Saturday, June 18, 2011

Been raped? In Dubai you've committed adultery

And that means jail time for you. Read more here.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Countries ranked by GDP per capita

Global Finance magazine has ranked countries by GDP per capita. Qatar comes out first among all nations at $90,000. Second is Luxembuorg at $74,000.

Within the GCC, Qatar is followed by Kuwait ($39,000, 14th place) and the UAE ($36,000, 18th place).

These numbers are not adjusted for the number migrant workers. Because of the small proportion of citizens in the UAE population, one of the smallest in the world, making that adjustment would be bring the UAE up several rungs in the ordinal ranking. Just a guess, but I'd not be surprised if the UAE was second in the world if you looked at income per citizen.

NYT reports on gas lines in UAE

The New York Times picks up the story of petrol shortages in the United Arab Emirates:
For the third time in the past 10 months, service stations across the United Arab Emirates have been running out of gasoline in recent weeks.

The Sharjah Executive Council, a government policy-making body, is putting pressure on the fuel retailers for more information, after a three-week shortage in the emirate that has forced Sharjah residents to line up at the Dubai stations that remain open.


Dubai’s fuel retailers typically purchase oil at market prices and then sell fuel at a subsidized cost defined by the government. At a time when Dubai is struggling with more than $100 billion in debt, the gasoline shortages are exacerbating a problem that has existed for years as the cash-strapped fuel retailers look for solutions. On the other hand, Abu Dhabi, the wealthier emirate that holds nearly 95 percent of the U.A.E.’s oil reserves, has not faced supply shortages.

The U.A.E. had decided earlier to phase out subsidies for gasoline and even implemented two successive price increases.

“There was talk that this would continue, although plans to pursue this in the short term have been shelved because of regional unrest,” Mr. Dauba-Pantanacce said. “It is a sensitive subject as cheap oil prices have also traditionally been part of an unspoken understanding of redistribution of the national oil wealth among the population.”

Read it all here.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fuel shortage? Financial Times and Emirates Economist on same page

Did you hear the one about the oil-rich country that had a fuel crisis?

Financial Times
... the latest shortages in some emirates of the United Arab Emirates may stem from a different type of crisis: a longstanding economic imbalance rooted in intra-federal politics.

The petrol stations that have “run out” of gasoline are Emirates National Oil Company and EPPCO, both owned by the Dubai government.

Most affected outlets are in Sharjah, and other so-called “northern Emirates”, with more limited disturbance in Dubai. Abu Dhabi hasn’t suffered.

Initial excuses of maintenance work don’t really wash with analysts. More likely, they say, Dubai is trying to persuade oil-rich Abu Dhabi, the leader of this federation of seven emirates, to subsidise severe losses ENOC faces at the pump.

Oil companies in Dubai, which only has modest oil reserves, buy petroleum products at market rates, but they then have to sell petrol at subsidised rates set by the federal government.

The timing of these shortages is not so great for Dubai, which is grappling with a $113bn debt pile and is looking to tap the market for $5bn more....

I explained this the other day, and also back in 2008 when the same thing occurred.

I had not picked up on the part of the story where the Dubai-owned companies are taking care of Dubai, and leaving the Northern Emirates with the shortages. Traffic jams between the two cities of Dubai and Sharjah are already legendary. This adds to the chaos.

My suggestion to the government is to raise prices, and increase direct income transfers to citizens to compensate them. After all, they are only 10 percent of the population. Subsidizing through prices is never efficient, but it's especially not so if your intent is to target your citizens.

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UAE called upon to drop charges against reform advocates

Human Rights Watch
The United Arab Emirates attorney general should immediately drop all charges against five pro-democracy activists to halt their trial, Human Rights Watch said today. The charges of "humiliating" top officials relate solely to the defendants' peaceful use of speech to criticize the UAE government and therefore violate their freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said. UAE authorities should release the activists unconditionally and without delay.

The five defendants, who include a leading human rights activist, Ahmed Mansoor, and a university lecturer, Nasser bin Ghaith, pled not guilty on June 14, 2011, during a closed-door hearing in Abu Dhabi's Federal Supreme Court. The trial follows a campaign of harassment against the activists after they and dozens of other UAE nationals signed a petition published on March 9 that sought constitutional and parliamentary changes in the Emirates and free elections in which all citizens could participate.

"UAE rulers are prosecuting these activists solely for advocating democratic reforms," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The authorities should end this shameful crackdown on peaceful dissent."

A maxim: Generally speaking, you're not humiliated by someone else, you humiliate yourself.

These five defendants did not speak out in an offensive way.


China, North Korea and the Arab Spring

Word: globalization.

The reach is far.

Topic one: Knockoff phones from autocratic China fuel the Arab Spring
The irony is that the Arab Spring has triggered a paroxysm of repression within China (sparked by the rumblings of a “Jasmine Revolution”) which has made life harder for its cell phone bandits, who were previously hiding in plain sight. But China's crackdown can't put the phones back in the box: China's cheap and easy manufacturing has helped usher in mass cell phone ownership in places where it once was a luxury. And with phones comes the free exchange of information that causes revolutions. If Beijing is looking for a cause of the uprisings that has them so scared, it's in the cheap alternatives that fuel China's economy.
Topic 2: One group of foreign workers whose government has left stranded in Libya x
About 200 North Koreans work in Libya. North Korea is resisting their return, fearing they'll foment a revolution based on what they've witnessed in Libya. Steve Inskeep speaks with journalist Sebastian Strangio, who has just written about this for Foreign Policy magazine.
Word could get around.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I rest my case

What is the UAE afraid of?

Activists accused of criticising Government have first day in court - The National
ABU DHABI // Five activists, arrested on charges of criticising the Government, made their first appearance in court this morning.

Prosecutors and defence lawyers for Ahmed Mansour Ali Abdullah al Abd al Shehi, Nasser Ahmed Khalfan bin Gaith, Fahad Salim Mohammed Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali al Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq presented requests to the State Security Court in a closed hearing, the lawyers said. The judge will rule tomorrow on those requests, they said.

Although the hearing was private, about 100 people gathered outside the courthouse – some as early as 6am – to show allegiance to the nation's leaders and voice their disagreement with the activists.

The next hearing would be July 18, during which witnesses will be called, the attorneys said.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Emarat steps into the petrol gap

Emirates 24/7
The Emarat filling stations in the Dubai and across all the northern emirates have witnessed heavy rush and a drastic increase in sales of fuel over the last two weeks, an apparent fallout of non-availability of fuel in other filling stations.

Emarat, a subsidiary of Emirates General Petroleum Corporation, registered a 50 per cent rise in sales over the past two weeks, straining its facilities at many places, Arabic daily Al Ittihad reported.

The rush was particularly heavy in Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain, while Emarat filling stations in Ras Al Khaima and Fujairah also witnessed a relative increase in demand.

This rise in demand comes following temporary closure of services at many filling stations run by Enoc and Eppco.

According to sources in Emarat, the company has pressed its services on overdrive and continuously stocks its stations with 50 per cent additional fuel.

Enoc and Eppco are in the same family of companies -- it has an annoying flashplayer website.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Energy rich country out of gas, electricity

It's life in the UAE and it's been going on for years.

Khaleej Times
Petrol remained largely unavailable in majority of the petrol pumps in Sharjah even as the Sharjah Executive Council’s deadline for answers from the company crept past. However, no explanations were forthcoming from the ENOC group, the parent company of retailers ENOC and EPPCO that are the most affected.

To add fuel to fire, residents of Sharjah suffered from unannounced power cuts on Wednesday and Thursday. Residents complained that power was cut for over two hours from 11am to 1pm and then again from 7pm to 9pm in several parts of Sharjah, including Rolla. Last year, frequent and unannounced power cuts during the peak summer months made life miserable for residents. The Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) said such cuts would not happen again.

Angry and frustrated motorists queued at ADNOC and Emarat pumps, waiting for hours for their turns. Others still headed to Dubai to fill up their car tanks. “This problem has crossed all limits now,” said an angry motorist who had been driving around for nearly an hour and finally queued at an Emarat pump. “We need answers.”

Answer: the price mechanism has been tampered with.


Shame on the Iranian regime

If you have any doubts about the evil that is the Iranian regime see this report of how it treated this woman.

PBS provides a good account of the OPEC meeting's tensions

Check it out here.

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Bravo, Turkey

Thank you for the vital humanitarian assistance you are providing:
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will keep the frontier open to Syrians fleeing violence, and the Turkish military was increasing border security to better manage the refugee influx. He singled out Assad's brother for criticism. "I say this clearly and openly, from a humanitarian point of view, his brother is not behaving in a humane manner. And he is chasing after savagery," Erdogan said late Thursday.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Threat to the Arab Spring

Handouts of food and fuel in lieu of jobs, and investments to raise the productivity of work to which only the privileged have access, would do nothing to enable outsiders to compete for good jobs, or to remove the barriers, such as licenses, to self-employment.
Edmund Phelps, economics Nobel prize winner:
The needed restructuring in Tunisia and Egypt must begin with two critical steps. The first is to end political control of the business sector by the privileged elite. In Tunisia, they are the relatives and friends of Leila Trabelsi, Ben Ali’s wife; in Egypt, they are the army’s upper echelons, appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak. The second step is to end bureaucratic control of self-employment through licenses and other barriers. Only then could modernization of the economic system proceed.

The system that would be most appropriate for Tunisia and Egypt is basic capitalism – capitalism 1.0 – such as Britain and America developed in the first half of the nineteenth century on their way to having highly successful economies. The bedrock of this system are civil liberties, property rights, secure contracts, courts empowered to uphold the rule of law, local banks linked with local entrepreneurs, financial firms that supply venture capital, ease of market entry by new companies, and so forth.

Unfortunately, Tunisia and Egypt will face serious hazards as they rely on democratic forces and mechanisms to mitigate the oppressive features of the rightist corporatism under which they suffered. One hazard is a leftist corporatism, in which labor unions and well-placed cronies replace the ruling families and army officials, but political control of the economy and bureaucratic control of entrepreneurship are maintained. After all, parts of Europe in the late 1960’s began to construct a leftist corporatism to replace the rightist corporatism that ruled, with some interruption, from the 1880’s to the 1940’s.

This hazard should trouble reformers. Under Ben Ali and Mubarak, a company run by insiders had to worry only that the president might someday demand a cut of their profits or assets. But, in a democracy lacking the safeguards of a strong culture of individual rights and a constitution to protect them, companies might be even more fearful of a predatory state. If so, business investment and job creation will remain quite weak.

Read it all.

And then there's Morocco. The reforms the ruler is offering are not the kind Phelps has in mind.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Study of social media during Arab Spring

The second issue of the Arab Social Media Report, and the first since the start of the Arab Spring, is now available from the Dubai School of Government (PDF, webpage)

From the overview:
Produced by the Dubai School of Government’s Governance and Innovation Program, the second Arab Social Media Report highlights and specifically analyzes usage trends of online social networking across the Arab region based on data collected in the first quarter of 2011. In this edition, the report analyzes data on Twitter and Facebook users in all 22 Arab countries, in addition to Iran, Israel and Turkey, highlighting the role they played in the civil movements that swept the region during that period. This is part of a larger research initiative focusing on social engagement through ICT for better policy in Arab states, which explores the use of social networking services in governance, social inclusion and entrepreneurship promotion. The initiative also studies the potential of social networking applications for increasing collaboration, knowledge sharing and innovation, both between and among government entities, citizens and the private sector.

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Someone who's not impressed with press coverage of the Arab Spring

Chris Doyle writing at Caabu: "how come there was no sense in the press of this impending tempest that has swept away two Presidents, four Prime Ministers, and has shaken every regime from Morocco to Iran?" x
First, the media hunt in packs with international correspondents centred on a few selected global hubs. For the Middle East this has been Jerusalem. The city provides a comfortable centre for journalists, where they can live in comfort with first world luxuries but just a few kilometers from a war zone and occupied territory. There has been a huge focus on Israel‐Palestine which, whilst a major issue, is far from the only one (and even then the coverage quality is poor). However, it is not the most logical place to cover the rest of the Arab World.

Second, the lack of funding in media has constrained coverage. The current wave of simultaneous, dramatic and historic uprisings have presented one of the greatest challenges to international news gathering. ...

Investigative journalism is costly. Look at how many stories of massive corruption have been unearthed during these Arab uprisings. However, I can hardly remember one mention of the Trabelsi family prior to Wikileaks in any western media outlet. The family of the former First Lady of Tunisia was notorious amongst Tunisians who did not need to be told by Julian Assange just how corrupt she and her relatives were.

Third, the media can only cover one major international story at a time. ...

Fourth, there has been an historic absence of Arab voices in the western media. ...

Fifth, much of our media still loves to sensationalise. The best way to do this is through rampant scare mongering. Commentators raise the threat of al Qaida or the Muslim Brotherhood regardless of their involvement. ...

Sixth, much media coverage is either lazy or rushed. ... [T]he worst case of this is by columnists sitting in London, writing about countries they have never visited, and people they barely know.

I'm not familiar with Caabu but it says it's Advancing Arab-British Relation. It's About page isn't much help.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Dubai refinances debt

Shortage at Dubai-owned gas stations

Fake Plastic Souks sets up the story of Dubai-owned petrol stations that don't have gas while Abu Dhabi ones do, and one of his commenters gets close to the answer: x I suspect that in Bahrain and Oman the fuel retailers buy discounted fuel from the refiners, who in turn buy discounted crude from the national oil company, thus pushing the subsidy back up to the national oil company, which can afford to pay for it because it sells the vast majority of its oil at $100/bbl on international markets. Clearly, this practice results in a huge amount of "foregone revenue" for the national oil company because it could have sold all that crude at world prices, instead of selling some of it at a discount. This is effectively the support that the government has decided to give to Mohammed Public when he fills his car.

In Dubai, I think the retailers don't get such a good discount on fuel from the refiner (because Dubai is not oil-rich). Historically, they have tried to make up the difference by selling other goods and services at the fuel station at high margins (sweets, car washes, McDonalds franchises). But at $100/bbl crude price, that just isn't enough.
The Abu Dhabi-owned petrol stations remain open; they are in the position of the national owned companies in other GCC countries. All the companies are losing money on each litre sold. It's that the Dubai companies who have decided to let Abu Dhabi be the government that keeps prices low and take a loss to keep the public happy.

As suggested by some of the other commenters the Dubai-owned companies occasionally play a hold up game in order to prepare the public for a price hike, or induce Abu Dhabi to sell to refined products to the Dubai-owned companies at a discount. The Dubai-owned companies have the biggest frontprint of retail outlets, and their closure does upset the public.

By the way, the UAE's refining capacity is in Abu Dhabi, and it is not enough to supply the country at the prices set. That is, the oil-rich UAE imports refined products.


Monday, June 06, 2011

2nd edition of the Arab Social Media Report

The second edition of the Arab Social Media Report by the Dubai School of Government has been released to the media. Coincidentally, the first edition of the quarterly report was issued in January just as the Arab Spring was breaking.

The Nation reports:
The most popular Twitter hashtags in the Arab region in the first three months of this year were “Egypt”, “Jan25”, “Libya”, “Bahrain” and “protest”. Nearly 9 in 10 Egyptians and Tunisians surveyed in March said they were using Facebook to organise protests or spread awareness about them. All but one of the protests called for on Facebook ended up coming to life on the streets.

These and other findings from the newly released second edition of the Arab Social Media Report by the Dubai School of Government give empirical heft to the conventional wisdom that Facebook and Twitter abetted if not enabled the historic region-wide uprisings of early 2011.
The authorities’ efforts to block out information, the report said, ended up “spurring people to be more active, decisive and to find ways to be more creative about communicating and organising”.

Let me know if you have the link to the second edition.

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Egypt: Look to the economic example of Poland

Solid analysis: Foreign Policy
Egypt and Tunisia, like Poland and Russia, need to deregulate state-run economies and open up protected markets. Both have powerful stakeholder classes who will resist reform: "It was the nomenklatura in Eastern Europe," Lipton says, "and in Egypt it's people connected to the political leadership and the military." And so the question is: Will what worked in Eastern Europe work in the Middle East?
Lipton observes that even Poland took almost 15 years to join the European Union, but the prospect of membership meant that any political party that proposed to deviate from the path to European integration lost in the polls. He concedes that "in the case of North Africa, we will find nothing that is as compelling as EU membership," but says that policymakers hope to build a "staircase" toward reform starting with the quick infusion of IMF money, then moving on to increased trade and investment, and help with legal changes to unshackle the private sector and improve revenue collection. ...

The World Bank has begun working out such conditions in both target countries. In Tunisia, says a bank official, the interim government has embraced the plan: "They've tried to identify changes that would be difficult to reverse and that would give clear signals that policymaking will be different," she says. These include freedom-of-information rules and public access to government data. Egypt, she concedes, has been "harder."

Indeed, Egypt's interim military government may put up serious resistance to the Deauville Partnership. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, as the ruling clique calls itself, has proved increasingly hostile to the citizens movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak from office in February. Even if the military agrees to surrender political power to a new civilian government, which seems less and less certain, it may do so only on the condition that it retain its vast -- and disabling -- web of economic privileges. "We must not allow the Egyptian military to control the economy or to retain power through privatization," says Anders Åslund, a former Swedish diplomat who worked with Lipton in the early 1990s. The "a priori answer" to whether the military will agree to surrender its economic role, Åslund says, is "no."

The premise of the plan is that the combination of political change and economic opening will produce a dynamic that ultimately forces Egypt's own nomenklatura to abandon its privileged position. ...

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Why women graduates outnumber men in the UAE

An analysis of why 70% of Emirati college students are women by Natasha Ridge, acting Director of Research at the Dubai School of Government.

I generally agree with her analysis. There are some factors that I would emphasize.

1. Young women use education as a way of getting out of the house, and delay marriage. It's part of the negotiation they have with their parents about how much freedom they can have and when they will be married.

2. For young men part of the problem is that their future is determined largely as an accident of their birth. This undercuts the incentive of pursuing education in order to be judged on merit. Similarly, the government provides jobs for young men who do not complete high school in the military and police forces.

Ridge points out that for girls their teachers are Emirati women. For boys they are (poorly paid) expats. As in many societies, including the west until recently, one of the few jobs open to women was as a teacher. As in many societies it is difficult to attract men into teaching on the same employment terms as female teachers. The remedy is to pay women and men more, but few societies take this attitude.


Sunday, June 05, 2011

6,000 BBC interns have no rights

The BBC pays its interns less than the median income of expat workers in the Gulf. It pays them zero, and does not reimburse them for work related expenses.

Bryan Caplan asks,
1. If the minimum wage is a good idea, shouldn't unpaid internships be illegal as well? If not, why not?

2. Name the main arguments in favor of the legality of unpaid internships. Aren't all of them equally good arguments for allowing people to work for wages greater than zero and less than the minimum wage?
Meanwhile (NYT),
The Labor Department says it is cracking down on firms that fail to pay interns properly and expanding efforts to educate companies, colleges and students on the law regarding internships. “If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division. Ms. Leppink said many employers failed to pay even though their internships did not comply with the six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid. Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities — in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution to the intern.


Why the French are desperate to run the IMF

Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the IMF:
The French want to sway decision-making at the IMF in order to use US, Japanese, and poorer countries’ money to conceal from their own electorate that the eurozone structure has led all its members into serious fiscal jeopardy – some borrowed heavily, while others let their banks lend irresponsibly and thus created a large contingent liability.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Saudi cleric has over active imagination

He sees organs in design for new Jeddah airport.

The video, shown in Arabic above, which clocked almost 35, 000, views is now doing the rounds between the Saudis, in a series launched by the Sheikh, "Detection of Deception." Effectively an aricheturally-themed sermon that tackles a number of buildings and installations in the Gulf, containing (his) nuanced interpretations of the buildings' symbolic wicked meaning. It's all rather Da Vinci Code - high intrigue, archticture, design, art, history and theology all mingling curiously.

Dubai and Iran government websites hacked

Anonymous has struck again.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Sciontology: family-managed businesses

In the GCC many of the firms are family-owned. It has something to do with shariah creating obstacles to the formation of corporations.

Which makes this item at Freakonomics so relevant to the Emirates Economist blog.

The son of Warren Buffett, Peter Buffett, states in layman's language the problem of succession in family-owned businesses:
Well, you know, my dad talks about the ovarian lottery, this idea that you’re born into these circumstances that you can’t, at least as far as I’m concerned, you can’t control when you’re on the other side of being born. And so I think there’s a version of that that holds true in this. You know, the odds of having a son or daughter that are as passionate, and excited and driven as a founder of a business was, or even the person that took it over—whatever that might be, whatever passion and drive was there in that person—the odds of that being in the next generation, I think are incredibly small. You would know the details better than I, but I think that if the child is truly passionate about it and lives and breathes the same thing, absolutely. But again, what are the odds?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Insecure Gulf

The subtitle is The End of Certainty and the Transition to the Post-Oil Era. The author is Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, deputy director of the Kuwait Research Program on Development, Governance, and Globalization in the Gulf States, based at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Ulrichson takes the present day oil-rich conditions, and imagines what they may mean sometime in the future when the oil resources are depleted and the world is making a transition to a non-oil based economy.

See what you think. You can get a Google preview of the book here.

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New Club for Growth of the GCC

Pierre Razoux, senior research adviser at the NATO Defense College, has an op-ed in the New York Times.
The proposal to enlarge the Gulf Cooperation Council to Jordan and Morocco, made at a council summit meeting in Riyadh last month , marks a profound change in the nature of the organization as it reaches its 30th anniversary. This decision, which went practically unnoticed in the West, is all the more worthy of attention in that it is likely to usher in long-term changes in the region’s political scenario.

Initially set up to provide a safeguard against an Iranian military threat and to create regional economic integration in the Arabian peninsula, the Gulf Cooperation Council has moved away from its early agenda and now operates as a club for the Arab monarchies.

The council’s aim is simple: to defend by all means possible the region’s eight monarchic regimes. It fears that the fall of even a single monarchy could have irreversible consequences for all the rest, undermining the legitimacy of the reigning families and opening the gates to all those in the Arab world who are looking for more liberty, justice and equality. This is why the Gulf monarchies have intervened to quash the popular uprising in Bahrain.
A domino theory.

Maybe. I just don't see any of the rich monarchies falling. Even if they liberalized which I hope they will do.

I also don't see Jordanian or Moroccan troops taking up arms to quell unrest in any GCC country, though they might if there was an external attack. Remember during Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, Arab workers from poorer countries were expelled from GCC countries because they showed sympathy for Saddam.

I'm not ready to take the expansion of the GCC as likely just yet.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Repression in the United Arab Emirates

That's a title of an article in The Nation.

New York University and the Sorbonne come in for special criticism:
Reached by e-mail, Michel Fichant, a professor emeritus at the Sorbonne and a board member of its Abu Dhabi branch, responded that the institution was “concerned not at all by some arrests” that recently took place. He stressed that Professor bin Ghaith had merely been invited to present at some conferences, but was not an employee. The response from NYU was equally dismissive: “The school itself does not take public stands on issues and policies that fall outside of its core mission of operating a world-class university.”

According to NYU sociology Professor Andrew Ross, who has been an outspoken critic of the university’s involvement in the autocratic city-state, NYU president John Sexton recently told a group of concerned faculty members that he had reason to believe those arrested were a genuine threat to national security, something that Professor Lockman finds “particularly shocking.”

“He suggested that these people were genuinely subversive and deserving of arrest, although human rights organizations, of course, have a different take,” said Lockman. “This kind of toadying to the crown prince and his ilk shows the hollowness of NYU’s role in this place.”

Ross and his colleagues at the New York chapter of the American Association of University Professors sent a letter addressed to Dean Sexton and Vice-Chancellor Al Bloom, warning that “Silence on this serious issue will set a precedent that could also have ominous consequences for the speech protections of NYUAD faculty.” At the Sorbonne, the student union AGEPS (Association Générale des Etudiants de Paris Sorbonne) presented a motion that was adopted by the Conseil des Etudes et de la Vie Universitaire (CEVU), an academic advisory body, denouncing the Sorbonne’s lack of response and calling on it to defend the values of the French Republic. Neither action has resulted in any change in either university’s stance.

Unfortunately, those working on behalf of the detainees have few other options. Local avenues appear closed, and international pressure is all that remains.

“Their Achilles’ heel is the soft-power partnerships and ventures set up with international partners: NYU, the Sorbonne, the Louvre, the Guggenheim,” said Dr. [Christopher] Davidson. “If these institutions were to collectively say, ‘We’re not going to do business with a country that takes political prisoners,’ it’s a no-brainer. But their complicity is a form of violence.”

h/t to Davidson who tweets,

Christopher Davidson
...rag-tag UAE opposition. NYU & Sorbonne disgrace themslvs further, with former's president agreeing that detainees were threat to security

Added at 5:22 PM ET:

Nasser H Al-Khalifa
Repression in the United Arab Emirates | The Nation Very interesting worth reading Article

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Gulf Research Council's license not renewed

The Gulf Research Council has been denied a renewal of its license to operate in Dubai "due to objections by the Dubai government to various aspects of the GRC’s work". The full press release from the GRC follows:

Important Announcement: GRC to Undergo Restructuring
Publication Date: June 2011
Publisher: Gulf Research Center
Category: Press Release
No of Pages: 1 Pages

Abstract: Due to rumors circulating about the future of the Gulf Research Center, we felt the need to set the matter straight and inform our network, both individuals and partner organizations, about the current situation. To be very clear at the outset, the Gulf Research Center is not closing and will continue with all of its activities. However, circumstances beyond our control have resulted in the need for the GRC to restructure its operations.

The main reason lies in the fact that the Gulf Research Center has not been allowed to renew it operating license as per the law of the United Arab Emirates. The GRC has existed and operated in Dubai, UAE under a ten-year professional license (#519601) since July 2000. The license covered the areas of social science research, publishing, translation, conference organization and consultancy work among others.

Upon the expiry of the license in July 2010, immediate efforts were undertaken with the UAE Government of Dubai - Department for Economic Development to apply for a renewal. These efforts were initially blocked with no concrete reasoning. Only at the end of October 2010 were we told verbally that a license renewal would not be forthcoming due to objections by the Dubai government to various aspects of the GRC’s work. We consider none of these objections to be valid and have answered each one in thorough detail. However, subsequent attempts to resolve the situation have not been successful.

We consider the decision by the Dubai authorities to be unfortunate and unnecessary. At the same time, and despite our considerable financial losses, we are fully committed to respect the legal requirements associated with such a decision. We have therefore been given little choice but to relocate our activities for the time being to our existing offices in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Geneva and Cambridge, UK. Members of the staff will be moved according to our requirements. Furthermore and in correspondence with this shift, it is our intention to expand both our regional and international activities.

Outside of this re-structuring, nothing else changes. Please be ensured that the Gulf Research Center will continue with its work and that all existing commitments and agreements with individuals, with partner institutions and with corporate members remain in effect.

Dr. Abdulaziz O. Sager

Added. Gulf News reports
The GRC is one of the few think tanks operating in the UAE and the GCC that is not directly affiliated to a government or an international institution.

Its founder and chairman Abdul Aziz Saqer said the decision was not communicated to the think tank in writing. “I’m disappointed because after I spent Dh150 million on this institute in Dubai in the past ten years, brought thousands of people to Dubai, trained hundreds of UAE students, I’m [being forced] to leave. We put Dubai on the research map,” he said.


The GRC was rated as number two think tank in the Middle East in the 2010 Global 'Go-To Think Tanks' survey of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program of the University of Pennsylvania.

Its positions have closely reflected those of Gulf governments, particularly Saudi Arabia, but Saqer said it is an entirely independent and audited entity, funded solely by him.


Since it was established, the GRC has built strong links with prominent think tanks around the world, and its researchers make regular media appearances on issues pertaining to the region.

Some of its former researchers have also been recruited by UAE ministries.

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Dubai Debates: "After the Arab Awakening: Opportunities and Challenges for a New Arab World"

Check out the Dubai Debates website here. The debate occurred yesterday.

One of the tweets from the debates:

Mishaal Al Gergawi
South Africa's consul general in Dubai just got up and asked if it's possible to have a protest in the UAE.