Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Economist :: UAE "government's boldest move yet in its policy of Emiratization"

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has given all companies operating in the country—excluding small businesses and those in the free zones such as Dubai International Finance Centre and Dubai Media City—18 months to remove expatriates employed as secretaries or human-resource managers. This is the government’s boldest move yet in its policy of Emiratisation, the process of replacing expatriates with native workers.
Secret Dubai had this to say:
There's only one way to describe the latest episode in the proposed emiratisation of secretaries, an embarrassing climbdown. After ruling that all expat secretaries - public and private sector - would be sacked and replaced with locals, and that expat secretaries would not be allowed get around this by changing job titles, we then learnt that probably only half of foreign secretaries would be replaced. Then we learnt that it wouldn't apply to small businesses. And now we learn that expat secretaries will be able to stay on under new job titles.

How did such an appalling mess come about? The usual stunning fusion of arrogance and ignorance. First someone figures out that: "most unemployed UAE nationals were secondary school graduates between the ages of 15 and 24". Next it's probably presumed that secretarial positions are low-skilled (because most of them are low-paid: "Indian lady on husband's/father's visa" being the usual job ad) so would therefore suit school leavers. Then it's presumed that all unemployed people actually want to work (in any country, there are plenty of dole bludgers far happier to sit on their arses if generous welfare is available). Finally it's presumed that unemployed UAE nationals actually want sectretarial positions.
Now we read "The Ministry of Labour has submitted a memorandum to the Cabinet proposing that companies which do not wish to replace expatriate secretaries with UAE nationals can opt to pay a Dh60,000 yearly fee." If there was a climbdown, it didn't last long.

In the end, though, this means of Emiratization does not make sense - Secret Dubai has articulated this well - so I expect it will go the way of nevermind sooner rather than later. See these other nevermind examples. Halfbaked ideas collapse under their own light weight, just like halfbaked cakes. You might think quick decisionmaking enhances your reputation for decisiveness, but you'd be wrong.



Anonymous EmiratesHistorian ;-} said...

In fact, John, I see this oft-repeated pattern not as a sign of fecklessness, but rather a kind of political process. The rulers of the UAE operate by fiat, as we know, but they are also highly attuned to the responses to their pronouncements. Therefore, an announcement is made that some non-nationals may be allowed to become citizens. A quiet outcry ensues, and that plan is quietly shelved. An announcement is made that the price of petrol will be allowed to float to international levels; quiet outcry, shelved. In a sense, you can think of this as a way to test the waters: when a plan doesn't smell right to the people the rulers listen to, they then back away from that plan, or they modify it, or they take years to work out regulations for it. Some of this is inefficiency, foot-dragging, or incompetence, but for the big things I suspect there's something else in play.

4:31 AM  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

I agree with you that part of why there is a pattern is that this is the mode by which the rulers and the people negotiate government policy - announce, get feedback, adapt. And that is a sign of a kind of government by consent of the people. And that is a good thing.

Thank you for bringing out this aspect of the pattern.

6:07 AM  

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