Sunday, July 31, 2005

Shift in world opinion towards U.S. :: Instapundit

Instapundit notes the pro-democracy demonstration in Bahrain and then gives a roundup on the shifting regional opinion towards the U.S. including differences by age and gender.


Dubai's first street for pedestrians to open soon :: GN
DM plans new roads, 7 pedestrian bridges :: KT

Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen appears to have put his finger on something Dubai had noted was lacking.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

"Dubai Police has revealed that 336,700 high-speed violations have been recorded by radars in the first half of this year. The speeding offences netted an income of more than dhs67 million." (7DAYS)

If that seems like a lot, you have not witnessed driving in the Emirates. I wonder if by "income" they mean the total fines or the amount actually collected; specifically, I wonder if some are able to have their fines waived.
Blogging the democratic revolution :: Publius Pundit: "While Bahrain may not yet be known for its liberal civil society, it isn’t exactly known for its religious extremism either. Backtracking the current reforms will mostly stifle the former while stoking the latter."


What is government anyway? A parable from Singapore :: Marginal Revolution

Last week Tyler Cowen was in Dubai where he wrote on Dubai as a shareholder state.

This week he's in Singapore which has him asking:

When we do public choice theory, is it really the government we are criticizing? Or is our true target something like "excessively large land parcels," regardless of their historical origin?

Friday, July 29, 2005

ME HR Summit in Dubai this September :: GN: "Scheduled to be held in Dubai from September 18 to 21, the human resources summit, hosted by Institute for International Research (IIR), will highlight nationalisation issues such as governmental influence, professional training and private sector awareness. The aim of this event is to share best practices, encourage lively debate and review examples of workplace issues translating these principles to the nationalisation initiative. . . . The summit will be held under the patronage of Tanmia, the central body in charge of managing the emiratisation process in the UAE."

IIR ME HR Summit 2005


Dubai's hottest day of the year :: GN: "Yesterday's maximum still fell well short of Dubai's all-time record hottest temperature of 47.5C."

The temperature reached 44.7C. That's 112F.
Emirati's Night Out :: bu3askoor: "Not being able to do all of that without speaking English: Priceless! I think our language is dying, ironically, I am writing this blog in English .. hmmm"
Not in the name of Islam

Check it out. (Via bu3askoor.)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Qatar strips 15,000 Qataris of citizenship :: Aljazeera


Saudi press reports linked the removal of citizenship to the loyalty of members of the Ghufran clan - a branch of the Al-Murra tribe - to Qatar's deposed emir Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani. He was toppled by his son and present ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, in a June 1995 palace coup.
However, Gulf Times says:

Qatari authorities have started to settle the issue of about 5,000 people stripped of their citizenship for having defied a ban on dual nationality.Members of the Al-Murra tribe have been most hit by the measure in recent years, claiming as many as 6,000 people who held both Saudi and Qatari citizenship were affected.“About one-third of them have regularised their situation, either by keeping Qatari nationality or by keeping their nationality of origin,” said Khalid al-Attiyah, chairman of the state National Human Rights Committee, which was created by the government in 2003.

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Female taxi drivers :: GN


"When it started people on the road saw it as something unusual,” says Ammar Bin Tamim, Dubai Transport Corporation’s Director of Administration. “At first we were afraid to have women driving at night.”

But five years on DTC’s women cabbies have clocked up substantial cultural adjustment. From the launch team of seven, who all pulled up at 10pm, the service has grown to 30 drivers and a full 24-7 coverage.
. . .
“A lot of customers take pictures of us,” says Amira. “One woman sent a photograph of me back to her husband, who thought women had a restricted life here. She said it would show him that Dubai is a modern place.”


Acute water shortage in Madinah :: Arab News

I wonder how much worse things would be if there wasn't a black market.

The shortage is a repeat of the problem that faces Madinah and many other cities in the Kingdom during summer.

The problem peaked two days ago when the temperatures reached more than 50 degrees Celsius. Residents who were not connected to the water mains had to turn to the blackmarket and suffer the sharp increase in prices.

The hardest hit area was that of Al-Iskan — where more than 10,000 people live — Al-Harra Al-Gharbiya and Al-Harra Al-Sharqiya neighborhoods and the central area where there is a high concentration of Umrah visitors.
. . .
Officials at the water authority in Madinah said the official price of a water tanker has not increased and that they are not responsible for the blackmarketeering. They attribute the water crises to a problem in the distribution network.
Let's put the facts together: The problem recurs every summer. It peaked when temperatures went above 50 degree Celsius. Conclusion: this points a problem of quanity supplied not meeting quantity demanded at current prices, not with an inability to distribute an adequate quantity. The water authority has put itself in the position of sole provider, and it is proving unable to fulfill its obligation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

UAE national women want equality before the law :: GN
Say they, too, should be able to marry nonnationals

The proposal aimed at extending the waiting period for foreign women to apply for UAE citizenship after marrying UAE nationals should not be applied to Arab women, UAE and Gulf national women said yesterday.

Latifa Khadem, a UAE national who is a psychologist, said the law should only be applied to "women who are alien to our culture. There are women with completely different religious or cultural backgrounds. Ten years could limit those marriages," she said. Latifa said the law would encourage UAE national men to marry UAE national women. She said equality before the law would also encourage more marriages. "Women and men should be equal in such matters. Women should be able to marry foreigners as men do," she said.
. . .
Taghrid Al Mughasib, a national and protocol manager at a hotel, said . . . more financial benefits for UAE men marrying their national counterparts would encourage more marriages. Equality before the law, was also important. "I'm not saying a woman should marry her driver or the gardener but there are many suitable men out there. That is better than not marrying at all or doing something that's not acceptable."
Emphasis added.
Syrian ex-pat beats wife to death for defying 'orders' :: GN

"I just wanted to discipline her after she disobeyed my orders. She died while I was hitting her for daring to look out of the balcony," he is said to have told interrogators. "I used to beat my wives but I never thought that beating would kill any of them. It was just my way of disciplining them," he said.
His first wife told police she had tried hard to stop him but he had beaten her and pushed her away.
The article ends with a summary of a study of domestic violence amongst UAE residents. Domestic violence exists across the world, in all cultures. It is significant that it is receiving open discussion in the UAE.
Journalists found guilty of defaming education ministry officials :: GN

But were they merely criticizing the performance of the department? How can a ministry be held accountable to the public it serves if the press cannot bring issues to light?
Signs of strain in implementation of new labor fees :: KT
Fees regarding demographic balance of companies


Khaleej Times spoke to a cross-section of office managers, and they were unanimous in saying that there was a huge drop in the number of expatriates seeking issuance or renewal of labour cards or even new employment visas.

"We have witnessed a drop of almost 70 per cent in client numbers in the past two days," a manager of a typing office said, adding that people refrain from conducting any of the said transactions when they discover that it could cost them around Dh2,500 against the Dh500 they used to pay earlier. "Some of them even say that they will quit their jobs," he added. A manager of another office said: "We are sitting idle here with most of our clients refraining from conducting any of the transactions." A third one said: "Due to the fee hike, the country will end up with that many people staying illegally or without valid work permit."

Mahir Hamed Ali Al Aoobed, Director of RAK Labour Department (RLD), said the fee had been increased as a means to punish errant companies, which don't maintain cultural and nationality balance among its employees. "It is one of the tools the ministry put into effect to strike a demographic balance," he said.

Emphasis added.

I note that officially these fees are levied on the firms, not the workers. Students of economics know that it doesn't matter who a tax is levied on; that result does not change even when the firm simply tells the worker he or she is responsible for paying the fee. When the firm transfers responsibility, the analysis proceeds as if the fee was officially levied on the worker.

Tragedy of the Airport: Why you get stuck for hours at O'Hare :: Slate

Great article for the economics.

Bottomline: If it was the tragedy of the commons that was the major cause of overscheduling, then we should see less of a problem at airports with a dominant carrier. But we don't; examination of the data says the opposite. Why? The hub and spoke business model of major airlines leads to domination of airports by one carrier or another; and in hub and spoke you want flights bunched so passengers are attracted by short layovers.
Draft Iraqi Constitution :: Iraq the Model

Iraq the Model has a link to the full Arabic version, and provides his English translation of some portions with comment. (via Instapundit)
Citizenship... the dangling carrot... ::

A new UAE blog covers two stories on gaining UAE citizenship here and here.
Bomber duo lived on UK welfare :: Herald Sun

Give us asylum; give us welfare benefits. But don't expect us to love or respect you. Quoting:
The two bombers were identified as Yasin Hassan Omar, 24, from the war-torn Horn of Africa nation of Somalia; and Muktar Said Ibrahim, 27, thought to be from the troubled northeast African nation of Eritrea.

As polls show growing public concern about Britain's Muslim community, the fact that Omar has been paid almost $60,000 [Australian] in state benefits over six years is likely to cause more outrage. He appears to have been living free in the one-bedroom flat in the northern suburb of Southgate after receiving political asylum.

The bombs were believed to have been assembled there.
. . .
The news is likely to provoke calls for a thorough investigation into Britain's generous political asylum policies. It is likely all bombers in the second attacks were admitted to Britain as asylum-seekers. The killers in the July 7 attacks were either of British or British-Pakistani origin and British citizens. Intelligence sources said yesterday it was likely all the second bombers had connections with Somalia or northeast Africa.
. . .
Police remain puzzled as to why nobody has come forward with information on the four suspects whose pictures have now been all over the media since last Friday. They believe the four certainly have gone to ground and are being protected, which means the cell may be well organised and extensive.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Study suggests ethanol, bio-diesel not worth energy used to produce them :: Council Bluffs Daily

The conclusions of the study are hotly contested; no surprise there. Who's correct? I don't know. But it does seem like a straightforward question that could be resolved if all sides were willing to swap data and do more than the current low level of criticism (little more than bluster) of each other's analysis.

I do know that ethanol is the big winner in the energy bill. Washington seems to have convinced itself that although ethanol may need subsidies to be viable, ethanol uses less energy than it produces. Even if this is so, who does it make the U.S. more energy independent? Before you answer, explain what energy independence is and show me the logical consequences, say, for U.S. foreign policy.
Constitution draft worries Iraqi women :: Boston Globe

A chapter of Iraq's draft constitution gives Islam a major role in Iraqi civil law, raising concerns that women could lose rights in marriage, divorce, and inheritance. The proposal, obtained by the Associated Press yesterday, also appears to rule out nongovernmental militias. . . .

The civil law section, one of six to make up Iraq's charter, covers the rights and duties of citizens and public and private freedoms. The language in the chapter is not final, but members of the charter drafting committee said there was agreement on most of its wording.
. . .
Most worrying for women's groups has been the section on civil rights, which some feel would significantly roll back women's rights under a 1959 civil law enacted by a secular regime.
In the copy obtained by AP, Article 19 of the second chapter says ''the followers of any religion or sect are free to choose their civil status according to their religious or sectarian beliefs."
Shi'ite Muslim leaders have pushed for a stronger role for Islam in civil law, but women's groups argue that could base legal interpretations on stricter religious lines that are less favorable toward women. Under Islamic law, a woman gets half of what a man would get when it comes to inheritance. Men also have the power when it comes to initiating divorces.

Committee members said yesterday that they had taken account of women's concerns, but said they were not planning to make changes since the National Assembly will have final say on the wording. Committee member Khudayer al-Khuzai said Muslims would be free to choose which Islamic sect they want to be judged under in the proposed civil law. ''We will not force anyone to adopt any sect at all. People are free to choose the sect they see as better or more legitimate. This is implemented in marriage, inheritance, and all civil rights," he said.

Not all Shi'ite laws are disadvantageous for women. Many Sunni Muslims who have only daughters prefer to follow Shi'ite religious law when it comes to inheritance since daughters inherit everything their parents leave; under Sunni rules, daughters have to share their inheritance with other relatives.
What happens when, for example, the husband chooses one set of rules and the wife another?


Dirham caught in the peg :: Khaleej Times


China's decision to revalue yuan is expected to help the US reduce its trade and fiscal deficits, but it will have serious consequences for countries including the UAE, which have currencies directly pegged to the dollar. The immediate impact of relative devaluation of dollar-pegged currencies will be a steady jump in import costs and cost-push inflation.
. . .
The US dollar's decline is one of the reasons why dollar denominated oil prices look so high, in other words, a significant portion of the oil windfall is being wiped out as the currency in which it has been priced is on a free fall. As oil is priced in dollars, with every depreciation in dollar value oil prices tend to rise.

Broad-based solution: Economists say that a broad-based solution could be revaluation of dirham against dollar. In the context of the revaluation of yuan and the depreciation of dollar against all major currencies around the world, the move towards revaluation of dirham is expected to gain momentum. Some economists even argue in favour of floating peg against a basket of currencies or even a full float of dirham.

Although a revaluation of the currency looks possible, economists and forex experts believe that abandoning of the peg or a free float at this stage can be more harmful to the country's interests. "The dollar peg has worked perfectly for the country. In addition, one should not forget that the country's main export item (oil) is priced in dollar and huge overseas assets of UAE investors and government are dollar denominated.''

Who are these "some economists" we're always hearing quoted? From what I read above it looks like the economists have all the alternatives covered. Some of them will be right.

I'm not pretending to be an international finance economist, but what I've been reading elsewhere suggests that the Chinese have come up with a clever way of saying they've revaluated (to satisfy cranky U.S. politicians) without really doing so.

UPDATE 7/27: Gulf News has more and names several economists interviewed.
Govt schools will teach math and science in English :: Khaleej Times
Humanities and sports also to receive a boost

Maths and Science subjects will be taught in English from grade 10 onwards in government schools from the new academic year. The move is to help students adjust to the curriculum easily when they join higher institutions.

Shaikha Shamsi, Assistant Under-Secretary for Educational Programme at the Ministry of Education said that subsequently, these subjects would be introduced in English in more classes.

She said that beginning this year, the ministry has also decided to teach music, sports and arts to students. 'These subjects were not given the desired attention in the previous years and so they remained neglected in schools,' the official said.

My opinion: These are moves in the right direction. Implementation will not be trivial and will require time, patience and commitment; goals should be set that are achievable.


Studies in UK take a hit ::KT
A wave of anxiety and indecisiveness sweeps through UAE's Arab and Asian Muslim community seeking to send their children to universities and colleges in the UK, following the London bombings early this month. A cross section of Asian Muslim expatriate families have expressed apprehensions about their childrens' security, stating they had changed their mind and were now seeking admission for their children in universities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other countries. . . . Asked whether the number of applications had dwindled and if there was now a lengthier judging process for students’ applications, she [Vicky Lee-Gorton, Second Secretary Political/Press and Public Affairs, British Embassy in Dubai] said: "The number of applications for visas is currently lower than we would expect at this time of the year. There was a significant drop in the immediate aftermath of the July 7 terrorist attacks, but numbers are slowly increasing. We continue to offer a same day service for all straightforward visa applications, including student applications."
The article does not say, but I presume applications are up at universities in the UAE which compete with US and UK schools for students from the Gulf.
Tameer to invest Dh30b in UAQ :: GN: "Sharjah-based Tameer Holding yesterday announced a Dh30 billion residential city in Umm Al Quwain designed to accommodate half a million people. Al Salam City located alongside the Emirates Road is Tameer's largest project covering 220 million square feet."
Taxis refuse to take passengers at peak times :: Gulf News

The price of congestion:

"Just recently, I stopped over five taxis in Al Ghusais. When I mentioned the word Sharjah, the driver slammed the door shut and left. Some offered to drop me as far as the border of Dubai-Sharjah, by Al Mulla Plaza, but no further."

R. Joby, who lives in Dubai, said: "Most of the taxi drivers in Dubai are reluctant to take passengers to the busy areas. Recently, we waited in vain for over two hours for a cab. Later, we went home on a bus."

"When I inquired with a driver why it was difficult to get a taxi, he said he preferred to drive on roads, which would fetch him more money and where there are fewer traffic jams."
In a city that is "unwalkable".


First blog to be banned in Dubai? :: Global Voices Online

A commenter at GVO addresses that question.
How people respond to terrorist attacks :: The Acorn

The Acorn points to an article in The Economist covering a study by Gary Becker and Yona Rubinstein. Go check out The Acorn and the links provided.
The Failed States Index :: FP

The story is available without registration, and so is The Failed States Index Map.
Toyota plans ways to make hybrid models stand out :: USA Today: "Toyota is planning more prominent emblems on its gas-electric hybrid SUVs in a new belief that owners want others to know of their environmental consciousness."

Related: It's a Hemi.
Egypt resort workers protest against bomb attacks :: Reuters


"The feeling is very sad and very angry. We are not going to be scared by the bombers," said Sherif Saba, an Egyptian investor in the diving and beach resort.

Protesters marched into the night, waving Egyptian flags and holding aloft signs in Arabic, English, Spanish, Italian and Russian.

"We will not be terrorised," read one banner. Hotel chefs marched with "Stop terrorism" written on their hats. Dive schools employees had the same slogan printed on their T-shirts.

The protesters said funeral prayers for the dead at the car park where one of the bombs exploded. Several placed flowers on a car splattered with blood of the victims, who were mostly Egyptian.

"People are against those who did this. They have no religion and not from us, neither as bedouin or Egyptians. It's a cowardly act," said Saleh Mohamed, a south Sinai bedouin wearing flowing robes and a lilac headscarf.
Via Gateway Pundit who provides further links and photos.


Bombers may have bonded on rafting trip :: Yorkshire Post
Technique common amongst corporate management teams

Investigating the new links, police know that Yorkshire suicide bombers Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, part of the July 7 terrorist cell, took part in a two-hour whitewater rafting trip in Wales on June 4.

Now it has emerged a second group of Asian men enjoyed the facilities at Canolfan Tryweryn, the National Whitewater Centre, in Bala, North Wales, on the same day. Police have discovered some people among the second group were named on electoral rolls at suspect addresses, including some raided after last Thursday's attack.

The wilderness of the area would have provided a perfect meeting place for leaders of the two terror cells to make final preparations on the timing of attacks and police are understood to be keen to find out where they stayed during the visit.

It is believed the original cell comprised Khan -- shown in pictures of the trip raising a two-fingered peace sign -- together with Tanweer and two men from the July 21 attack. They then split up to form their own terror gangs from their own areas.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Saudi police free Sri Lankan maid from virtual prison :: Arab News


A Sri Lankan housemaid who essentially had been imprisoned and unpaid by her sponsor for the last six years will be heading home soon thanks to the detective work of Saudi police.
. . .
Shanthi Menike had no complaints of ill-treatment; however, she said her sponsor once tried to assault her when she tried to flee the house. “I had enough food to eat, and there was no harassment whatsoever. But the workload was heavy since there were 10 children in the family,” she said.

Throughout the six-year period, the sponsor paid her only SR4,000 in cash and purchased her gifts worth SR3,000, which she wants to retain. After deducting these payments, she said her sponsor is in arrears to her in the amount of SR22,000. . . . After police mediation, the sponsor has agreed to pay SR9,000 within a week. The balance SR13,000 is to be paid within three months from the date of the maid’s repatriation to Colombo.
. . .
More than 70 percent of the 350,000 Sri Lankan workers in the Kingdom are housemaids.
1US$ = 3.7573 SR.

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UAE plan to tighten citizenship laws for foreign women :: GN

Foreign women married to UAE nationals may have to wait 10 years before applying for citizenship, if new changes to residency laws are approved, a senior official said.
Brigadier Saeed Bin Bleilah, Director of Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD), was speaking yesterday after opening a new DNRD branch in Abu Hail.

Bin Bleilah confirmed there was a proposal to tighten citizenship laws for foreign women. At present they can apply for citizenship after three years of marriage.

The proposal suggests foreign women should wait for 10 years. Bin Belailah said the current law was being "abused" by women "who want to obtain UAE citizenship." He said a 10-year wait would put off potential cheats. He would not say how many foreign women had married national men, or how many he thought had exploited the law to settle in the UAE.

Women from other GCC countries would probably be exempt from the 10-year wait, he said.

Bin Bleilah said if the proposal went ahead, it would encourage UAE national men to marry UAE national women. "We have a spinsterhood problem in the UAE," he said.


Islamist website warns U.A.E. to expel non-Muslims :: Bloomberg


An Islamist Web site warned the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East's fourth-largest oil producer, to expel non Muslims and Westerners, including the U.S. ambassador and other U.S. citizens, within 10 days or risk attack.

``If you refuse to do this, we ask God to settle the matter or we will settle it with our own hands,'' said the posting July 19 by an unidentified individual on al-Sakifah Web site, which also carries statements attributed to al-Qaeda in Iraq.
. . .
The posting also called for the removal of the U.S. ambassador to the Emirates. [The U.S. embassy spokesperson] said the posting could be a repeat of a note the Embassy picked up on a site in April. . . .

Al-Sakifah is an Islamist forum where groups, including al- Qaeda, and individuals post statements. Sites including al-Qalaa and Alezah are monitored by the media and security services for warnings of attacks. The authenticity of statements posted on these Web sites cannot be verified.
We are not afraid.

MORE: Threats to UAE are baseless says official :: GN

UPDATE: A commenter here writes "if you translate the islamic calendar date on the actual statement, rather than the date the statement was (re)posted on the website, you will find the threat was made 18 or 19 march."
Saudi job market :: Arab News

Wage demands:
one particular applicant — who only has a high school degree — was told that he would get a SR2,000 salary and refused to take the job, saying that he would not settle for anything less than SR4,500, an attitude found in many of the Saudi applicants.
Regulation by quota, not minimum wage
Al-Zamil also said the ministry has no intention to set a minimum wage for salaries, saying that Saudi Arabia has an open market, which is competitive and relies on experience.

The deputy minister said the ministry was seeking to provide more job opportunities for Saudis in the Saudi market by implementing the legislation passed by the Council of Ministers. According to the new legislation, any institution with less than 10 employees must employ one Saudi.

Industrial or business companies with work forces of 20 employees or more must have 30 percent staffing by Saudis, or 10 percent for maintenance or contracting companies.

“Most of the institutions we have here have fewer than 20 employees, and more jobs will be provided to Saudis through this new legislation,” he said.

Al-Zamil said that the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior have agreed that all work-permits given to foreigners were valid for one year only, not two.
Imaginary jobs to satisfy quota:

Regarding “imaginary jobs” where some companies agree with some Saudis who do not work there that they be paid a sum of money to file their names to the Labor Office to achieve Saudization quotas, he said there was a special department in the ministry to handle such scam cases.

“The Ministry of Labor will very soon implement a new law where those who apply for a work permit and submit the names of their Saudi employees must first register them with the Social Insurance,” he said.

This measure, he said, would guarantee that the names provided are Saudis who actually work in the institutions and receive monthly salaries.

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Arab News has several telling stories today:

Man Faints on Finding Cell Phone Missing

Father Beats Up Daughter for Sending SMS to TV Channel

Saudi Woman Celebrates Divorce

Virtue Commission not to have female members. Quoting:
The emphatic denial came in response to enquiries about a report carried by Al-Riyadh Arabic newspaper recently. . . .

The article stated that the study would determine the possibility of establishing the unit based on Shariah regulations for women to be members and to conduct their duties.

The study would also define the female members’ role in participating with the men when entering places to follow up on complaints or tips — such as women tailor shops, shopping centers, amusement parks and wedding halls.

Officials at the commission headquarters in Riyadh refused to answer questions on whether it is conducting this study and whether they do have women working for them now and if not, why not. However, a commission member who did not wish to be named said, “The commission never has and never will employ women in an official capacity. The women you sometimes see accompanying the commission’s men in their jeep are their wives or sisters volunteering to act as advisers to other women in public places.”

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Saudis Cancel Trip to Resort :: Arab News


Fahd, a tour manager at Zahid Travel, told Arab News that he had spent a good part of the day canceling reservation as call after call came in from worried travelers wishing to either postpone or entirely cancel their vacation plans there.

“In my estimate, every single Sharm El-Sheikh holiday I have booked for this week has been canceled. My phone has been ringing constantly, not only with cancellations, but with calls from Saudis in Sharm El-Sheikh who are trying to return home,” he said.

According to Fahd, the limited flights out of Sharm El-Sheikh have been booked solid.

“Many travelers are being routed through Cairo, but there still remains the problem that there are insufficient number flights out of Sharm El-Sheikh to Cairo, or anywhere else for that matter. At the moment, unless special additional flights are added by the airlines, the earliest I can get anyone out of there is next Wednesday,” he said.

Al-Amin Mahmoud, who was supposed to travel to Sharm El-Sheikh next week, said that his mother forced him to cancel his plans.

“I planned for this trip for many months. I bought a good package from a travel agency and I was supposed to stay there for 5 days starting next week. After everything was in place and I was getting set to go in a few days, I received a phone call at 2:30 am this morning from my mother to tell me about the explosion. I tried to calm her down but she kept on asking me to promise that I would not go.

“Despite my promises to her, she arrived in Jeddah from Madinah in the afternoon and took my passport away from me. What can I say, my plans have been ruined. So I guess I will spend my vacation in the Kingdom this year.”

Habib A., who also had Sharm El-Sheikh travel plans scheduled for August said he changed his mind and would head to Dubai instead. He told Arab News: “Dubai is very hot in the summer. I wanted to go to Sharm because of the nice weather, but because of the explosion, I probably won’t go anywhere near Egypt for the next two years. When I saw how big the explosion was, I became terrified and I kept thinking, what if I was there. I heard about the innocent victims that were killed in the explosion. I could not stop asking myself what if I was one of them, how would my family feel? I am telling you this is terrible.”


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Government set to shake up labour laws :: 7Days

A clear account of the government's plan. I cannot resist quoting in full:

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has unveiled new plans to reward companies who stick to the labour laws. Those that follow the law to the letter will no longer be required to pay a bank guarantee for each worker, while those that break it will ultimately be blacklisted.

Ahmad Kajoor, Assistant Under Secretary for Planning and Work Force Affairs, said companies will be divided into four categories. Category A will be made up of companies that are committed to Emiratisation and have a workforce made up of no more than 70 per cent of the same nationality. These companies will not have to pay a bank guarantee for workers.

Companies in category B will meet rules on a multi-national workforce, but will fall short of Emiratisation targets. They will pay dhs3,000 per worker for the first 500, and dhs1,000 for each worker after that, up to a maximum of dhs3million.

If these companies meet the Emiratisation target of two per cent they will be promoted to category A. Category C companies will flout both the multinational law and Emiratisation rules.

They will pay dhs3,000 per worker, up to a maximum of dhs3million. Companies in category B and C will be given three years to meet the labour laws or face closure.

Companies in category D will be those that repeatedly flout laws, and will be dropped from the ministry’s registration list, meaning they can’t process things like visas. The ministry has also given companies until August 23 to renew their registration with the ministry or face fines of dhs5,000.

Those found to be employing workers sponsored by a different company will be fined dhs10,000. Though laws on the makeup of the workforce have existed for some time, the government’s attempts to enforce them have been limited.


Gulf News editor's letter to the Minister of Labour

Interesting, rather ascerbic. I'm not sure what to make of it, or the politics behind it, if any. Read it. Covers Emiratization, the Marriage Fund, and public servants with commercial licenses.

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Extremists' war on Iraqi women :: openDemocracy


Violent oppression of women is spreading across Iraq, a weapon of mass mental and physical destruction. And yet there is silence from world leaders, religious leaders, politicians and the media.

Insurgents and religious extremists use rape, acid and assassination to force Iraqi women to wear the veil – the symbol of submission, first signal of further repression to come. Many Iraqi women have never worn the scarf. Now, dead bodies of girls and women are found in rivers and on waste ground with a veil tied around the head, as a message.

As well as unveiled women, key targets are those who wear make-up, who are well educated and in the professions, and who work with organisations connected with the coalition forces.

Political Islamists target universities in particular.
Read the whole thing. Stop the silence.

(via Thinking-Out-Aloud at 9:17m July 19, 2005)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Changing Incentives :: Capital Freedom

Ms. Freedom a nice discussion lead by this question: "Can we change the system of incentives so that it is compatible with a truly limited government?" This is mostly likely a problem faced by democratically elected government, but it can also be found in other forms of government if the government uses handouts rather than force to remain in power.
Welcome Marginal Revolution readers. I hope you will explore my blog a bit, and also take time to look at some of the other UAE blogs listed in this guide.

Some of the issues I cover are:


U.S., too, has issues with avoidable heat-related deaths :: IndyStar

As we remain mindfull of the UAE's efforts to reduce heat-related illness and death among low-wage workers it is constructive to acknowledge that other wealthy countries have similar problems.
Water usage and wastage in the UAE :: Khaleej Times


UAE has one of the highest water consumption levels [per capita] in the world compared to Western countries due to climatic conditions and high per capita income, according to a study by Emirates Industrial Bank.
. . .
To fulfill the requirements of water, DEWA [Dubai Electricity and Water Authority] will invest Dh20 billion which will expand its capacity by 2010 and will increase desalinated water capacity to 110 million gallons per day (gpd).

Apart from this, this year in February, DEWA launched a campaign to rationalise power and water consumption and avoid wastage.

According to Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and chief executive officer of DEWA, “The culture of rationalisation of water and electricity consumption and avoiding wastage are given priority as they constitute an important pivot in Dewa's strategic plan.’’
Somewhere along the way Mr. Al Tayer has had some indoctrination to say "culture of rationalization." Perhaps I am overreading, but he seems to be saying that if society could teach the value of water it wouldn't be wasted. But the UAE is past the point where the tribe could use social pressures to ensure that its water was not squandered on low value uses. The solution is to raise the price of water so that those who use it use it on the highest value uses. Price water cheaply and it will be used cheaply. The market is your friend.

Other water stories in today's Khaleej Times here, quoting:
RAK authorities adopted the strategy to establish desalination facilities, following the sharp drop in groundwater levels in the past few years, to meet the increasing water needs of the population. "At present, the total desalinated water output in the emirate is 17 million gallons daily, which is short of the emirate's actual consumption," he said.
And here, quoting:
a great number of farms located in this area were using old irrigation systems which required huge quantities of water, mainly groundwater sources which had virtually dried up in the absence of rains. Mohammed Mater Omeir Al Niady, a local farmer from Um Ghafa, said the new water supply network would solve the problem of water shortage and will increase farm production.
As a wise man has written, the cheapest way to import water is by substituting imported farm produce for domestic. Subsidizing the cost of water (by underpricing it) leads to a wasteful substitution of highly water-consuming crops for crops that require less water, or take water from other more valuable uses (including leaving it in the ground so that salt water is not drawn, spoiling the aquifer).

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Authorities nab builders of tunnel at US border

No, not that border. The other one.
Riyadh International Catering Corp. plans to open 50 new outlets of McDonald's :: Arab News


“The move to expand the Saudi operation of McDonald’s Corp. will create hundreds of thousands of job opportunities for Saudi nationals,” said Prince Mishal Ibn Khalid Al-Saud, RICC’s president.

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The Young and the Fastest, Saudi Arabian Style

Young: "NAJRAN, 22 July 2005 — Hundreds in Najran witnessed a marriage ceremony of the youngest couple in the Kingdom, the Okaz newspaper reported. A marriage ceremony between a 13-year-old groom and a 10-year-old bride was solemnized in front of the couple’s relatives. The groom is studying first year in middle school. He married his cousin, who is studying in fifth grade. The groom called on all his friends at school to get married at the earliest."

Fastest: "The young man, wracked with doubt whether his proposal would be accepted by the would-be bride’s family, screwed up his courage and proposed. He was pleasantly surprised when the family accepted his proposal and asked him to marry her on the same day. Not one to let an opportunity slip away, the youth went to the hospital for the medical certificate and as he made his way home withdrew the SR3,000 dowry money. The whole process from the moment he proposed and to the couple’s honeymoon took 3 hours."

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Economists add up the oil-for-food payoffs :: NYT
A new study (pdf) by Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti, two economists at the University of California, Berkeley, sheds light on just how much corruption could have taken place in exchange for oil sales in the oil-for-food program. Although their estimate greatly exceeds the Central Intelligence Agency's figure, the amount of kickbacks and political favors given for lucrative oil deals was still fairly limited, probably no more than 3 percent of the total oil revenue collected, they concluded.

The methods used by Professors Hsieh and Moretti clearly show how economics can be used to gauge the extent of corruption.
. . .
Oil is a commodity, so a given grade of crude oil should trade for the same price.

Here is why the price matters. Suppose that Iraq's leaders sought bribes or political favors, and that the market price of crude oil was $50 a barrel. If Iraq offered to sell its oil for $50, then buyers would have no incentive to provide kickbacks for the privilege of buying Iraqi oil; they could have bought the same grade of oil for the same price from another supplier without having to pay kickbacks. To give buyers an incentive to pay kickbacks, Iraq would have to underprice its oil.

The Berkeley professors have amassed compelling evidence that Iraq underpriced its oil, in all likelihood for the purpose of obtaining bribes and political favors.
. . .
In the 15 years before the oil-for-food program began, there was no difference in price between either type of Iraqi oil and that of its closest competitor, on average. When the program was in effect, however, the price of Basra light fell more than $2 a barrel below the price of Arabian light, and the price per barrel of Kirkuk oil was 70 cents below Urals oil.
. . .
In response to rumors that bribes were being paid for Iraqi oil, the United Nations switched in September 2001 to a retroactive pricing system, in which buyers learned the price of oil only after it was loaded onto their tankers and the world price was known. This made it much harder for Iraq to charge less than the market price - and, in fact, there is little sign of underpricing after 2001.

Although not all 1,300 oil transactions during the program could be examined in detail, the pattern of traders selected to buy oil by the Iraqi regime hints of corruption. In periods when Iraqi oil was underpriced the most, small traders were much more likely to be selected than major oil companies, which are probably less likely to pay kickbacks.

Over the entire life of the oil-for-food program, Professors Hsieh and Moretti estimate, oil was underpriced by $6 billion, with this extra profit divided almost equally between small and large companies.
Thanks to Lawrence of Salt Springs for the pointer.


U.S. press gets a taste of the Sudanese regime :: Houston Chronicle

I can only hope there will be some unintended consequences and the press will bring greater focus and attention to the genocide in Sudan. The people of the free world continue to give their governments a free pass on taking action to stop it.
P.M. John Howard :: The Corner

Prime Minister Howard in response to a question from a member of the press following today's incidents in London:
Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it's given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq. And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq. Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting we shouldn't have done that?
. . .
And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion.
Dubai - shareholder state? :: Marginal Revolution

Tyler Cowen of George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia) is passing through Dubai on his way to Singapore. He posts some observations. Perhaps he'll do a compare and contrast with Singapore. He and his co-blogger write Marginal Revolution which has over 2.5 million total visits.
Robot camel-jockeys take to the track :: New Scientist


An unnamed Swiss company has reportedly been paid $1.3m to develop the robotic jockeys, which are sold for around $5500 each. The first trials involving the riders took place in April 2005.

The remote-controlled riders have mechanical legs for balancing or leaning and mechanical arms for pulling on their camel's reins.

Robert Richardson, a robotics expert at the University of Manchester, UK, says the design may be simple, but it could still have problems. "When you're connecting a robotic system to an animal, or a human, you have to be careful," he told New Scientist. He adds that a completely autonomous design could be even more hazardous.
More, from a New Scientist article of 11 April 05:

Karl Iagnemma, a robotics expert at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, says that, although unusual, the idea is certainly feasible. "It just depends on the nuances of camel control," he told New Scientist. "And the level of autonomy you want."

Illustrations previously released show a system capable of leaning from side to side and pulling on the reins. Another sketch reveals a small system for remotely controlling the jockeys. An unnamed Swiss company was reportedly paid $1.3m to develop the robotic jockeys, which will be sold for around $5500 each.

Iagnemma says making a robotic jockey that could automatically control a camel during a race would be an even more interesting problem. "The logical extension is to develop an autonomous jockey," he says. "And then, I guess, a robot camel."


'Dubai Blocks Its First Blog' :: Committee to Protect Bloggers

It's not correct, of course, to say Dubai, but the misuse is indicative of the equation of the UAE and Dubai in the minds of many outside the UAE. Dubai, no doubt, regrets the equation on this occasion.

See also: Secret Dubai Diary Banned :: Abu Aardvark
Sharjah is ‘Global Airport of the Year’ :: KT

The view from my flat is of Sharjah International Airport in the distance. I'm surprised it's 'Global Airport of the Year', but I suppose the criteria are not just volume of passenger traffic.
Etisalat doesn't block websites :: GN


Etisalat has denied that it had the authority to block websites.
Internet censorship falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Information, a senior Etisalat official said.
. . .
"Etisalat is not authorised to decide what people should see," Hashim explained. "If callers complain, either to unblock or block a site, we refer them to the Ministry of Information. We have a formal process."

He denied that Etisalat blocks sites arbitrarily. "We block sites that contain offensive images," he said. "But we do not take decisions over issues of security and cultural sensitivity."

A blogger contributing to discussion site Hauteur Pill said there was never an exceedingly controversial post in Secret Dubai Diary. "The media and bloggers alike all know they can’t do without self-censorship here," he wrote.

Internet access across most of Dubai is restricted by a proxy server.

Using a list of sites provided by an American company this automatically blocks categories of site that are considered incompatible with the country’s traditions or a security threat.
Let a thousand filters bloom :: WaPo

In the nation category, China wins the web blocking sweepstakes hands down:

Without question, China's Internet filtering regime is "the most sophisticated effort of its kind in the world," in the words of a recent report by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The system involves the censorship of Web logs, search engines, chat rooms and e-mail by "thousands of public and private personnel."

It also involves Microsoft Inc., as Chinese bloggers discovered last month. Since early June, Chinese bloggers who post messages containing a forbidden word -- "Dalai Lama," for example, or "democracy" -- receive a warning: "This message contains a banned expression, please delete." It seems Microsoft has altered the Chinese version of its blog tool, MSN Spaces, at the behest of Chinese government. Bill Gates, so eloquent on the subject of African poverty, is less worried about Chinese free speech.

But he isn't alone: Because Yahoo Inc. is one of several companies that have signed a "public pledge on self-discipline," a Yahoo search in China doesn't turn up all of the (politically sensitive) results.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Study: U.S. states mislead public with faulty graduation rates :: CNN

The majority of states -- 36 of them -- say 80 percent to 97 percent of their high school students graduate on time, according to state figures provided to the Education Department.
. . .
Even President Bush and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings have said this year that only 68 of every 100 ninth-graders will graduate on time. Yet only 11 states put their graduation rate somewhere in the 60 percent or 70 percent range, the new report finds.
Nobody likes to look truth in the eye.

In a hopeful sign, most of the nation's governors have recently agreed to use a common formula. It remains to be seen if the agreement is respected.

The formula for graduation rates divides the number of a state's graduates in a particular year by the number of students entering the ninth grade for the first time four years before, plus the difference between the number of students who transfer in and out over the same four years.
. . .
For now, the nation's most populous states, California, Texas and Florida, as well as Maryland and Wyoming, have not agreed to adopt the new formula.
. . .
Alluding to what many governors said needs to come next, a universal definition for dropout rates, Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, said state calculations were so incomplete that they often led to "vast disparities," even within a state.
Will Canada follow U.S. move?

U.S. would save energy; if Canada does not follow it would become out of sync with its largest trading partner.
RAK follows Dubai model :: Gulf News

A multi-billion dollar Desert Snow Village will be a new project in Ras Al Khaimah targeting up to 15 million visitors annually, according to the project developer.
. . .
The village, which is expected to be an entirely self-sufficient town, will accommodate 350,000 permanent residents in addition to 150,000 daily visitors, who may ultimately reach 10 million to 15 million per year.

"Everyone who buys an apartment in the project will have a full medical plan and the children will also receive free education facilities," Hani said.
Entirely self-sufficient? Full medical plan? Free education? Sounds highly improbable to me.

UPDATE: RAK refutes Desert Snow Village project reports.
Gas price rumor causing fueling frenzy in mid-Michigan

Expectations shift demand. Even false expectations.
Robots race into history books :: Gulf News

Under the watchful eyes of UAE developer, Salem Al Mansouri and UAE owners, the robots rode racing camels for 3km, reaching speeds of 30km/h in a non-competitive trial run.

Handlers of the robots drove their four-wheel-drives along with the camels to control the robots, which performed to expectations.

Miscaptioned photo of the day: "A woman makes her way among hundreds of sleeping tourists at a shelter in downtown Cancun, Mexico in the early hours of Monday July 18, 2005. Hurricane Emily hit the coasts of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula causing widespread damage but no deaths or injuries have been reported. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)"
Bloggers express disappointment over web block :: Gulf News

Dubai: The city's blogging community has reacted with disappointment to Etisalat's blocking of a popular Dubai-based blog. Secret Dubai Diary, a weblog that examines UAE life from an occasionally ironic perspective, was blocked for visitors using Etisalat servers on Sunday.

"I have never heard or read of a Dubai blog being blocked before," says Adnan Arif, an award-winning UAE-based blogger. "Out of all the UAE-based blogs it is the most interesting. It is probably the first blog to hit on a formula that works for local readers."
Ironically, the block and the resulting coverage will only increase readership for Secret Dubai.

The article goes on to say that speculation is that this post is what triggered the block. One wonders how Etisilat decides what to block.

7Days reports that Etisilat blocked the New York Times on Monday. Perhaps there's a connection.

Meanwhile, from a Gulf New interview with the Reuters bureau chief in Dubai:

"As part of an international organisation, we are free of the strain that local media may be under. Governments anywhere in the world complain if you’re critical, but as long as it’s objective I see no problem,” she says, quickly praising the huge improvements in local reporting. "It’s much better than a few years ago in terms of freedom and it’s good to see more and more commentators coming out.”

Monday, July 18, 2005

Study slams economics of ethanol and biodiesel :: ScienceAGoGo
U.S. policy increases demand for Gulf oil

A new joint study from Cornell University and University of California-Berkeley says that fuels produced from biomass are uneconomical as they use much more energy in their creation than the resulting ethanol or biodiesel generates. "There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel," said study author and Cornell researcher David Pimentel. . . . The study, appearing in Natural Resources Research, entailed a detailed analysis of the energy input-yield ratios of producing ethanol from corn, switch grass and wood biomass as well as for producing biodiesel from soybean and sunflower plants. The researchers considered such factors as the energy used in producing the crop (production of pesticides and fertilizer, running farm machinery and irrigating, grinding and transporting the crop) and in fermenting/distilling the ethanol from the water mix.
So why does it exist at all? Because it is subsidized by the U.S. government. Why? Because political parties are buying votes, in this case from farm states. But in the end what does it do? It is so uneconomic that not it doesn't even displace some of the U.S. demand for fossil fuels, but instead increases that demand. A very stupid policy.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Men demand equality with women :: Khaleej Times

Meanwhile, the women say it is the men who have a shorter workday. Is a five hour work day typical of UAE public sector employees? They won't find those kinds of jobs at full pay in the private sector. Here's the Khaleej Times story in full:

Men demand equality with women
By Lana Mahdi
17 July 2005

AL AIN — A group of employees from Al Ain Municipality has asked for equality between male and females employees, and demanded that their working hours too should end at 2.15pm as is the case with women employees.

Recently, instructions were issued changing the work timings wherein women were required to work till 2.20pm instead of 2.15pm and the males finished their work at 2.30pm instead of 2.25pm.

"But after receiving several complaints from women employees, officials retracted the instructions and allowed women to leave at 2.15pm," said some local media reports.

The reports said that the women complained about how the few minutes affect their families. The group of employees also pointed out that the clerical staff reach office early morning "unlike the departmental heads and directors who work only for five hours and start their work late." Attempts by Khaleej Times to get a clarification from the civic body proved futile with officials declining to comment on the issue.
UAE stock market still overvalued? :: Khaleej Times

Matein Khalid thinks so. Read the whole thing.
Rogue economist almost got sent to Guantanamo :: Freakonomics

QUOTE\ It didn't occur to me that my latest research was going to get me into trouble. I've been thinking a lot about terrorism lately. Among the things I had in my carry-on was a detailed description of the 9/11 terrorists activities, replete with pictures of each of the terrorists and information about their background. As well as pages of my scribblings on terrorist incentives, potential targets, etc. It also was the first thing the screener pulled out of my bag. The previously cheery mood turned dark. Four TSA employees suddenly surrounded me. They didn't seem very impressed with my explanation. When the boss arrived, one of the screener says, "He claims to be an economics professor who studies terrorism." /UNQUOTE

Via Marginal Revolution.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

'Those who do that are infidels': Sheikh Hamdan Musallam Al Mazruhi :: KT

16 July 2005
ABU DHABI — A prominent UAE preacher denounced yesterday as infidels Muslims who carry out attacks against innocent civilians around the world, including the perpetrators of the London blasts.
. . .
“Therefore, we should say it out loud that whoever kills innocent people ... is not a Muslim and Islam is innocent of him ... We are astonished at those people who justify these acts and see them as jihad in the name of God and declare themselves an authority for Muslims,” he said.
Economist's research changes ideas about children and work - New York Times

Virginia Postrel reporting on research by Eric V. Edmonds and co-authors:

Vietnam repealed its policy against exporting rice. That opened a big new market for Vietnamese farmers - the country went from almost no exports to being one of the world's top rice exporters - and significantly raised the price of rice.

This change, along with the family survey data, allowed Professors Edmonds and Pavcnik to examine what happens when household incomes rise but children's labor also becomes more valuable.
. . .
The results from Vietnam suggest that families do not want their children to work. Parents pull their children out of work when they can afford to, even when the wages children could earn are rising. Poverty, not culture, appears to be the fundamental problem.

Rather than simply banning child labor, then, policy makers should concentrate on alleviating poverty. That includes not only encouraging economic growth but also improving access to schools and to credit markets. Borrowing could allow families to buy equipment to substitute for child labor, to weather short-term declines in income and to pay school fees. . . .

"Most child labor policy even today is directed at trying to get kids into unemployment - to limit working opportunities for kids," he said in the interview. But, "if households are already in a situation where they don't want their children to be working, but they're forced to because of their circumstance, taking additional steps to prevent the kids from working is punishing the poorest for being poor."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bahrainis 'shun hospitality sector jobs' :: Bahrain Economic Development Board

QUOTE\ There are more than 10,000 jobs available in Bahrain's hotel and hospitality sector, but young Bahrainis are shunning the jobs, a minister said. Labour Minister Dr Majeed Al Alawi expressed dismay at the negative attitude of job seekers at a time when the country is facing unemployment problems. . . ."We have noticed with great dismay that even a training programme offered to the unemployed was shunned. Only 45 registered for a programme designed for 150 people." /UNQUOTE


Bahrain's unemployment problem: Khaleej Times asks about implementations of the recommendations of the McKinsey Report.
Rally said to "undermine the democratic march :: Gulf Daily News
The voice of Bahrain

All legal measures will be used to crackdown on law-breakers seeking to sow chaos and undermine the democratic march, it warned in a statement.

"The so-called General Organisation for the Unemployed, an unauthorised entity, has submitted a letter to Hoora Police Station informing them of the rally plans," said Capital Police director general Colonel Isa Abdulla Al Musallim.

"The letter flouts the law governing public meetings, processions and rallies as it is not undersigned by five residents from the area, detailing their names, titles and residences," he said.
. . .
Mr Al Musallim dismissed the rally as an attempt to smear the image of the National Assembly.

"We shall never tolerate any defamation of the legislative authority, an essential pillar of Bahrain's political system" he said.

Cash aid on the way for jobless

UNEMPLOYED Bahrainis could soon be entitled to benefits, according to Labour Minister Dr Majeed Al Alawi.

He said the ministry was in the process of drawing up a draft law that would provide an allowance to jobseekers. "We hope to propose this law (in parliament) soon," he said.

"It will be directly tied to the employment and training of Bahrainis and will not just be hand-outs."
. . .
Dr Al Alawi urged community leaders, Islamic scholars, businessmen and jobseekers to join forces to tackle Bahrain's unemployment problem. He told community leaders in Diraz that they should encourage jobseekers to find work in the private sector. He said that is where opportunities are located.

Bosses 'forcing us into poverty'

RESIDENTS in a Bahrain village claim they are being forced into poverty by bosses who pay unreasonably low salaries.

Some claim they have been unable to get decent jobs despite having skills such as carpentry and painting.

They voiced their criticisms of the "unfair" labour market during a visit by Labour Minister Dr Majeed Al Alawi to Bani Jamra yesterday.


"Leading steel scrap business houses of the UAE have approached the government to take stern measures to check the evasion of the levy of Dh250 per metric tonne on the export of scrap from the UAE, so that a level playing field is created for all exporters."(Khaleej Times)
Monumental task : remembering heritage :: Gulf News

QUOTE\ He rues the time when all things modern began to ruthlessly replace the traditional.

He writes: “In the 1960s and 1970s, when oil income introduced many citizens of the Arabian Peninsula to travel and imported goods ... the result was that Grandma’s rag rugs, hand-made patchwork quilts and needlework cushions were thrown out of the bedrooms; the large back-resting pillows disappeared from the living room. And in came everything that was supposed
to indicate that the occupant of the house was a modern person.”

Al Abdul Salaam is not against modernity, but he wants Arabs to examine their need for the new even as they pause and rethink their compulsion to do away with the traditional [read old].

Littering the house with anything that carries a brand name and pursuing this habit to cover the last square inch of the home, he feels, ends up making the house less of a traditional home and more of a modern hotel room. /UNQUOTE
European Commission Report: 2nd generation radicalization :: Independent

QUOTE\ In Brussels, the EU interior ministers also promised yesterday to examine the causes of the radicalisation of young Muslims. An unpublished report from the European Commission identified a "crisis of identity" among young people born to immigrant parents as a key danger.

The document, leaked to the Belgian newspaper De Standaard, describes radicalisation as "a modern kind of dictatorship", likens it to neo-Nazism or nationalism, and says the internet, university campuses and places of worship are tools of recruitment. It says second-generation immigrants often feel little connection to their parents' country or culture but may also encounter discrimination in European countries. "Alienation from both parental roots and country of origin, and the society in which they live, can lead to a desire to identify with a more motivating or powerful locus of identity." /UNQUOTE
Growth in number of investors :: 7DAYS

QUOTE\ The official figures issued by Abu Dhabi securities market has shown an overall increase of investors during the last five months - which reached 35,000 compared to 5, 653 last year. 24,495 were UAE nationals and foreign investors numbered 5,831. Only 600 foreigners invested in the Abu Dhabi securities market during the same period last year. /UNQUOTE
Pew Global Attitudes Project: Islamic extremism: common concern for Muslim and Western Publics :: Pew Poll

On Islamic extremism:

Nearly three-quarters of Moroccans and roughly half of those in Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia see Islamic extremism as a threat to their countries. At the same time, most Muslim publics are expressing less support for terrorism than in the past. Confidence in Osama bin Laden has declined markedly in some countries and fewer believe suicide bombings that target civilians are justified in the defense of Islam.
On the role of Islam:

while Muslim and non-Muslim publics share some common concerns, they have very different attitudes regarding the impact of Islam on their countries. Muslim publics worry about Islamic extremism, but the balance of opinion in predominantly Muslim countries is that Islam is playing a greater role in politics – and most welcome that development. Turkey is a clear exception; the public there is divided about whether a greater role for Islam in the political life of that country is desirable.

In non-Muslim countries, fears of Islamic extremism are closely associated with worries about Muslim minorities. Western publics believe that Muslims in their countries want to remain distinct from society, rather than adopt their nation's customs and way of life. Moreover, there is a widespread perception in countries with significant Muslim minorities, including the U.S., that resident Muslims have a strong and growing sense of Islamic identity. For the most part, this development is viewed negatively, particularly in Western Europe.
On acts of violence in the name of Islam:

The polling also finds that in most majority-Muslim countries surveyed, support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence in defense of Islam has declined significantly. In Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia, 15% or fewer now say such actions are justifiable. In Pakistan, only one-in-four now take that view (25%), a sharp drop from 41% in March 2004. In Lebanon, 39% now regard acts of terrorism as often or sometimes justified, again a sharp drop from the 73% who shared that view in 2002. A notable exception to this trend is Jordan, where a majority (57%) now says suicide bombings and other violent actions are justifiable in defense of Islam.
About Iraq and suicide bombings:

When it comes to suicide bombings in Iraq, however, Muslims in the surveyed countries are divided. Nearly half of Muslims in Lebanon and Jordan, and 56% in Morocco, say suicide bombings against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq are justifiable. However, substantial majorities in Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia take the opposite view.
Democracy views:

Large and growing majorities in Morocco (83%), Lebanon (83%), Jordan (80%) and Indonesia (77%) – as well as pluralities in Turkey (48%) and Pakistan (43%) – say democracy can work well and is not just for the West.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

National and foreign staff will not be on par - official :: Gulf News

As sometimes occurs, without acknowledging each other, there's a conversation taking place between the Khaleej Times and the Gulf News. Following up on KT's stories of the past few days, here and here, GN says wage parity between Emiratis and expats is not what the Ministry of Labour has in mind:
Dr Khalid Al Khazraji, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, said some reports claiming the government would soon introduce a new mechanism to curb nationality-based quotas and treat nationals and expats at par in terms of wages are not accurate.

Speaking to Gulf News he said: "I explained that the 'cost of hiring' nationals will be equal to expatriates and not that wages will be equal. It is not accurate that wage will be equal."
Rather, the Cabinet is considering a system of fees (and fee reductions) that would raise the cost of hiring nonnationals among those firms that that do not hire nationals.
He said that a Cabinet approved draft law breaks down companies into three categories A, B and C.

"Those who employ nationals and abide by labour laws of diversifying nationalities and no nationality exceeds 30 per cent would pay the lowest fees and be placed in category A. They also do not have to pay the bank guarantee. Those who have abided by labour laws to a lesser extent and no nationality has exceeded 74 per cent will be placed in category B."

He said those least abiding by labour laws and regulations will be placed in category C and will pay the highest fees. He said: "This is what I meant by the 'cost of hiring' nationals and non-nationals will be in par because we are placing companies in different categories. A private company can no longer claim that it is cheaper to hire an expatriate than a national. It will be cheaper based on the company's performance and how seriously it has implemented labour laws but not based on nationality."
Such a plan moves in the direction I have been advocating. Without saying so, its effect would be to remove minimum quotas on the percentage of nationals a firm must employ, and replace them with rewards for hiring nationals and higher government fees for hiring nonnationals."

Returning to GN and it's quotation on the minister:
"A private company can no longer claim that it is cheaper to hire an expatriate than a national. It will be cheaper based on the company's performance and how seriously it has implemented labour laws but not based on nationality."
As the staff at Tanmia are well aware, implementation of such a fee structure requires a sophisticated up-to-date information system. The government will need to know not only how many non-nationals a firm employs, but must also need to know the number of nationals a firm employs. The existing sponsorship system can serve as a source of reliable information on the employment of nonnationals.

Tracking nationals is trickier. There is the pension system - nationals working in the private sector are members of the government pension system - which could be used. However, it would rely on the national reporting his or her employment status and job changes to the pension authority in a timely fashion. Then there is the issue of whether the various agencies are open to sharing their information, and the technical issues of merging the data.

In short, implementation of the rules envisioned will be nontrivial. And, the history of failure to implement rules makes future implementation of new rules more difficult; rules are most easily implemented when there is a general belief that they will be implemented. See: self-fulfilling prophecy.

UPDATE July 17: Khaleej Times story on the fee structure is here.

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Financially Set, Grandparents Help Keep Families Afloat, Too :: NYT

What does this tell you? In families with functioning intergenerational bonds, the families are undoing the excesses of the Social Security System. Welcome to another manifestation of the idea behind Ricardian Equivalence.
The Great Job Rain Forest :: Cafe Hayek

My favorite line: "Much of these misunderstandings come from our desire to believe that every phenomenon that exists must be the result of someone's conscious desire that it exist."
There must be 44 ways to sort your garbage :: The Eclectic Econoclast

An amusing and informative post on garbage sorting in Japan.

Some questions I had: Is it legal to hire specialists to sort your garbage? Why don't the Japanese bag it all and send it to China? They might even pay you for it.


Bludgeoned with a crowbar :: Gulf News

A Jordanian man killed his teenage daughter with a crowbar, allegedly to cleanse the family honour, hours after promising police he would not harm her for running away from home, authorities said yesterday.

The 16-year-old girl, who was not identified, ran away from home in early July and was found in a park in the town of Zarqa on July 6.

The governor ordered her detained to protect her from her family. She underwent medical tests that showed "she was not involved in any sexual activities."