Thursday, November 30, 2006

The family is the major source of human inequality in American society

Item 1 from EclectEcon.

Item 2.

Education might actually make inequality worse if it makes it increases the likelihood that high earning women marry high earning men.

(The title of this post comes from a quote in the interview with James Heckmank referenced by EclectEcon.)

Clan of the economists

Greg Mankiw points to Whaples' survey of economists. We're very consensual.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In Bahrain, Democracy Activists Regret Easing of U.S. Pressure :: Washington Post

The Bush administration, which said several years ago that greater democracy in the Middle East was a cornerstone of its foreign policy, has recently tempered its demands.

Democracy activists say that with the absence of strong grass-roots movements, Western pressure is the only remaining option that could force totalitarian governments to give up some of their power.

"The dictatorships in the region are the real winners of the shift in U.S. policy," said Sulaiman al-Hattlan, editor of Forbes Arabia. "They are not serious about reform and only respond to international pressure. They can easily repress their populations because they have total control of all state apparatuses."
. . .
Abduljalil al-Singace, a university professor and head of Haq, said he had felt the sting of the U.S. "change of heart" in actively supporting democracy in the region. Singace has visited Washington five times in the past two years to lobby members of Congress to press the Bahraini government for more democracy. The reception on the Hill, he said, has grown colder and colder.
. . .
Bahraini activists have encouraged people to take a look at the country on Google Earth, and they have set up a special user group whose members have access to more than 40 images of royal palaces.
The UAE holds Federal National Council elections December 16, 18, and 20. 465 candidates are standing for election including 65 females. Here's what candidate Dr Amal Abdullah Juma Al Qubaisi, a professor of architecture at UAE University, has to say:
"The UAE identity has been lost. We have to know what we have to build on it; not only by conserving sites and buildings, but by reflecting the spirit of traditional architecture and local character in contemporary architecture and planning.

This is the side of preservation that you will see. The part you will feel is by getting younger local generation to get acquainted with their ... country's history."
Here's what the BBC reported in December 2005:
The 40-member council serves only in an advisory capacity and has no legislative powers.

Sheikh Khalifa hopes the reforms will encourage political participation by citizens of the UAE.

However, the election will be limited to a number of citizens, appointed to local councils by the rulers of the seven emirates - who would then be able to choose half the membership of the national council.

The other half of the council will be appointed by the ruling families.

The UAE is one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf, with other cultures and beliefs generally tolerated.

However, it is the only state in the region not to have elected bodies.
In my assessment, the general view of the citizens is why rock the boat when things are going well, small steps towards a more democratic form of government are sufficient. There is some (somewhat contradictory) unease, though, over loss of national identity. Not surprising given that nationals comprise 20% of the population, and most structures that existed 50 years ago are gone.


US Democrat lawmakers to Haiti: no trade deal :: WSJ

The Haiti trade proposal has been in the works for years, but really emerged as a divisive issue this fall. Perhaps the most controversial proposal on the table would allow Haiti garment makers to produce as much as 60 million square yards of woven apparel, such as chinos and denim jeans, with foreign-made material, while still qualifying for duty-free access to the U.S. Haiti's backers say that accounts for less than 1% of the U.S.'s overall apparel imports each year.

Supporters say the deal would give Haiti greater flexibility to meet the requests of retailers, and is needed to restore some competitive edge Haiti lost after Congress conferred special trade benefits last year on the Dominican Republic and five Central American nations.

Haiti is by far the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, with four-fifths of its 8.3 million people living in poverty, and newly elected president René Préval is grappling with the spread of AIDS, unreliable electrical service and criminal gangs, as he seeks to revive the economy.
. . .
But with voter concern over globalization having tipped important races in midterm elections and helped Democrats retake Congress, Haiti now faces an even-tougher environment, trade experts said.
The moral high ground is with those supporting Haiti. We feel your pain.

Cross posted at New Virginia Church Man.


There are so many double entendres in this brief article out of Devon that the mind boggles.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Iran Restricts Broadband Speeds to Save Islamic Culture :: PRMinds

From PRMinds comes this RNCOS press release:
Islamic government of Iran is debarring Internet links of high-speed as an effort to dampen its internal political clashes and to battle against the western culture’s influence.

Government of Iran is limiting the download speeds of Internet to keep its younger generation away from outside influences that can undermine its Islamic culture. The service providers in the country have been instructed to restrict download speed to 128 Kbps. It will make the download of foreign music and video from Internet difficult.
. . .
Recent report by RNCOS, “Middle East and Africa Broadband Sector Analysis (2007)” puts forth that in many of the Middle East and African countries, the government has imposed strict restrictions and censorship on Internet use. Countries like United Arab Emirates, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran have been observing online ban though some relaxation has been given off late. This tight ban is bound to hinder the progress of broadband market and Internet access in these areas.

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UAE Central Bank FX reserves increase, remain undiversified :: FX Street

The United Arab Emirates central bank announced a 19% increase in its FX reserves to $25.1 bln at end of Q2, while clarifying it had not yet gone along with diversifying its reserves. Less than a month ago, the central bank said it would shift 10% of its reserves from US dollars to euros and gold to alter its 98% USD/2.0% EUR proportion.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

UAE's first credit bureau opens :: Trade Arabia

A bit overdue, really.

Via UAE community blog. See, especially, poo's cogent comment.

Speaking of information, the UAE also needs central collection of traffic violations so that automobile insurance premiums can be risk rated. Bad drivers should be paying more for insurance. People do respond to incentives.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Elder Bush: "I think that's weird and it's nuts"

NY Daily News:

President Bush's father was forced into an emotional defense of his son yesterday in the Persian Gulf when an Arab audience launched a blistering surprise attack on his first-born.

"We do honor Americans, and I believe that they are highly respected in our country. However, we do not respect your son, and we do not respect what you are doing all over the world," college student Nevine Al Rumeisi told the former President at a leadership conference in the United Arab Emirates.

Her comment was roundly cheered by the business and political leaders gathered in once pro-American Abu Dhabi.

The elder Bush just looked stunned.
. . .
When another audience member said he thought American wars are designed to open markets for U.S. companies - drawing more cheers and whoops - Bush grew testy.

"I think that's weird and it's nuts," he said.

"To suggest that everything we do is because we're hungry for money - I think that's crazy. I think you need to go back to school."

7 Days coverage of interview with London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat generates comment

Not sure why there's so much heat. Perhaps it's in due to the e-comments at 7 Days.

See UAE community blog and the comments there about the 7 Days article. [UPDATE: The comments have been taken down. See the explanation here.]

nzm reminds us a full English translation of the interview is available at "the official website",UAE Interact.

The contention seems to be around whether any foreign workers have migrant status or whether all are temporary. The government has long expressed the latter view, and foreign work visas are designed to be temporary.

Road pricing in the news

1. New York Times:
Congestion pricing, the idea of charging drivers for bringing vehicles into the busiest parts of Manhattan, has become a kind of holy grail for transportation advocates and urban planners in New York — a coveted prize that has remained out of reach.

A year ago, officials from a prominent civic group floated a proposal to reduce traffic by levying a $7 fee on cars and trucks driving below 60th Street, but they found themselves treated not like visionary crusaders but like bird flu patients when policy makers at City Hall said very firmly that such a change was not on the mayor’s agenda for his second term.

Now a diverse array of civic and community groups — including such unlikely allies as conservative scholars and take-back-the-streets cycling advocates — are cautiously moving to raise the subject again in the hope of overcoming the resistance of New Yorkers and their political leaders.
. . .
Mr. White said any congestion pricing program would have to be combined with — or preferably preceded by — other measures like improving bus service and smoothing traffic flow. His group has asked the city to move beyond what has already been done to reduce the number of parking permits given to city employees, who drive to work in large numbers. Transportation Alternatives would also like to see more Midtown parking spaces converted to loading zones so that streets are not clogged with double-parked trucks unloading goods.

Advocates of congestion pricing are reluctant to make specific proposals on how it could be carried out in New York, but they often point to London as an example of a successful program.
2. Seattle Times (via Greg Mankiw):
For about eight months, drivers in 275 Seattle-area households agreed to pay for something the rest of us get for free: The right to drive on the region's freeways and streets.

They were guinea pigs in a pioneering study that explored how motorists' behavior might change if they had to pay tolls — not just on a few bridges or highways, but on almost every road with a yellow center line.

Researchers established virtual tolls ranging from a nickel to 50 cents a mile. They gave participants pre-paid accounts of between $600 and $3,000, and told them they could keep whatever the tolls didn't eat up.

The experiment ended in February. Preliminary results, released this month, suggest that if such so-called "road pricing" were widespread, it could make a significant dent in traffic.
3. KTRK of Houston:
Would you pay more money to travel toll roads at peak times, such as rush hour? It may become a reality - after county commissioners decided to take a look at it.

The last increase happened two years ago and added a million dollars more a week to the toll road authority. But officials say this new study is also aimed at easing traffic congestion.
. . .
Harris County commissioners' court approved a study that will analyze the possibility of raising toll rates.

"Part of the study is congestion pricing -- the possibility of during rush hours times they could raise tolls so people who do use it will have to pay a little more," explained Gloria Roemer. "That may make some people not want to use it."
4. Birmingham Post:
The West Midlands has been urged to show leadership over road pricing after a report exposed the damaging effects of traffic congestion on the region.

Commuters in the West Midlands take longer to travel to work than those in competing regions such as Merseyside or Newcastle, according to the Department for Transport. And roads here are more congested than any part of the country except London.

Delays faced by employees are part of the reason congestion costs West Midlands business and industry £2.2 billion each year.

The report was published as West Midland councils presented the Department of Transport with proposals for a £26.6 million traffic management scheme.

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce demanded the Government make good on promises to invest in public transport in the region. But local authorities were also under pressure to come out in favour of road pricing scheme which could reduce congestion on the roads. [The government has made road funding contingent on local government adoption of congestion pricing.]

Local MP Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) said: "We need the councils to start showing some leadership. There has been a failure to make any progress on road pricing. "We seem to be losing out on that, because there has been no leadership out there."

West Midlands authorities needed to "knuckle down" and make a decision on road-pricing, she said. "They need to express a preference as to which option they support."
5. Taipei Times:
An Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) proposal that would require car and motorbike owners entering Taipei County and Taipei and Kaohsiung cities to pay a "congestion charge" met strong opposition from two candidates running for Kaohsiung mayor. The EPA is considering introducing the charge to help relieve traffic congestion and reduce air pollution in the three administrative areas, based on a system used in London.
I'm an economist, and I endorse this politically infeasible proposal. For Sharjah, Dubai, and where ever congestion is found.

If you want more roads without being charged for their use, then you'll get more traffic creating the "need" for more roads. That's the mechanism by which Robert Moses built his empire in New York.

Here are some of the major roadworks planned in Dubai.


What are economists saying about the Stern climate change report?

Respected Yale economist, Bill Nordhaus, calls the results "bizarre." See Greg Mankiw's quote of Nordhaus' review here. Mankiw's post includes a link to Nordhaus' review and to economist Tyler Cowen's post on Nordhaus.

UPDATE: Cambridge economist Partha Dasgupta also pans Stern. He uses the phrase "patently absurd." Another choice quote: "the strong, immediate action on climate change advocated by the authors is an implication of their views on intergenerational equity; it isn't driven so much by the new climatic facts the authors have stressed." As Mankiw says, Dasgupta also has the credentials to comment.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

New thinking on Iraq :: Econbrowser

we propose that the United States make a financial commitment to Iraq which takes the form of ensuring that its Sunni provinces get oil revenues proportional to their share of the population over the next decade or possibly more.
Via Truck & Barter.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Does size matter? - Economists take a look

They calculated that for every inch taller a man is than his speed-dating rivals, the number of women who want to meet him goes up by about five percent.

Reducing the magical chemistry of love at first sight to a set of complicated equations, researchers Michele Belot and Marco Francesconi analysed the choices made by 1,800 men and 1,800 women at 84 speed-dating events across Britain.

Each hopeful pays about 20 pounds and has just three minutes to convince a possible partner of the opposite sex.

The conclusion of the University of Essex study was blunt and to the point: "Women prefer men who are young and tall, while men are more attracted to women who are young and thin."
. . .
But, in the unforgiving numbers game of love, age is crucial.

Each extra year, in comparison with others in the speed-dating group, reduces a man's chance of finding a partner by four percent. For women it is five percent.
. . .
"We also found that an overweight woman is 16 per cent less likely to receive a proposal from men. Men, on the other hand do not seem to be penalised for being overweight," Belot said.

The survey explodes the myth that blondes always have more fun -- hair colour was not a major issue when speed-dating.
Here's the paper: Can Anyone Be “The” One, Evidence on Mate Selection from Speed Dating.

Here's what Farkers are saying about the study.

Related: Assortative mating may explain growing income inequality in the US.

UPDATE: Via Mankiw comes this - WaPo reports today's men find women with graduate degrees more attractive according to empirical research by economist Elaine Rose.

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Get out of probation visits to AIU campuses :: Yahoo message board

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools was scheduled to visit American Intercontinental University campuses in October. SACS placed AIU on probation last year.

I wonder if they visited the London or Dubai (AUD) campuses each of which claim U.S. accreditation as branches of AIU.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tough Markets

Gulf News Published: 21/11/2006 12:00 AM (UAE): UAE stocks at the lowest point in two years

GN Published: 21/11/2006 12:00 AM (UAE): Dh6.9b wiped out of UAE stock markets

Arab Times Kuwait: 21/11/2006: "Kuwait stocks tumbled 3.5 per cent Monday, as investors loaded off shares, concerned by stock authority’s investigation into listed companies’ ownership disclosure. It was the biggest single-day drop since July, the day following Israel attack on Lebanon."

The Khaleej Times on 17/11 offered some guesses as to why "Arab stock markets deepened losses this week for the third week in a row."


Monday, November 20, 2006

Evolution happens . . .

... fast.

A new study of lizards in the Bahamas shows that the natural selection pressures that drive evolution can flip-flop faster than previously thought — even in months.

"Darwin was right about so many things," said Jonathan Losos, a former Washington University biologist who led the study. "In this case he was wrong. He thought that evolution must occur slowly and gradually."

The lizards and their changing leg lengths are yet another case of evolution occurring in real time. From finches that evolve longer beaks in a few years to bacteria that adapt to strange feeding regimens in days, evolution, as a science, has leapt out of musty museums and into the field.
. . .
The lizard study echoes one of the classic cases of evolution-in-action: Darwin's finches on the Galapagos Islands. For more than 30 years, Princeton University biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant have measured changes in the finches' beaks. After extended droughts, small seeds became more scarce. In a few years, the finches evolved longer beaks to crack the larger, tough seeds that remained. Then as more plentiful times returned, the bird beaks got smaller again.

At Michigan State University, Richard Lenski is studying evolution in test tubes. For almost 20 years, he has reared 12 colonies of E. coli. They have divided more than 30,000 times — which, in terms of human generations, is longer than Homo sapiens has been around. Lenski has challenged the bacteria with strange feeding patterns — feeding them sugars, then starving them.

The colonies all adapted, quickly. But they used different genetic tricks to get there. Their DNA is now remarkably different: an example of parallel evolution.
UPDATE: My favorite human browser, Newmark's Door, points us to information that "You are what your grandmother ate."


The Saudis, key allies in the Middle East, have also threatened to cut intelligence co-operation with Britain over Al-Qaeda.

They have repeated their threat that they will terminate payments on a defence contract that could be worth £40 billion and safeguard at least 10,000 British jobs.

The Saudis are furious about the criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into allegations that BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence company, set up the “slush fund” to support the extravagant lifestyle of members of the Saudi royal family.

The payments, in the form of lavish holidays, a fleet of luxury cars including a gold Rolls-Royce, rented apartments and other perks, are alleged
to have been paid to ensure the Saudis continued to buy from BAE under the so-called Al-Yamamah deal, rather than going to another country. Al-Yamamah is the biggest defence contract in British history and has kept BAE in business for 20 years.
At least five people have been arrested in the probe.


Saudization of nursing :: Arab News

It won't be happening soon. Families oppose it.

And then there's the problem of work ethic. I think it was Huck Finn who said if working is easier than not and the wages is the same, why work.

Israel brings cost of making a barrel of oil from oil shale down to $17 :: UPI

It will be interesting to see if this turns out to be true. If it is true, we won't be seeing $100/barrel oil any time soon.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Nobel economist Milton Friedman dead at 94

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Markets in Everything :: Hiring the homeless to buy Play Stations


Thomas Rosatti and his buddies were first in line at the store. But shortly after they pitched their tent, they got company.

"A truck rolls up, one of those U-Haul type trucks, and seriously, 50 people rolled out, and he says they got them from the homeless shelter," Rosatti said.

While WRAL was there, the truck used to transport the men from the homeless shelter returned with food for the men. Abdul Salem said he and a friend came up with the idea. They said they plan to pay the men $100 a day to stand in line for a ticket to purchase a PS3 unit that costs around $600.

"It's got to be the eBay incentive," Salem said.

The eBay incentive is all about money. The going price on the site for a PS3 unit is approaching $2,000. Salem called his arrangement with the men from Raleigh's homeless community a win/win proposition.
Which leaves the question: why don't the homeless buy the PS3's for themselves? Lack of liquidity? Desire to have the money now rather than later? Poor access to resale market or lack of reputation in that market? Some of all these I suspect.

The link comes from Fark. See the Farkers' comments.

And there's more. Look who's getting in line: John "I was against Wal-Mart before I was for it" Edwards.

"Markets in everything" is a conception of Marginal Revolution.


UPDATE: Wal-Mart manager comes up with way to save folks time waiting in line. What could possibly go wrong? Farkers explain.

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Farkonomics Watch

British man engages in DIY dentistry. I'm not surprised, and only partly because this is a story about socialized medicine.

Here's what they're saying about this story over at Fark.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Inside the brain of the economist :: New Economist

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Best line of the day

Dubai Government, which owns the bulk of the DFM, is putting shares in the stock market up for sale through its own bourse.

Yes, it has finally happened. Dubai is selling itself.

- grapeshisha

I wonder if Dubai is selling itself short.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Emirates building boom depends on abused work force, Human Rights Watch says :: AP

This Associated Press report has been picked up by local papers across America. An extract:

The Emirates, the watchdog said, "has abdicated almost entirely from its responsibility to protect workers' rights."

The men earn as little as $135 (€105) per month in a country where the average wage is $2,100 (€1,600), Human Rights Watch says. The workers often toil for two or three years to pay off debts to unscrupulous labor recruiters, said the report, titled Building Towers, Cheating Workers.

"There's no reason for a global economic powerhouse like the U.A.E. to tolerate abusive and exploitative labor practices," said Human Rights Watch researcher Hadi Ghaemi. "None of this construction would be possible without these imported workers."

Labor Minister Ali Al Kaabi said the Emirates is beefing up its enforcement of already strict laws on labor rights and human trafficking. Al Kaabi acknowledged there are just 80 labor inspectors — too few to keep companies in line.

"Our laws are tougher than anyone else's in the Mideast," Al Kaabi said. "But the lack of inspectors means sometimes we don't see these problems."

The human rights report, released Sunday in a press conference at a Dubai hotel, comes days after Dubai leader Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum issued a sweeping program of labor reform that appeared timed to undercut the watchdog group's findings.

And on Saturday the country's ruler, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, announced tough penalties, up to life imprisonment, against trafficking in humans, which has illegally brought domestic servants, prostitutes and even child camel race jockeys into the country.

Now, Sheik Mohammed has ordered the creation of an inspection directorate and a system of labor courts. He also requires companies to provide health insurance for all foreign workers and allow them to change jobs more easily.

Sometime next year, Al Kaabi said a new force of 2,000 inspectors will police this country's building sites and desert labor camps, home to hundreds of thousands of migrant workmen from South Asia.

"We're in the spotlight because of Dubai's development," Al Kaabi said. "Success means you get a lot of criticism."

The Emirates, like other Gulf countries, relies on foreign labor for private sector jobs. Labor conditions are similar in nearby Kuwait and Qatar; worse in Saudi Arabia and slightly better in Oman and Bahrain, Ghaemi said.

While the reforms may cut abuses, they won't do anything to raise salaries, which Al Kaabi said were set by "the market" in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan where wages are a tiny fraction of those in the wealthy Gulf.

Gulf developers use a clever tactic of "in-sourcing" laborers on three-year contracts, hiring men in South Asia on salaries that appear reasonable in their home countries. In many cases, the men go into debt to pay their own airfare and visa costs, even though Emirates law says companies must pay these fees. Workers wind up toiling a year or two just to pay off their loans, the rights group found.
At present there are at least 156 papers worldwide that have used this AP story on the HRW report. But perhaps someone thinks that we soon forget what we read in newspapers.

The UAE authorities made the same promise in January of this year to increase the number of inspectors from 80.

And in 2003 Gulf News quoted Dr Khalid Al Khazraji, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour:
To draw a clear picture of our labour inspection capabilities in the country, I would like to mention here that the ministry has nearly 80 inspectors to monitor more than 2.5 million labourers working in nearly 230,000 companies and business organisations operating in the emirates. With such a small number of inspectors we cannot play a proactive role in the market.

In 2002, the ministry recruited 60 inspectors. This year we are in the process of hiring 30 inspectors. Our target for the coming three years is to reach 480 labour inspectors.
I didn't go back further in the google wayback machine.

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The Whole World is Watching :: UAE community blog

Posting at the team blog, UAE community blog, i, Bobo provides a nice roundup on the latest Human Rights Watch report on labor abuses in the United Arab Emirates, "Building Towers, Cheating Workers". See also the comments to his post.

I tend to see this more as an equilibrium where the low-wage workers in the UAE know in advance that cheating occurs in the sector so, in effect, they are not cheated. All that happens is the UAE perpetuates its earned reputation for lack of enforcement of its own laws and for shifting the blame to authorities in source countries. Frankly, this has a corrosive effect throughout the society, stymieing trust and promoting cynicism -- which in turn makes all laws difficult to enforce. The cycle of life, such as it is, is complete. It's not a healthy economic atmosphere.

i, Bobo blogs at Bobo of Arabia.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Royal Emirati Whose Career Fuels Young Women’s Dreams :: NYT

THE United Arab Emirates have one of the fastest growing economies in the Middle East, and also have one of the most open societies in the Persian Gulf. Women are afforded many freedoms and are encouraged to work and take part in public life. But ultimately this is a traditional society for local women, where marriage and family are still central in a woman’s life, where the law favors men in issues of family and where many women opt for reliable government jobs or simply choose to stay at home.

But with the outside world crashing into Emirati homes, and divorce rates on the rise, women must be better prepared to take care of themselves than their mothers’ generation, Sheika Lubna and other women here argue.

As a woman who challenged all the societal rules in the 1970s, working her way up the ranks as a computer engineer, then a chief executive and a government minister, she has sought to prove to women here that they, too, must begin assuming a greater role in public life.

Her family is the ruling family of the emirate of Sharjah, the emirate neighboring Dubai; her uncle is the ruler. As royalty, she faced even more traditional demands than most. Moreover, she never really needed to work, and if she chose to, she could have opted for a low-key job in a ceremonial role or as a bureaucrat.

She chose the hard way, however. When other women were staying home in the late 1970s, Sheika Lubna left for California to study computer engineering, becoming one of the first Emirati women to travel abroad for study.
. . .
After decades of pushing the barriers in a region where women have traditionally been kept out of the public sphere, Sheika Lubna now towers as one of the country’s most influential women. She is the first woman here to be a minister, but no less important, she is the minister of economy and planning, a particularly important position in a nation that is a major oil producer and relies so heavily on foreign investment, and where the economy continues to boom.

On any given day, she may be shuttling between world capitals to sign trade agreements, or between cities in the Emirates to garner support for her policies, or to lend support for a cause. She has pushed for the deregulation of cross-border trade while answering calls for greater oversight over the investment sector and stumping for foreign investment in her country.

But throughout, she has remained conscious of her role in chipping away at the restrictions women face in this region.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bklyn in Dubai gets a visit from the UAE CID

The questioning was mostly a time pass. Bad cop started filling out a massive dossier form, which for the next nine hours both would write in Arabic details about my family’s migration history, my educational history from pre-KG to the PhD level, details about my work history, etc. Every now and then they would interject with the real questions: why did you come to Dubai? Who is funding you? Why are you asking so many questions? Why are you doing interviews? Why are you asking so many questions about locals? Who said you can come? Why did you come to Dubai?

Bklyn in Dubai (aka Dubai Notes) is here.

His opening blog entry from July is here. An extract:
I am a sociologist from Brooklyn, NY here in Dubai doing interviews for a book on people born/brought up in Dubai who stick around or come back to work. I'm interested in how people deal with the idea and the reality of a home that at any time can say go back to your place you came from. Which for these people is, well, this is my home. How do you "go back" to, say, India (if that's your passport) when you've never lived there?

The point of this blog is two-fold. First, to keep friends and fam back in the US and elsewhere up-to-date on what I'm doing. Second, by putting up my Dubai notes, I invite people in Dubai, and people from Dubai living elsewhere to engage me in dialog -- challenge my ideas, correct me where I'm wrong, tell me I'm an ass, or say right on.

The third fold is this is a way for me to keep a running tally of things, people (names changed to protect the innocent), etc that will go in the book.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

UAE among those with lowest Total Tax Rate :: World Bank

The [World Bank] Project's calculation of Total Tax Rate (TTR) looks beyond normal percentages of tax to include the cost incurred in dealing with the local tax regime.
Middle Eastern states such as the United Arab Emirates and Asian locations like Hong Kong come in the top five of easy tax locations.

Latin America and Africa impose the highest costs on complying with regulations and score poorly. The place on earth with the most difficult tax regime is the former Soviet republic of Belarus.
Excessive red tape can create a TTR that seems astronomical. Gambia scores worst of all, with a TTR of 291.4%.
The report holds up Egypt as an example of how to eliminate complexity. Inspired by the example of flat-tax adherents such as Estonia, it went for radical change. In 2005, Egypt introduced a 20% flat rate corporate income tax, abolishing 32% or 40% sector-specific rates. A total of 3,000 detailed tax rules relating to certain activities and services were slashed. And all businesses could file electronically. The result of tax reform in Egypt was startling. The number of businesses paying tax jumped to two million in 2005, double the 2004 total.

Here's a link to the Paying Taxes section of the World Bank's "Doing Business." Paying taxes is just a part of the ease of doing business. Here's the Bank's overall ranking of country economies. The UAE has slipped 9 places on the aggregate ranking on the ease of doing business .

UPDATE: India pays hijras (eunuchs) a commission to collect from those behind in their tax payments.

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Corruption Perceptions Index 2006 :: Transparency International

The UAE is 31st best worldwide. USA is 20th. Iraq is one from the bottom. Haiti is last.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

White-collar labor protest in UAE :: 7 Days

More than 60 [call center] employees of Skycom Communications, based at Dubai Internet City, were sacked last week and told not to report to work the next day. The employees, who walked out in protest four months ago, are now demanding the company pay them an extra month’s salary for not giving them prior notice.
The company says it is outsourcing their call center operations to other countries.

Makes sense. Rather move the employees from low-wage countries to high-living-cost Dubai, just locate the operation in the low-wage country. A call center in DIC never was a good match unless there was a reason to locate it near some other operation.

Here's our earlier post on Skycom.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Born in one emirate, passport from another :: Gulf News

The National Elections Committee will study the issue of Electoral College members who are born in one emirate but hold passports issued by another emirate, a senior official has said.
. . .
Members of the Ras Al Khaimah Electoral College had raised this issue at the seminar as many of them are born in Ras Al Khaimah and work in other emirates, where they have been issued passports.

Their main query was: "Where should a person be listed if he was born in Ras Al Khaimah and given a passport from another emirate?"

It's always interesting to me that passports are issued by individual emirates.

Maybe the larger issue is whether Electoral College members should be elected from the emirate where they reside or the tribe from which they are from.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Playing the mating game, Beirut style :: New York Times

Katherine Zoepf writes:
For a few weeks twice a year, after Ramadan and before Christmas, thousands of Lebanon's young men return from jobs abroad - and run smack into one of the world's most aggressive cultures of female display. Young women of means have spent weeks primping and planning how to sift through as many men as possible in the short time available. The austere month of Ramadan ended a week ago.

The country's high rate of unemployment pushes the young men to seek work elsewhere, sometimes in Western countries like France and Canada, but mainly in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the other oil states on the Gulf. The women, inhibited by family pressures, are generally left behind.

"The demographic reality is truly alarming," Khalaf said. "There are no jobs for university graduates, and with the boys leaving, the sex ratios are simply out of control. It is now almost five to one: five young girls for every young man. When men my sons' age come back to Lebanon, they can't keep the girls from leaping at them."

For the men, who return with deep pockets and high spirits, the holiday welcome is gratifying.
. . .
Over the past two decades, the Gulf has become the economic pole, and its pull has only grown stronger since the monthlong war this summer between Israel and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. With the political situation here still so uncertain, investment and work opportunities are growing even scarcer, and the gender imbalance worsens.

For young women here, dressing fashionably is a competitive game; stare- down contests between young women in restaurants and malls are common.

Kareen Yazbek, a Beirut psychologist, says that the lack of available men is a constant theme in her discussions with young women recovering from depression and drug addiction.

"Throughout my practice, the main issue that comes up with many young women is that they can't find anyone to be with or to marry," Yazbek said. "Among college-age girls it's not such a problem, but after graduation there's a big change as the men start seeking work outside of Lebanon."

"The social pressures on young women are just huge," Yazbek continued. "The focus is more and more on being beautiful, on pleasing other people. The competition is intense, conformity is a big thing, and everyone, rich and poor, gets plastic surgery. You can go to parts of Beirut where almost every young woman has the same little nose."
. . .
"The guys that remain in Lebanon are the stupid ones!" exclaimed Nayiri Kalayjian, 19, who was hitting the bars on Monot Street, in central Beirut, with three girlfriends.

"We're too good for them," she said. "The ones who remain in Lebanon are the ones with closed mentalities, the ones who just want a virgin girl. You start to feel that the men who stay in Lebanon are the ones with no ambition in their work, and so you wonder, why are they still here?"
Once again, economics explains a lot about observed behavior.

UPDATE: Marginal Revolution elaborates on the economics. Read the comments there also.

Read also the point of view of one Lebanese woman.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Iran MPs add $2.5 bln to budget for fuel imports :: Reuters

Iran’s parliament voted on Wednesday to add $2.5 billion to this year’s budget to finance more gasoline imports, staving off the threat of politically sensitive rationing.

Lawmakers in gas-guzzling Iran had originally slashed the budget for fuel imports to $2.5 billion from $4 billion for the financial year to March 2007, but high oil prices meant the amount approved was spent well before the end of the year.

Iran is the world’s fourth largest crude oil exporter but lacks refining capacity and has to import 40 percent of the 70 million litres of gasoline it burns each day. All fuel is then heavily subsidised at the pump for motorists.
. . .
If imports stopped, the government had suggested fuel rationing, a sensitive move in a country where cheap, abundant gasoline is considered a national right.

“There will be no rationing this Iranian year. Parliament will decide about rationing next year,” Iran’s Oil Ministry Web site SHANA reported after the vote.

Importing gasoline is costly for Iran because it subsidises fuel, whether produced domestically or abroad, so that drivers pay the equivalent of just 9 US cents a litre at the pump.

Such cheap fuel -- when international prices have been soaring -- encourages waste and a thriving trade in contraband fuel to Iran’s neighbours, economists say.
Yes, that's what economists say.