Wednesday, November 30, 2005
The San Francisco Chronicle headline about covers it.
Lama Al Suleiman and Nashwa Taher
Two Saudi businesswomen swept to an unprecedented victory in elections to the board of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday in the first polls in which women stood as candidates in the conservative Muslim kingdom.
. . .
Suleiman and fellow female winner Nashwa Taher ran on a list of heavyweight business people and industrialists that clinched the 12 board seats up for grabs, according to results released early on Wednesday.
With only 100 women among the some 3,880 chamber members who cast ballots, the pair's victory was effectively handed by men.
"We should give them [women] a chance because they have little representation in society," one male voter said on Tuesday, adding that he had voted for four women.
. . .
Seventeen women were among the 71 candidates in the elections that took place from Saturday through Tuesday. Businesswomen cast their ballots on the first two days and businessmen on the following days, in line with traditions whereby Saudi women do not mix in public with men other than relatives.
Some 21,000 members of the Jeddah chamber, or about half the total membership, were eligible to take part in the polls, but election officials said that both the turnout and the number of candidates were a record in the chamber's 60-year history.
Suleiman admitted that she partly owed her victory to having run on a strong list, but she said that it was also due to the fact that "a lot of people wanted to encourage women".
. . .
one businesswoman, who asked not to be named, said that she did not think that US pressure for reform was helping Saudi women.
"In fact, it may be delaying progress ... We are moving forward in our own, low-profile way," she said.
Labels: Saudi Arabia
The Council of Labour Ministers in the GCC states has assigned the UAE to prepare a technical memorandum on how best to develop a process to facilitate the exchange of data on the region's labour markets, officials said yesterday.Possibly worthwhile project. Certainly $100,000 will not take it far.
. . . .
The Council will be provided with the latest regulations, updates and systems for the preparation of a comparative study on the legislation systems in the member countries to prepare a unified guide project.
The Council will keep up cooperation with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) through its executive office to acquire $100,000 financial support to accomplish the model unified system for labour market information. GCC countries will also update the unified Arab and Gulf instructions manual for classifications and career designations to complete its endorsement process.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
News of what's coming to the Dubai Film Festival:
The December 11-17 festival will feature 98 films from 46 countries and showcase Arab contemporary films, said festival director and CEO Neil Stephenson.
Along with Freeman and legendary Indian producer Yash Chopra, the event will honor Egyptian superstar actor Adel Imam by screening two of his films, including this year's "The embassy is in the building" which tackles the sensitive issue of Egyptian-Israeli ties.
. . .
The festival also includes "Operation cultural bridge" because the "significant rise in conflict and distrust between the Islamic world and the broader Western world ... has generated a critical need for dialogue," said the festival guide.
Films in the section include Albert Brooks' new comedy "Looking for comedy in the Muslim world", Dubai's first world premiere of a Hollywood studio film.
The festival's opening night gala screening will be Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad's controversial film "Paradise Now" about suicide bombers which won an award at the Berlin International Film Festival 2005.
. . .
films include the world premiere of director Dhruv Dhawan's documentary "From Dusk" about Sri Lankan survivors of the devastating 2004 tsunami, [and] Chopra's "Veer Zaara" film about love across the Indian-Pakistani divide.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Until I get around to updating them I'm afraid my links to Gulf News articles will give you this message:
The requested article cannot be found,
it may have been moved during our recent website re-launch.
Dubai Transport admits it pays its drivers different wages depending on if they are male or female, married or unmarried.DTC says its objective is to draw women into the field and it must pay a premium to attract them. It makes no claim that the women add more value to the business; one way that they might is if hiring women is visible positions projects an image of Dubai that Dubai, Inc. seeks to project.
Male drivers resent the fact that female drivers are getting paid more and have to work less.
. . .
Ammar bin Tamim, DTC director of administration, explained the company’s decision: “The DTC has a special salary scheme for women to encourage them to enter this field, which was a very innovative idea for this region.
. . .
Female drivers are upset with the DTC because the company differentiates between married and unmarried women.
. . .
Talking about the disparity in the pay structures of married and unmarried drivers bin Tamim said married drivers have more expenses. “Therefore, they get a special allowance. We are not discriminating, this is a common practice. However the DTC is now considering unifying the salaries of the drivers,” he said.
An Emarati says he's got the scoop on what Shaikh Nahyan Al Nahyan has planned to shake up UAE government schools. The plan An Emarati outlines makes sense.
As is true anywhere (my comparison is with the U.S.) the greatest difficulty will be to make the plan work in the rural areas where there isn't competition, and it is difficult to attract the best teachers.
What I advocate for university-bound products of the government schools is a year or two of study at a prep school (where the prep schools are vying for students, and part of this vying is success in placing them in universities) before going on to university. But that won't address the problem of the disproportionate number of males who quit school before graduating high school.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
While the New York Times has put much of its content under TimesDelete, WaPo is amplifying the echo of its articles throughout the blogosphere. Probably with the intent of attracting more bloggers to blog WaPo instead of NYT. Good on you, WaPo - especially if it turns out to be a better business model than TimesDelete.
Something pretty profound is going on here. The local news outlets get swamped with traffic. Bloggers who manage to upload the local reports post them to their blogs [UPDATED link], thereby distributing the word to more people than the local news outlets server could serve.
Another example for An Army of Davids.
UPDATE: Dubai Chronicles took some crowd photos of the building evacuations and has additional links.
Since the Gulf News server is swamped here's what they are saying in full at the moment:
Tremor felt in DubaiI felt it and sensed what it was. It appears to not to have caused damage.
There are unconfirmed reports that an earth tremor has hit the northern emirates.
These reports claim that the tremor was centred on a triangular area between Ras Al Khaimah, Al Ain and Dubai.
Some tall buildings and skyscrapers around Shaikh Zayed Road and Dubai Media City were evacuated.
UAE authorities are now attempting to ascertain from international sources whether there was any seismic activity in the region.
What you just did was make sure you won’t have to change the deed for your real estate when you sell. ...
Spelling it out then. I set up XYZ Limited in the Turks and Caicos Islands for a lot less money than you may have first thought. Its sole asset is 47 Sandpit Avenue, Dubai and the developer wants to restrict resale, for some reason.
However, I want to sell and you want to buy my house, the aforementioned 47 Sandpit Lane. So I sell you XYZ Limited without any intervention from the developer.
Manama : GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah yesterday said that the recommendation by the ministers of labour to limit foreigners' contracts to six years was made to preserve the long-term interests of the Gulf states.Emphasis added.
. . .
The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) said in a press statement that it "appreciated the significance of the recommendation in light of the growing pressure from international organisations to help expatriates settle in the GCC states and enjoy rights equal to those of their citizens and the subsequent economic, social, demographic, political and security implications."
. . .
The ministers attributed the setting of the time limit to the need to adopt steps to curb the growing social and economic threat posed by the presence of more than 12 million foreigners working in the six member states who remit about $30 billion annually.
At the GCC meeting, Al Attiyah said that the issue of foreign labour was no longer economic and warned that it amounted to a national security matter that needed urgent and practical action.
Region-specific human capital seems to have little value in the GCC. Or shall I say it is undervalued by the GCC.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
It is possible to be both right and unpopular at the same time. Today, the United States is both in the Arab world.As the remainder of his post reveals, what he means is:
It is possible to be both unpopular and unacknowledgedly seen to be right at the same time.
Just imagine if a socialist government tried to put on a similar-size event. Even one as small as feeding the Plymouth Bay Colony. The Pilgrims* would be in awe.
I bet they'd imagine it was the hand of intelligent design.
*The first winters were difficult: The weather was harsh, and crop yields were poor. Half the Pilgrims died or returned to England in the first year. Those who remained went hungry. Despite their deep religious convictions, the Pilgrims took to stealing from one another.
Finally, in the spring of 1623, Governor Bradford and the others ``begane to thinke how they might raise as much corne as they could, and obtaine a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery,'' according to Bradford's History.
One of the traditions the Pilgrims had brought with them from England was a practice known as ``farming in common.'' Everything they produced was put into a common pool, and the harvest was rationed among them according to need. [continue reading]
Emirates chairman Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, responding to media questions over the financing of the airline's $12.66 billion order for 42 777s this week, said his airline would open its books to any airline - but they had to reciprocate. "We are delighted to have our books examined but these airlines must be prepared to respond with their accounts," Sheik Ahmed said.If Emirates is not heavily subsidized, then what are the factors behind its success? Would those factors be revealed by its books? If those factors become known, can they be adopted by other airlines? And if they are, wouldn't that cut into profits at Emirates?
Sheik Ahmed said many airlines were controlled by governments and "many had been bailed out by their governments". Air France, Malaysia Airlines and Alitalia have received huge bail-outs in the past 10 years and US airlines have walked away from obligations through the Chapter 11 provisions.
. . .
"Dubai has GDP growth of 16 per cent a year. We started in 1985 with just three aircraft and only $US88 million from the Dubai Government. We have not had one cent since. We get no government guarantees and our unit costs are much lower because we work hard and smart at what we do," [Emirates president Tim Clark] said.
Many airline CEOs have rightly claimed that neither Emirates nor its staff pay taxes, but Mr Clark pointed out that Emirates had significant social costs in housing, education and travel for the airline's mainly expatriate staff.
In a recent JPMorgan Securities report, Emirates' accounts were given a clean bill of health. "We cannot find anything in Emirates' accounts which indicates that the business is subsidised directly or indirectly or given undue preferences," the report said. Emirates accounts are audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Much of the heated debate surrounds the claim that Emirates receives free fuel. Mr Clark said that in Dubai, Emirates bought fuel from five fuel suppliers including Shell, Caltex, BP and Exxon.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Grasshopper learned a few things today. Thank you.
Labels: Saudi Arabia
An Emaratis Thoughts on Emirati spinsters. Some of my thoughts on the subject are here and here (see end of that post).
The subject generates a lot of visits here via folks googling UAE spinsters.
Links to recent coverage of UAE spinster problem, and government reaction, here, here, and here. And here.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The United Arab Emirates Ministry of Economy and Planning recently launched a massive project to compile a database on all foreign direct investment (FDI) in the UAE, while the UAE Central Bank has expressed the need to implement legislation to regulate foreign investment in the country.
The case of a Saudi high school teacher sentenced to three years in prison and 750 lashes for charges of mocking religion has opened a debate in Saudi Arabia, reports said yesterday.More at Arab News:
Mohammad Al Harbi’s case has attracted attention in the Press with both columnists and the public in general strongly attacking what is widely seen as a harsh and unjust sentence, the Saudi newspaper Arab News reported yesterday.
Al Harbi was talking to his pupils about his views on a number of current topics, such as Christianity, Judaism and the causes of terrorism.
Apparently Al-Harbi’s actions and comments against terrorism upset a number of Islamic studies teachers known for their fundamentalist beliefs. After the Al-Hamra blast in Riyadh, Al-Harbi copied an article, “Cavemen Go to Hell” written by Saudi columnist Hammad Al-Salmi in Al-Jazirah newspaper, attacking terrorists and extremists. Al-Harbi posted the article on the school bulletin board but it was ripped off and torn to pieces.Full and continuing coverage over at the Religious Policeman.
The Zayed University provost agreed yesterday that schools in the country do not teach students to the level where they are qualified to pursue higher education at university level. Lauren R Wilson, Deputy Vice President, Academic Affairs (provost) spoke to Emirates Today following the announcement of a seminar at the university focusing on “Quality management in higher studies” in light of Education Minister Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak’s recent comment that the quality of school education was not producing students fit for higher education. . . . Wilson explained that the universities were making every effort to pick and select bright and talented students and give them the basic training to meet the standards of university education.
Big: as big as Heathrow and Chicago O'Hare
Plans for Dubai's new Jebel Ali Airport were unveiled at the Dubai Air Show, and if the world's carriers are shaken by the current infrastructure, the new airport will be major earthquake in airline boardrooms.The airport will measure 140 sq. km., 10 times the area of Dubai International and as big as London Heathrow and Chicago O'Hare combined.
The New Economist has collected some advice for investors. It runs along the lines of get out of hotels and other travel industries; get into video games and other nesting industries.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Read the whole article.
Here are some excerpts:
Unemployment is a major problem facing countries in the region. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the jobless rate stands at 9.6 per cent, while in Bahrain and Oman, respectively, 16.6 per cent and 15 per cent of the populations are unemployed. And the educational systems in the region are doing little to give students the skills with which to avoid joblessness. "They are based on memorisation rather than problem solving and creative solutions", said Gabr. He argues that there is a disconnect between the education curriculum and the requirements of the labour market, forcing businesses to waste a lot of effort and time on on-the-job training. . . .
Even though all the Gulf states have imposed legal quotas for companies to hire local nationals, companies tend to complain that nationals cost more and work less hard than expatriates. Metin Mitchell, managing director for the Middle East with Korn/Ferry International, a recruitment consultancy that headhunts for top management posts, said fostering a strong work ethic among Gulf nationals is more important than education. That's important, he said, because "burgeoning economies thrive when people work long and hard." But Mitchell said employers are also concerned with the rote learning educational systems of the Gulf, especially in Saudi Arabia, which emphasise memorisation rather than reasoning. . . .
Observers note that Arab education woes are so grave that in a small country like Bahrain, which is considered to have a more advanced education system than its neighbours, persistently high unemployment is still mostly attributed to an inadequately educated workforce. Officials from the Bahrain National Competitiveness Council said recently that the country's primary and secondary schools need a sweeping overhaul of curricula, teachers, management and physical infrastructure. . . .
Bahrain's default in education is being reflected even among its affluent fellow members of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman. . . .
Jasim Ali, the head of Economic Research Unit, University of Bahrain, writes:
BNCC's report focused on the worst five factors that undermine engaging in business activities in Bahrain.
Ranked from the worst, the factors are restrictive labour regulations; inadequately educated workforce; inefficient bureaucracy; poor work ethics and access to financing.
On the issue of labour, the report calls on the authorities to engage in dialogue with concerned stakeholders regarding matters such as applying fees on expatriates.
With regard to education, the study urges the government to promote teaching involving critical and analytical thinking.
With regards to bureaucracy, the report calls for carrying out sweeping reforms of the judicial system.
On the matter of poor work ethics, the study urges provision of career counselling for young Bahrainis seeking to enter the job market.
Monday, November 21, 2005
But not zero either
A three-storey building in an impoverished neighbourhood of Al Zarqa city has had the world’s attention this month, but for the wrong reason. It is the birth place of Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi, the alleged mastermind of the triple suicide bombs that hit Amman 12 days ago killing 59 people.
. . .
Um Muhammad, an elderly women from the neighbourhood, does not believe Al Zarqawi is to blame for the bombings.
“I took care of him when he was a child. He was a very nice boy and people around here loved him because he was very kind to others. It can’t be him,” she said. “Whoever committed this heinous crime does not know Allah, and Abu Musab [Al Zarqawi] used to pray regularly.”
. . .
Residents of the overpopulated Al Zarqa city neighbourhoods said they used to take pride in being associated with the man who racked the nerves of the American forces in Iraq.
“He is the one who vents the frustration and anger buried inside all of them against the occupying forces.
“He is the only one who is brave enough to stand against the Americans and we are proud to have him as our son,” said another women who refused to give her name.
The one-time hero, however, seems to have slowly turned into a villain for many others.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s him, but if he did it, then my love and support for him would change to hatred and disgrace,” said Amjad Nazzal Al Khalayleh, Al Zarqawi’s cousin.
Wearing an armband coloured with the Jordanian flag in solidarity with the victims’ families, Amjad said he feels ashamed to be associated with Al Zarqawi now that he has accepted responsibility for the November 9 blasts.
I'm just glad I didn't pull too much of a Heisenburg.
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Sunday, November 20, 2005
The writer is Zaid Nabulsi, a Jordanian lawyer working in Geneva. Quote:
fewer are those ready to confront . . . people who believe they hold, and can bestow upon others, the keys to paradise. Until our Nov. 9, that is.For the link, I owe thanks to Athena at Terrorism Unveiled.
The sleeping tragedy had been ticking all along like a time-bomb. For too long we have tolerated elements in our society whose poisonous ideology had been tirelessly feeding a destructive culture of hate and death to schoolchildren and adults alike.
. . .
here in Jordan, very loud voices applauded these crimes as some perverted form of resistance irritating the American occupation by severely punishing any kind of unavoidable coexistence with it by the destitute, war-ridden Iraqi people.
. . .
their tactical lip-service condemnation should not fool any of us. . . . rest assured that they still incubate the same vicious beliefs that moulded the likes of Zarqawi and graduated his army of suicidal maniacs (thank you, by the way, George and Tony, for removing the sewage lid and unleashing on our region the most uncontrollable vermin known to mankind).
. . .
If the wedding that was literally crashed happened to be a Christian Jordanian wedding attended by a few infidel Westerners, I dare to guess, then the moral outrage would have been much milder, would it not?
Do you see with me that the problem is still here with us? There are simply no clear moral lines that are strictly drawn against the taking of the innocent human life. It all depends on whose God the victims worshipped. This is the root of the disguised sickness secretly slipping through our back door and engulfing us these days.
To truly uproot these murderers and shut down the arenas of their indirect collaborators, we have to uproot their uncompromising dogma and hold accountable their spokespeople who are roaming freely in our midst, openly preaching hatred and death.
It is not enough to say that the real Islam is innocent of their alien creed. We need to begin ourselves an enormous undertaking to reinterpret Islam and purify it of the tonnes of literature that cannot be reconciled with our tired cliché that it is in fact a religion of peace.
. . .
In the aftermath discussions that gripped a sombre Amman, I heard people talking about how the blessed survivors who closely got away were meant to live. I would respectfully add that all the victims were also meant to live. Musab Khorma was meant to live. Moustapha Akkad was meant to live. His daughter, too, was meant to live.
For Almighty God's sake, we are all meant to live.
Sheikh Nahyan Al Nahyan is the man for the job. I wish him the best; he can make a difference.
Lina, a 22-year-old university student in Jordan, supplies a photo essay of the November 10th march in Amman.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Judge Richard Posner disagrees that the French riots have much to do with the failure of the Continental economic system.
The least productive workers are hurt worst by such a system--hence the enormous unemployment rate among French of African (mainly Algerian) origin--20 percent or higher. But the United States, with its much more open economy, has its own history of race riots.Here's what Becker had to say.
. . .
so far as economic differences between France and America are concerned that can be traced to our more open labor markets, probably the only significant one, so far as bearing on the likelihood of riots is concerned, is the much higher French unemployment rate, though even its significance is somewhat doubtful, in view of the lack of correlation between riot propensity and black unemployment in the U.S. history of race riots.
Several other differences between France and the United States may be as important as or more important than the difference in unemployment rates. One is that the French appear to have a much greater propensity to riot, or to engage in other riot-like direct action, than the citizens of other countries. . . .
Another relevant consideration is that the French, like most Europeans, are much less welcoming to foreigners than Americans are. . . .
it is possible that even if the French had free labor markets, French insularity would result in discrimination. After all, that was the U.S. experience with blacks: our race riots invariably occurred in northern states, in which blacks had the same legal access to jobs and education as whites but nevertheless were still being subjected to serious private discrimination in the prime riot era of the 1960s.
. . .
The French riots are a reminder that affirmative action, although offensive to meritocratic principles, may have redeeming social value in particular historical circumstances.
A call to arms
See also this excellent analysis by Dr. Elia Zureik.
the very environment of the schools is stultifying and not conducive to the purpose of education.
To make matters worse, insufficient time is provided to the teaching periods and terms, while too many holidays are given, creating a general apathy towards the process of learning, resulting in a very high drop-out rate, especially among boys.
The whole government attitude towards basic education facilities must be changed and more funds made available to ensure a higher standard of, and more interest in education is attained.
If the UAE mobilized and resources as if it was going to war for education would that radically change outcomes? Is it possible to argue that the UAE education system, while not perfect, has come remarkably far in a short amount of time? Is it surprising that in that time a bureacracy has settled in that makes it difficult for a Minister of Education to institute reforms?
Would outcomes change much if there were greater success-in-life consequences to students who do not take their schooling seriously? And if so, isn't that beyond the control of the Ministry of Education?
What do my readers think?
UPDATE: WAM reports
The United Arab Emirates is bent on adopting an aggressive strategy to ensure that students at schools are well prepared for higher education, says the country's Minister of Education, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan.I hasten to add that in the U.S., higher education also devotes considerable resources to remediation of skills that should have been gained in high school. Reforming an education system is not easy.
. . .
"About a third of our budget for higher education is spent on teaching students the knowledge and skills they should have already learned in secondary schools." "This," he said, "is a terrible waste of money and time. Our main priority is, therefore, preparing students to meet world standards of learning."
. . .
While the Minister focused much of his remarks to the role of the Government in education, he also stressed that the private educational sector also had an important role to play. Private schools, he suggested, help to point up the need for a reform of public sector education.
Enforcement is not costless
Dubai: Companies trying to avoid paying heavy new fines for allowing their workers' labour permits to expire are increasingly reporting their employees have fled or absconded. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs had in August increased the fines for companies to Dh5,000 for not renewing labour permits that had expired more than a year ago.Notice that whether or not there is an enforceability problem for the government to implement its own rules, there is also a problem of enforcing private contracts. Businesses that take advantage of their workers damage all businesses in the UAE. Legitimate businesses prefer a legal system where the promises they make are believed because they are enforceable.
. . .
many workers still say their bosses falsely report they have fled, a move that leaves them with a year-long ban and no end-of-service benefits. It is a persistent accusation by workers, but labour officials involved in ruling on absconding cases refuse to comment. Even though company representatives file cases where workers have absconded, the burden of proof is on the worker to show he or she has not absconded.
A place where residents don't pay utilities, housing is free and the crime rate is said to be low. Men in uniform do the mowing. And they're touchy about you taking pictures on public property.
And many people can't find it on the map.
Friday, November 18, 2005
The newspaper, Emirates Today, has been around now for over a month. In terms of content it's already established itself as a credible alternative to Gulf News and Khaleej Times. But I would not go beyond that at this point.
You don't find me linking to its articles because Emirates Today does not make it possible to see the link addresses to their articles or to cut and paste text from them. It's not blog friendly. Perhaps the intent is to guarantee they are reaching online readers unfiltered, to maintain control over how their articles are presented, and to ensure that if an article is read it is read along with the ads. Whether it's intentional or not, it's clear that one side effect is that fewer people are steared to the online version of the paper.
UPDATE: Secret Dubai, in this post, is able to link so it is possible, just not obvious or transparent.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
Why would you torch a nursery school or an old folks home? If I find I the answer to that I'll know why deliquents get pleasure from setting kittens on fire.
Reader's Digest version: Win in Iraq.
Read the whole thing. (Via Instapundit.)
Road trip! (I'm not at UAEU.)
Over at the Cafe they are celebrating the Washington Post editorial in praise of the U.S. gas price spike in the wake of Katrina. Bravo Post!
Team Cafe is on a roll, by the way. Check out these posts:
Restricting immigration reduces freedom
Is larceny a tradition like Thanksgiving?
What about those who wear clothes?
Several articles in today's Gulf News:
>EmiratisationKhaleej Times, too:
Initiative will encourage youth to become pioneers
National programme 'will benefit all'
Strategy will help nationals achieve their potential
New labour law 'imminent'
Training nationals to gain employment in private sector
Workers not receiving adequate medical benefits
Locals can be asset for private sector: MohammedFor special irony I've included stories on private sector employment. Analysis will have to wait for another day.
What’s the fault of the poor workers?
‘Education is a national priority’
A great article on sources of English translations of Arabic newspapers. Link rich.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
"The peak output of the Burgan oil field will now be around 1.7 million barrels per day, and not the two million barrels per day forecast for the rest of the field's 30 to 40 years of life, Chairman Farouk Al Zanki told Bloomberg. He said that engineers had tried to maintain 1.9 million barrels per day but that 1.7 million is the optimum rate. Kuwait will now spend some $3 million a year for the next year to boost output and exports from other fields."
Saturday, November 12, 2005
I hadn't checked Hispanic Pundit for a while. Not so long ago he wrote he'd have to cut back on his blogging. Well now he's back to proving why he's one my favorite human browsers. Or perhaps he never dialed back. There's a reason he's on my shortlist of fellow travelers.
From his current collection:
1. Why Wal-Mart is supporting an increase in the minimum wage. (Or, how a corporation uses government to harm its competitors.)
2. The failed French model.
Our democracy requires room for anti-war dissent, even if the price is aid and comfort to the enemy. Assuming, arguendo, that anti-war dissent does give aid and comfort to the enemy (I discuss why this must be so later in the post), are there types of dissent that more efficiently balance the benefit (robust public debate about a topic as momentous as the war) with the costs (the sending of signals that embolden the enemy and demoralize our own soldiers) than other types? If so, are these more efficient methods or arguments of dissent more moral or legitimate than methods or arguments that do little to advance the debate but do relatively more damage to the American war effort? These are the questions that interest me.Read the whole thing. It will keep, so wait until you can give it your undivided attention.
Come on. International trade is about mutual benefit, not "supremacy", "tussles", and "conflict."
Economics is boring. It's not zero sum. It's like watching a soap opera about a functional family. Of course, that doesn't sell many books.
Who's going to police maintenance? I predict an increase in newspaper articles on that subject in the coming year.
The order came into effect yesterday and will remain in force until the end of 2006. The order says that if property leasers or landlords decide to increase the rent for any property, it cannot exceed 15 per cent of the annual amount.
. . .
A property market survey found that rents for one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments in Dubai rose by an average of 38 per cent over the last 12 months.
Friday, November 11, 2005
the flow of capital to neighboring countries continues without letup.Meanwhile: 50,000 without jobs in Riyadh.
One need not look very deep to find out the obvious: That the investment climate and the accompanying infrastructure here do not inspire confidence among local investors. . . . Is it not strange that a country such as ours with large tracts of land, a large population, rich mineral resources and a rapid growth rate does not have sufficient capitalization channels while the tiny emirates surrounding us offer a congenial investment climate?
The long and short of it is that the regulations governing our capital market do not reflect the huge investment potential.
"Most of what goes on in the marketplace is about gains from trading, not gains from raiding. Raiding sometimes happens, and it's dramatic, but it's not what economic life is mostly about."
Thursday, November 10, 2005
'it was easier to find informal work without it'
PARIS, Nov. 9 - Struggling to restore order after nearly two weeks of nightly street battles and car burnings, the French government demanded Wednesday that foreigners found guilty of rioting be expelled from the country, regardless of whether they are in France legally or illegally.Analysis:
. . .
The government's imposition of curfews has been widely popular here, and when Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy called for the swift deportations, he was applauded in Parliament.
Mr. Sarkozy said 120 foreigners, some here legally, had been found guilty of rioting since the unrest began outside Paris on Oct. 27.
"I have asked the prefects to deport them from our national territory without delay, including those who have residency visas," he said.
Human rights groups objected, saying such "collective expulsion" was both illegal and needlessly provocative.
It does not go beyond existing French law, however, according to an immigration lawyer, Stéphane Halimi. Foreigners convicted of a crime are subject to losing their residence permits, and they are often deported after serving their sentences in French jails.
"If he can prove that these people constitute a grave threat to public order, he can certainly do it," Mr. Halimi said.
Nevertheless, Mr. Sarkozy's unyielding tone dramatized yet again the deep gulf between the rioters - most of whom are teenagers of North African or West African origin - and mainstream French society.
Many of these young people were born in France and are thus French citizens. But some older immigrants never obtained citizenship because they were ineligible or, in a few cases, because it was easier to find informal work without it.
. . .
The euro slipped against the dollar again on Wednesday, as traders worried about a contagion of violence in Europe.
The French economy itself seems unlikely to suffer much, aside from a potential drag on consumer confidence if the mayhem goes on, according to Nicolas Sobczak, an economist at Goldman Sachs in Paris. More significantly, he said, it could influence France's future economic policy, shifting the emphasis away from budget-cutting to increased social spending.
"The riots will probably change the focus to more social programs and better treatment of the suburbs," Mr. Sobczak said. "The main consequences of this will be political, not economic."
It will be unfortunate for the future of France if there are not consequences for economic policy.
More social programs for the suburbs are a salve. It does not get at the root problems. Some of those problems are social - France is a pot, but it's not melting. Others are economic, and have to do with excess government intervention into employment relations that lead to unemployment, principally amongst those at the bottom of the economic ladder - the foreign immigrants. This in turn only exacerbates the various social reasons the foreign immigrants are not being integrated into the fabric of French society.
In the NYT quote above there's a wonderfully unwitting hint of the heavy hand of government regulation of employment relations : "older immigrants never obtained citizenship because they were ineligible or, in a few cases, because it was easier to find informal work without it."
Informal work is simply work that avoids the radar of government regulation. Why accept work in the informal sector? Because employers can't afford to hire a low-skilled worker and provide all the mandated benefits the government requires.
Remember the Polish plumber.
Update: Did I mean monstrous? Monsterous works.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Your business school should hire these dudes. They're awesome investors.
When you choose to be a guest worker in the UAE you are confined, by the government's regulations, to contractual terms that limit your job mobility within the UAE. This is especially the case if you are a low-wage worker. The labor market regulations have been so rigid that it is regarded as a sign of increased flexibility that employers are now being allowed greater freedom to rent their workers to other firms.
I mention this news, because James Zogby is drawing some parallels between GCC guest workers, and the conditions faced by those who are rioting in France. Here's the full AFP report (no link yet; I will trim the following to key quotes if and when I find one):
French riots could be mirrored in Middle East: activistA couple of observations:
MANAMA, Nov 7 (AFP) - Millions of expatriate workers facing maltreatment and injustice in the Middle East and the Gulf are a "time bomb" that could unleash riots like those rocking France, an Arab-American activist warned Monday.
"France and the rest of Europe are learning now that 'guest workers', in their third generation and still denied justice, are not only a shame that eats at the moral fibre of a society, they are also a time bomb waiting to explode," said James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute.
France has been shaken by eleven nights of urban violence, involving gangs of youths from low-income and often largely North African and sub-Saharan immigrant suburbs expressing discontent at what they say is their alienation from mainstream society.
"In this region, as well, in many places, workers, be they Palestinians or other Arabs or south Asians, are trapped in horrible conditions, denied justice and their basic humanity," Zogby told a meeting of Arab NGOs here.
"It hurts not only them, but the image and the moral fibre of the countries which host them. We must do better. They clean your offices, build your cities and yet remain invisible. You must see them, incorporate their rights into your vision and defend them," he said.
"Societies, even those claiming to be just societies, are often built on the backs of an underclass ... What is happening in Paris now happened in the United States in the 1960s," Zogby said.
More than 10 million foreign workers and three million of their family members live in the energy-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Over the past few months, thousands of low-paid Asian workers staged protests, some violent, in Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai in UAE, for maltreatment and not receiving salary on time.
Foreigners in GCC states are bound by the "sponsor" system, a regulation that restricts the workers' movements and puts them at the mercy of their employers, cited as the main cause for their plight.
It is adopted by all Gulf states and has been blasted by humanrights bodies as akin to slavery.
1. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait taught the GCC countries a lesson about the dangers of employing fellow Arabs as guestworkers. Today they rely much more on guestworkers from the India, Sri Lanka and other Asian countries. Fellow Arabs are more likely to perceive themselves as deserving an expansion of rights.
2. Unlike the situation in France, the guestworkers in the GCC have jobs. The riots in France are due to lack of jobs.
3. Unlike the situation in France, the GCC guestworkers live with the fact that they can be readily deported.
4. In France discrimination is claimed as a reason for rioting. Discrimination is least costly to the discriminator when there is unemployment and an employer has the choice amongst many qualified job applicants. Why is there such high unemployment in France? Because of excessive government regulation of the labor market.
5. Notice that the GCC countries are discriminating against low-wage Arabs by not letting them into their countries to work.
In a survey of 374 top colleges and universities conducted by Kaplan, the test preparation company, 58 percent said they would use the SAT essay to evaluate whether students had received outside help on their application essays in cases where there appeared to be discrepancies in the applicants' writing levels. Thirteen percent said they would compare the essays for all applicants.Via Newmark's Door.
"What that is saying is, 'We know there are a lot of cooks in the soup on these application essays, and we want to make sure that the writing that you are able to produce on your own can keep up with that polished writing,' " said Jennifer Caran, national director for SAT and ACT programs for Kaplan.
. . .
educators make the case that basic writing and organizational skills should be consistent between the two samples.
"Schools recognize that this is a first draft and not polished work," said Ms. Caran of Kaplan, a former English teacher. "They want to get a sense of the students' innate writing abilities, to understand the students' thought processes and ability to express themselves, and whether that expression of thought is compatible with what they are saying in the application."
Complex sentence structure, the proper use of advanced vocabulary and clear expression should all be consistent between the two samples, she said.
At the risk of exposing my Anglo-Saxon economic leanings, I offer you this link. (Thanks to the always reliable humanbrowser, Newmark's Door.)
Item: Khaleej Times - "There are companies working in fields totally different from what they are licensed for, while the job of some other companies is only to import labourers, after charging a huge sum of money. Investigating into the role of such companies will clearly bring out the truth whether they are genuine establishments or simply racketeers trading in visas."
Item: Khaleej Times - "MARRIAGE fund is meant to support people with limited income who are unable to bear the burden of marriage. However, grants from the Fund are being misused, with individuals from well-off families — even the sons of businessmen and dignitaries — applying for the same."
Item: Gulf News - "Sharjah: Dozens of condemned buildings in busy downtown areas are still standing despite repeated municipal warnings to landlords, many of whom cannot be traced, engineers said. Many of the decaying buildings are eyesores and have been left exposed to the elements."
Item: Humaid Bin Dimas, Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry for the Labour Sector - "Many workers have approached the ministry weeping that they cannot pay the hefty penalty due to delay in renewal of their labour cards that were not renewed on time because the sponsor asked for money against the signing on papers," he said adding, "I personally investigated some of these cases and found out that the involved national sponsors were guilty. Many workers and their families are suffering miseries because of such greedy and reckless practices."
Monday, November 07, 2005
'Qantas needs to accept that government protection is the most powerful subsidy of them all. . . . Qantas is one of the world's most anti-competitive airlines and customers are paying higher prices as a result,' said vice chairman and group president Maurice Flanagan.
The link is to Forbes - where you'll have to climb through two or three intrusive ads to read the story.
Among those with make-up, the pattern was lost and the results far more random, suggesting that the cosmetics acted as a leveller, cancelling out the natural advantage of the attractive volunteers.The effects of nature (biological success) mean that men are hard-wired to find women with high estrogen levels more attractive. Make-up makes up for low estrogen levels. Evolution works at such a slow rate relative to the spread of cosmetics that women can fake this appearance.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, concluded: "The use of make-up may compensate for or mask cues indicating low hormone levels."
Does this mean attractive women are wasting time and money on cosmetics? Are women in a cosmetics arms race? Or could an attractive woman distinguish herself from the crowd by using less make-up? She could, and it would be worthwhile, if (1) she wears make up to be attractive to men, and (2) the men she wants to attract are intelligent enough to figure out that she is distinguishing herself.
Labels: cosmetic surgery
Assigned to work at various sites in Dubai, cleaners of the professional cleaning contractor, Cleanco, told Khaleej Times that they were fed up with the company’s lack of concern for their welfare despite their constant efforts to bring their plight to the notice of the management. “We have been working for the past four months without any assurance from our management as to when we will get our salaries. We have families back home who depend on us and we ourselves need money for our daily expenses,” one cleaner said.
The workers said they were supposed to receive a basic salary of Dh370 and food allowance of Dh100 per month. However, with the delay in payment of salaries, they were left with no choice but to approach loansharks for survival.
. . .
The cleaners said most of those working in the company for the past five to seven years had endured the abuse because of the fear of losing their job. Yet, some of their colleagues opted to have their visas cancelled instead of going through the stress.
Mohammed Gishun of Cleanco’s Accounts Department in Abu Dhabi confirmed that the cleaning staff in some of their sites do experience delays in receipt of their salaries because the management, in turn, has to wait for clients to pay them. However, an earlier media report quoted Lieutenant-Colonel Dr Mohammad Al Murr, Director of Dubai Police’s Human Rights Care Department, as saying that “companies could not claim non-payment for jobs completed by them as a ruse to deny payment to their labourers.”
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Capital flight has become talk of the town since the coming to power of the new president in June. There have been several reports indicating huge capital flight cases in recent months. Resources taken out of the country by major business owners are usually invested in housing and industrial projects in regional countries, especially the tiny Persian Gulf sheikhdom of Dubai. . . .There's a gulf, and it's Persian, and it has something to do with liquidity - but it's not water. Visit Tehran, buy a carpet and the dealer will ask you to pay his cousin in America.
Iranians have reportedly invested $200 bln in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, over the past few years.
Suddenly, they were looking at a $9 billion surplus. This was very good news for Kuwaitis like Madelene Al-Jaafar, a 63-year-old widow with three grown children.Let's forget about tomorrow
Ms. Jaafar estimates she's received about $45,000 in additional subsidies and cash handouts from the government since then.
These include a $688 payment she collected along with each of Kuwait's one million citizens, a waiver for a decade of unpaid electric bills, a hefty bonus for government workers -- including retired ones like Ms. Jaafar -- and a payment of more than $15,000 to help her build a home.
Meanwhile, she's benefiting as Kuwait City undergoes an extreme makeover, with plans for new skyscrapers, waterfront shopping malls and a highly subsidized bus system with luxurious shelters and very short waiting times.
. . .
Qatar announced a waiver of electricity and water charges earlier this year, which will cost the government $400 million annually.
. . .
few things induce complacency like higher oil prices, according to those who want to see the economy modernized. "Oil prices begin to climb, and immediately the government sits back and relaxes," says Ali Al-Mousa, chairman and managing director of Kuwait's Securities Group investment bank and a former minister of planning. "Visit any government office and you can see it today."
The Gulf's unique combination of exceedingly young populations and elephantine public sectors presents the risk of a fiscal time-bomb, supporters of change argue. Almost two-thirds of Kuwaitis are under 20 and will soon want jobs.
They'll expect to find them with Kuwait's employer of first and last resort: the government, which promises a salary to any citizen who wants one. Almost all Kuwaitis who work are on the public payroll.
. . .
Electric power, for example, costs Kuwaitis about 10 percent of the market price. That is no small thing in one of the hottest countries in a hot region, where residents typically run their air-conditioning year-round. Fuel prices are heavily subsidized.
Meanwhile, a new constitution gave every Kuwaiti the "right to work," which basically translated into a guaranteed government job. Most jobs amounted to government sinecures, requiring little time or talent. . . .
When Ms. Jaafar got married, the government gave her and her husband $17,150 to help with expenses. The couple also received free land, a car and cash to help build a house. Their expenses were minimal: electric bills, which often go unpaid, were almost nothing. Subsidized food made basic meals close to free. On her 10th anniversary, a congratulatory check for nearly $250,000 arrived from the government. Ms. Jaafar retired after 15 years in her government job of three hours a day. But her pension still brings in 95 percent of her previous salary, which was $4,116 a month.
Kuwaitis wanting to invest in the stock market can get interest-free loans -- something Ms. Jaafar recently did to cash in on the stock-market boom. Interest-free loans are also available for travel abroad.
Some members of the National Assembly are lobbying for the government to forgive these individual debts -- just as the government recently did for unpaid electric bills. They quote Article 20 of Kuwait's constitution, which stipulates the aim of the national economy includes providing "prosperity for citizens."
. . .
The percentage of working Kuwaitis on the government payroll has risen to 96 percent from 80 percent two years ago.
. . .
Kuwait's National Assembly is elected, and it's among the most active and responsive to constituencies in the region. Although the ruling Emir and the government have the final word, they've been reluctant to flout the elected body's collective will.
But the National Assembly is packed with populists devoted to defending the country's welfare state.
Let's forget about tomorrow
Let's forget about tomorrow for tomorrow never comes
-Forget Domani (N. Newell, R. Ortolani)
-from the MGM Motion Picture "The Yellow Rolls Royce"
Words and Music by Riziero Ortolani and Norman Newell , 1965
With The Allesandro Allessandroni Singers under the direction of Ray Charles
Friday, November 04, 2005
I've been waiting for James D. Hamilton, the Econbrowser, to post on oil company profits. He has, and his investigation leads him to this question, quote,
Why aren't the big oil companies reinvesting their huge profits? . . . I must confess that I find it puzzling why it would make sense in the current situation to hoard cash and buy back shares. If anyone has a good explanation, I'd be very interested to hear.Take a look at his analysis and the comments.
I've merely asserted that if government taxes windfall profits that will discourage investment. Hamilton takes a look at whether investment is taking place at all.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Qantas chairwoman Margaret Jackson said Wednesday that Emirates was 100 percent owned by the government of Dubai. "To suggest that Emirates is competing on similar terms as commercially-run airlines like Qantas is, quite frankly, fiction," she said.Australian consumers were not reached for comment.
Jackson said government ownership provided a sovereign risk rating that allowed Emirates to carry debt levels far higher than publicly listed carriers such as Qantas. She said Emirates paid no company tax in Dubai, and its chairman, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, was a member of the ruling family and head of the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation, which ran Dubai Airport. "As Qantas has observed before, life must be wonderfully simple when the airline, government and airport interests are all controlled by the same people," Jackson said.
Emirates President Tim Clark, who has been in Australia for this week's Melbourne Cup horse race -- sponsored by Emirates -- said the airline wanted to double its flights in and out of Australia from 42 to 84.
That has evoked a furious response from Qantas. . . .
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
AMEinfo says, "Academic economists are flocking to Dubai to try to understand the reasons for this city-state's success."
But no where in the article is there any evidence given of where this flock of academics economists is, or who they are.
Second sentence of the article:
Clearly this [economic success] is down to more than a spate of high oil prices as other Middle East cities, with the exception of Doha, are not booming to the same extent.Yet in the penultimate paragraph there's this admission that oil money is playing a role:
The genius of Sheikh Mohammed has been to launch an immense number of new development projects at a time when the region is undergoing an oil boom. This has meant that Dubai has scooped up the lion's share of investment in new projects, as well as prospering on the back of enhanced trade.Still, I have to agree with the concluding sentence:
For the moment all roads lead to Dubai in the Middle East, and the commercial capital of the region is under construction.
Al Hamed gets more international coverage
The Al Hamed construction labor camp is a hardscrabble jumble of battered trailers, where 7,800 laborers sleep, cook meals, and kneel to pray in an outdoor pavilion of corrugated tin.All this should be familiar to those who follow the news in the UAE.
The camp lies on Dubai's desert outskirts, out of view of the wealthy foreigners in the Gulf shore skyscrapers and the tourists thronging to mall boutiques like Prada and Gucci.
The workers in this camp, however, know the city's luxurious attractions. They built them, on salaries that range from $135 to $400 a month.
Despite their paltry wages, and despite the tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues pouring into the United Arab Emirates, laborers sometimes have trouble coaxing their employers to pay up. Three to five months without pay is common. Some say they have not seen salaries in a year or longer.
In the past, the docile immigrant work force had little redress. But this year, thousands have walked off construction sites, blocking roads, marching in protest to the Labor Ministry or simply refusing to work.
"Any worker who doesn't get paid should go on strike," said a 33-year-old Indian man visiting the Dubai Court's labor section who gave his name only as Zia, for fear of being fired and deported for speaking to a reporter. "You have to go on strike, because it is successful."
Zia was one of a dozen laborers filing grievances last month for as much as six months' back pay.
The protests have galvanized the federal Labor Ministry into cracking down on the offending companies, saying they are tarnishing the reputation of the country. . . .
The following has received less attention. Picking up where we left off:
The protests have galvanized the federal Labor Ministry into cracking down on the offending companies, saying they are tarnishing the reputation of the country just as it negotiates a free trade agreement with the United States. Workers' rights are a critical factor in those talks.The irony for these workers is that if they are given more bargaining power many of them will lose their jobs. At higher wages the UAE would substitute in obtaining its construction workers from more other countries with a more skilled workforce.
. . .
Human Rights Watch and the State Department have criticized the Emirates and other Gulf countries as centers of human trafficking and worker exploitation. In Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch in 2004 said some Asian migrants worked in "slavery-like conditions."
The State Department last month upgraded its assessment of the Emirates and Qatar, but they remain on a watch list. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still face sanctions that can only be waived by the president.
The Emirates has a big impetus to treat its workers better. The free trade pact it is negotiating with the United States stands to make this business-savvy country even more wealthy. Dubai is a duty-free trading hub, with some of the world's busiest air and sea ports. Washington has already signed free trade pacts with Bahrain and Oman that remain to be ratified by Congress.
Holding up the deal are U.S. demands that would give workers the right to form unions and bargain collectively, Alkhazraji acknowledged. He said trade unions could have huge economic consequences for the Emirates, perhaps slowing the building boom while radicalizing the docile work force.
Question to self: What are foreign worker rights in Iraq? Where do most of the foreign construction workers there come from?
For the "people respond to incentives file"
It's a family tradition:
More than two-thirds of public school pupils in the emirate failed to attend school yesterday in a bid to expand their Eid Al Fitr holiday meaning those who did attend were sent home early.Note that to ensure those who skipped school did not fall behind, suffering the consequences of their actions, "those who did attend were sent home early." But perhaps those who did attend simply like school and wanted a full day of school; or perhaps they attended because they wanted to get ahead in life.
. . .
The official added parents did not seem concerned over the issue, even when school social inspectors contacted them directly to ask them to make sure their children attended school.
This explains a lot. At least the facts are going public.
In a sign of progress, pro-regime Syrian demonstrators are putting women front and center. And, this time they're smiling (before and after pics). And even look happy. Perhaps a transfer of values is taking place. Perhaps the Syrian regime has learned a lesson from Saddam's manipulation of religion and is trying a different tactic.
Lebanon should take heart; imitation (pic) is the sincerest form of flattery.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Several sources have confirmed that the US administration was aware of the initiative and did not object to it.
. . .
Knowledgeable Emirati sources have disclosed the details of the initiative of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahian, former president of United Arab Emirates. The initiative aimed at the stepping down of the ousted Iraqi president and helping Baghdad avoid an unbalanced war against the Americans. The added that the initiative has been approved on behalf of the main competent parties and could have led to avoiding the war in Iraq if it was not frustrated in Sharm El Sheikh Arab urgent Summit, which has been held in February 2003, weeks before the war.
Obaid Rashid Al Zahmi, Head of the UAE Marriage Funds, said that there are rich people who apply for the marriage grants worth Dh70,000, which is an uncivilised phenomenon.
He points out to the level of greed, which possesses unsatisfied souls for whom there is never enough. “The rules and regulations of Marriage Funds clearly specifies that the beneficiaries are supposed to be people with limited income, not the sons of businessmen, dignitaries and VIPs,” he said in an interview to Al Etihad newspaper.