this is highly topical.

    Cat and mouse, on the web

    Posted by at No comments :

    An interview with Prince Alwaleed

    This month's Mckinsey Quarterly (online) has an interview with His Highness. As one of the most influential in the region, it is a must read. Here is a relevant question:

    The Quarterly: Are you worried that some of your neighbors in the Gulf are moving ahead more quickly?

    Alwaleed: Saudi Arabia is the anchor of the region, just as Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom matter economically much more than Slovakia, Poland, or Greece in Europe. I don’t agree that we will be left behind, but we have to take lessons from what is happening now in, say, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It is quite possible to be politically conservative and at the same time to encourage reform. In Saudi Arabia we have to unlink political conservatism from economic liberalism. There are still some hiccups in this respect.


    Read the full interview, and sign up if you don't have access!

    Posted by at No comments :

    Arabic RSS

    Interested in an RSS reader, that is Arabic based?
    Use Snarfer - it's linked in to bloglines - which I think is a first. Would be interested in any Arabic readers' views on this. Contact me in the usual way or leave a comment.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Russia Rebuilding

    $11bn dollars, a company called Limitless, and a new project called the Great Domodedovo. It all has hallmark of a Dubai project, but with a name like Domedovo, you know it is probably going to be in not the Russians in Dubai, but the Dubaians in Russia.

    Dubai developer to construct Russia city
    Limitless unveils maiden foray into Russian market

    Lessons in how to manage corruption? Word of advice, beware of the poison in your sushi....

    Posted by at No comments :

    Sunday, December 03, 2006

    Crescent-shape tattoo?

    That's what the psychos want Muslims to wear.

    In U.S., fear and distrust of Muslims runs deep

    Posted by at No comments :

    Kop Dubai

    It sees a certainty:
    Liverpool in Dubai buyout?
    Anfield in £450m Dubai buyout

    but someone else has different ideas...
    Harlem Globetrotters founder on verge of £450M Liverpool deal

    Posted by at No comments :

    Heli Taxi

    The future in Dubai.

    Get to work by helicopter. Well, kinda.

    Posted by at No comments :

    Property Pessimists

    From the Sunday Times:

    every time you hear the “exciting new tourist destination” argument you can be sure there is an opportunistic building bubble on. Take Dubai. The city has become nothing but a huge building site. Hundreds of residential super towers are being built and it is estimated that over 50,000 properties will be completed next year and another 60,000 the year after.

    If the population grows at 7%, says the Egyptian investment bank Prime Group, that means there will be 33,000 spare units in 2008. To fill those up with tourists, at least 1.7m people will have to take one-week holidays to Dubai. Is it really that nice? I doubt it. Analysts at Standard Chartered say they expect Dubai property prices to fall 20%-30% in the next two or three years.


    Expect some fall out. Not sure I go with all the just the basic arguments. I conversed with a leading guru, last year, and his view on what was going on in Dubai was along the lines of "it's not normal". "Don't quote me on it, but what is going on in the Middle East is a very different market dynamic than what we are used to. It will stabiilise in a different way". What you can say is this - perhaps it is a little bi of a bubble, but dropping the price a little will give some stability. However, it is all about future demand, not really on what has gone on before. And that is where the market forces come into play.

    Posted by at 1 comment :

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