Sunday, May 28, 2006

What I'm reading today - May 27, 2006

Saudi Arabia's Mass Weddings Leading to Unhappy Endings :: Asharq Al-Awsat - Maybe. But there's numeracy issues in this report. You report that "thirty-nine percent of couples who tie the knot in mass weddings in Saudi Arabia later divorce" (and you later quote an official as saying it is 39% in the first year of marriage amongst those married in mass weddings in Jeddah last year). But you give no percent for couples who did not marry in mass weddings. So what can we conclude about mass weddings? Later you state that 1,052,000 women of marriagable age are single. But you do not put that number in perspective. For example, as a percentage how does this compare to the amount in recent decades?

Mid-day break for workers during summer indispensable :: S.S. Lootah Contracting Company press release - "The announcement came during S.S. Lootah Contracting HSE policy review meeting held in Dubai last week. Health and safety policy refinement, unconventional operational methods and behavioral based safety management were among the issues discussed during the meeting. 'It is challenging to achieve safety excellence in the construction industry'. Lootah noted. 'We are communicating and implementing HSE principles at all operational levels, but our values that promote respect, care and appreciation for all workers is the key in achieving our goals' he added. . . . The discussion concluded that it is becoming increasingly important to have one official body overseeing health and safety policy making and implementation in the construction industry."

Note that Lootah would like its standards imposed on the rest of the construction industry. It is probable that this means that Lootah is not being compensated by its customers for its higher safety standards. When we blame construction companies for treatment of workers let's remember that it is the customers of the construction companies who are not willing to pay for improved safety. Nor, evidently, are the workers, otherwise a construction company could cut labor costs by exchanging better safety for lower wages. Workers who complain about working in deadly heat are asking to change the terms under which they were hired. Are they willing to take a wage cut in return for not having to work in the hottest hours of the day? Reader, if you object please note that I am also willing to accept the possibility that the construction company is the one that is changing the terms and did not provide workers with full information about working conditions before they were hired.

Getting rid of old cars in Dubai will help the economy? :: Gulf News - Actually, thereare simply not that many old cars on the roads in Dubai. But there are a lot of old trucks. I wonder who owns all those old trucks and why they are still allowed to ply the highways? My guess is that they are the major source of pollution in the vehicle fleet. Besides that, these older trucks are slow and unsafe, contributing to traffic jams and hazardous conditions for others. So, yes, tightening up on the regulation of old cars and trucks would be a net benefit for society.

But reasoning like this is simply a display of economic ignorance on a grand scale: "Ayir N., 36, a manager from India, said preventing very old cars from plying the roads 'is an excellent idea that will push up the economy by allowing more sales of new cars.' . . . Reem Hashim, 29, a flight attendant from Syria, said removing vehicles over 15 years old is a great move. 'It will help decrease the pollution and will refresh the economy by allowing people to buy new cars,' she said." While we at it let's destroy some of the older housing in Dubai to "allow" Ayir and Reem to rent new apartments.

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