Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This is rich: "the time poor"

High value of your time got you down, buddy?
"Regular passengers whose travel needs are non-essential will stay at home. But, as available frequencies are canceled, journeys to the airport become more complicated and security concerns rise, the time-poor, must-travel segment will usually find a way to fly and business jets provide the convenience of taking you where you need to go, on demand."

Read it at Private jet business booms as unrest sweeps Mideast.

In other news, the U.S. is in a "kinetic military action". That clears things up. Actually, "a turd sandwich" appeals to me.

UAE art shows coincide with Arab Spring

The Economist:
The fair’s patron is Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. In advance of his arrival, a member of his entourage visited every booth to make sure that nothing might cause offence. The censor proved to be more tolerant this year than last, objecting to just one work rather than three.

Yet the lone offender said much about UAE sensitivities. Installed on the stand of the Parisian Galerie Hussenot, “The Lost Springs” by Mounir Fatmi consisted of a row of national flags. Whereas the Tunisian and Egyptian flags were held up by brooms, the other Middle Eastern flags, including those of the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Bahrain, were hung on the wall. The sculpture was wonderfully puzzling. Should old regimes be brushed away? Will the new democracies be cleaner? Despite the ambiguity, Galerie Hussenot was instructed to remove the brooms every time a dignitary walked past.

Up the dusty highway, the Sharjah Biennial also exhibited a range of different political work. The star of the show and a winner of the Sharjah Biennial prize was Imran Qureshi, an artist based in Lahore. “Blessings Upon the Land of My Love”, a floor painting, evoked the violence of Pakistan’s troubled parliamentary republic. In a large brick-lined courtyard, Mr Qureshi created a crime scene—at once both horrifying and beautiful—in which red paint was used to look like pooling blood or life-affirming foliage. “The role of art is not miraculously to right all the wrongs of the world,” said Suzanne Cotter, one of the biennial’s curators. “It is about recognising the world’s complexity.”

A handful of artists who weren’t exhibiting in the biennial complicated its official opening by distributing flyers bearing the names of the people killed in Bahrain. Public protest is illegal in the UAE but the activists (none of whom was an Emirati) claimed it was an artwork. The local police arrested them before they could make much of an impact. They were questioned for half a day before being released.

Read the rest.

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Jon Stewart nails it

I just want to know -- how can a comedian's political analysis be so much clearer than what you read and see elsewhere?

And look at this very helpful debate on Libya. Again, so much better than what passes for analysis elsewhere.

I happen to believe it's right to intervene in Libya. But I've not worked backwards to the reasons why it's right.

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The man has a point.

Is this any way to run a countrybusiness?
An Emirati man has protested that the developer of the world's tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, refused to let him trek the stairs for charity, while allowing the ‘French spiderman' to climb.

Jalal Jamal Bin Theniyah, 25, said he has been climbing the city's various towers, using the stairs, to raise money for charity and bring the issue of people with special needs to the forefront.

Bin Theniyah raised his case after Gulf News reported that Alain Robert, dubbed the French Spiderman, was set to climb Burj Khalifa on Monday for the opening of the Higher Colleges of Technology's (HCT) 10th Education Without Borders (EWB) Conference.
Read the rest.

This strikes me as a good example of the general sense that Emiratis have been made strangers in their own land.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

UAE protests unlikely

But is trouble in the UAE really beyond the realms of possibility? David Butter, regional director for Middle East and North Africa at the Economist Intelligence Unit, tells us that "it's not outlandish that there could be trouble in the UAE", but that the "idea would of course be laughed out of court".

“You’ve got the presence of Emirati angst: the feeling that you’re not doing as well as others and did we really ask for our country to look like this?,” he says.

The crucial difference, says Butter, is that Emiratis are a small minority. Although there's simmering resentment at the way their country has turned out, they lack the numbers and support to take to the streets. And expats, self-evidently, won't be protesting about falling house prices or the deep disappointment that is The World.

Is that it -- that Emiratis are such a minority in their own country that even if there was a protest it wouldn't be effective as tactic?

Monday, March 28, 2011

GCC has team in NCAA Final 4 for second time in 5 years

The Gulf Coast Conference Countries are having great success out of proportion to the GCC's reputation in men's college hoops.

First it was George Mason University in 2006 with its UAE RAK roots.

Now it's Virginia Commonwealth University with its Qatar roots.

Both are members of a prestigious club: teams that have made it to the NCAA Men's Basketball Final 4.

VCU defeated the titan, Kansas, to reach The Final 4. May Qatar (and the UAE) have the same success in the skies over Libya.

The VCU-Qatar ties are in the arts. Coincidentally, today, US News & World Report ranked VCU #1 in sculpture, and #4 in fine arts.

Did I mention I live in Richmond, Virginia, home to VCU?

Stateside, George Mason and VCU are known as members of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Colonial? Hmmm. How about Trucial?


Where are the female economics bloggers?

There are 39 women on the list of the top 1,000 economists. None of them blog.

1. Why?

2. Why are there only 39 women on the list of the top 1,000 economists?

Could it be that the answer to both questions is the same?

Good first sentences

Daniel (jungleman12) Cates, a 21-year-old self-made multimillionaire, lapsed economics/computer-science major and one-day Bubble Trouble champion of the world, was mildly annoyed.
That's from a non-fiction profile of poker whiz Daniel Cates.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Human rights, human dignity and Egypt's transition

One of the big questions for the future of Egypt is how to change the culture of police enforcement, security agencies and the army when it comes to accountability, respect of the rule of law, human rights practice and more generally attitudes towards public freedoms. It was always unrealistic to expect to change this overnight, and there are several problems to tackle — to start with...
That's Issandr El Amrani at The Arabist.

Yes, Egypt needs a transformation in attitude towards human rights. But it also need a transformation in attitude toward human dignity. Deidre McCloskey asks what accounts for economic growth? She finds current explanations wanting. Her answer: What changed were habits of the lip. It’s not a “rise of the bourgeoisie,” but a rise in other people’s opinion of the bourgeoisie that makes for economic growth — as it is now doing in China and India. When people treat the marketeers and inventors as having some dignity and liberty, innovation takes hold. It was so to speak a shift in “constitutional political economy,” as James Buchanan puts the point. People agreed on the meta-rule of letting the economy go where it will. This contrasted with the earlier mentality, still admired on the left, that treats each act of innovation as an occasion to go looking for its victims. Victims there were, but they were greatly outnumbered by winners. It was ideas, not matter, that made the winners, and brought our ancestors from $3 to over $100 a day.

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Qatar lowest on the shoe throwing index

Unlike its neighbors, the tiny, oil-rich Gulf nation of Qatar has shown no signs of tumult, ranking last in the Economist's "shoe-thrower's index" of Arab unrest. Why has Qatar remained completely peaceful?

Money, and a small population. The revolutions in nearby countries, like Egypt, Yemen, and Oman, have been fueled largely by economic grievances like unemployment and rising food prices. Qatar, which has a population of around 1.5 million, approximately 200,000 of whom are Qatari citizens, has an unemployment rate of half a percent. Its GDP per capita of $145,300 is the highest in the world and its 2010 growth rate was 19.4 percent, also ranking it No. 1 in 2010.
About the UAE, Slate says,
Qatar can be most aptly compared to the United Arab Emirates, which is also majority Sunni and flush with oil money. But Qatar's population is less diverse and much smaller than that of the UAE, which has recently seen some unrest: There were small protests from migrant laborers in January, and a Facebook page promises protests in the regionon March 25. A cadre of intellectuals has also petitioned the government to hold open elections.
Facebook pages can come from anywhere. If you follow the link that one looks quite inactive. Did a March 25 protest happen? If it did it didn't make a blip on the news radar.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cayman Islands to have a Healthcare City

A renowned Indian heart surgeon has struck a deal to build a 2,000-bed healthcare city in the Cayman Islands to target American patients and insurers searching for deeply discounted medical care.

The British Caribbean territory agreed to the deal with Dr. Devi Shetty, a low-cost healthcare pioneer renowned as Mother Teresa's heart surgeon. The Caymans fulfilled its part of the bargain last week by passing legislation that caps medical negligence claims at U.S.$600,000.

The tiny, affluent territory west of Jamaica has 55,000 residents and is under pressure from Britain to diversify its economy and move away from its tax haven image.
U.S. insurers and employers are under pressure to reduce costs for high-tech procedures for heart, cancer, orthopedics, nuclear medicine and organ transplants, Shetty said. "It will be much easier for insurance companies to buy an air ticket and ask them to go to the Cayman Islands and get a heart bypass done and have a two-week beach holiday and come back at perhaps less than 50 percent of the cost," he said.
The average cost for a heart bypass is $144,000 in the United States, five times higher than neighboring Mexico at $27,000. Costa Rica charges $25,000 and Colombia $14,800 for the same procedure, the Medical Tourist Association said. Even with the higher cost of doing business in the Cayman Islands, Shetty estimates a heart bypass will cost less than $10,000.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Arab spring: an interactive timeline of Middle East protests

From Guardian, a timeline of the Arab democracy movement events. Countries compared side-by-side over time. Well worth a click.


Monday, March 21, 2011

From Missouri to Tripoli and back

In 25 hours.

B-2 Stealth Bomber returning to Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. after missions to Libya.

My question is, why is the US military providing this video? Several answers come to mind. To show the enemy your capability. Recruiting. Others?

More here from the Defense Video & Imagery System.

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The Saudi Women Revolution Statement

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What's with the Arab League?

What's with the on again - off again support by the Arab League for the UN's response to Gaddafi?

I asked two tweeters, and here are their replies:

@SultanAlQassemi What's going on with Arab League? #Libya
34 minutes ago
in reply to @uaeeconomist ↑

Sultan Al Qassemi
@uaeeconomist it's now a tool in the hands of Amr Moussa
34 minutes ago via web

@Tripolitanian What Arab countries are going to join coalition? Do you agree with Arab League's concerns? #Libya
38 minutes ago
in reply to @uaeeconomist ↑

@uaeeconomist UAE&Qatar r in the coalition - Arab league's concerns were irresponsible, it's too early 2 tell if there were civ casualties
36 minutes ago via web

This twitter thing is starting to make sense to me as a communications tool.

These answers help inform the read of this report in the Washington Post:
Arab League condemns broad bombing campaign in Libya

The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, deplored the broad scope of the U.S.-European bombing campaign in Libya on Sunday and said he would call a new league meeting to reconsider Arab approval of the Western military intervention.

Moussa said the Arab League’s approval of a no-fly zone on March 12 was based on a desire to prevent Moammar Gaddafi’s air force from attacking civilians and was not designed to embrace the intense bombing and missile attacks—including on Tripoli, the capital, and on Libyan ground forces—that have filled Arab television screens for the last two days.

“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone,” he said in a statement on the official Middle East News Agency. “And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians.”

Moussa’s declaration suggested some of the 22 Arab League members were taken aback by what they have seen and wanted to modify their approval lest they be perceived as accepting outright Western military intervention in Libya. Although the eccentric Gaddafi is widely looked down on in the Arab world, Middle Eastern leaders and their peoples traditionally have risen up in emotional protest at the first sign of Western intervention.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Al Qaeda launches women's magazine: Al-Shamika

The Independent:
The 31-page glossy, Al-Shamikha, which translates loosely as "The Majestic Woman" features a niqab-clad woman posing with a sub-machine gun on its cover.

Much like Elle or Cosmopolitan, it includes advice on finding the right man ("marrying a mujahideen"), how to achieve a perfect complexion (stay inside with your face covered), and provides tips on first aid and etiquette.

Alongside sisterly advice such as "not [to] go out except when necessary" and to always wear a niqab for protection from the sun, the magazine runs interviews with martyr's wives and praises those who give their lives in the name of the editors' interpretation of Islam. "From martyrdom, the believer will gain security, safety and happiness," it says.

For those readers not quite ready for such a drastic step, it argues the pros and cons of honey facemasks and lobbies against "towelling too forcibly".

The magazine's editors explain their thinking in a launch issue preamble: "Because women constitute half of the population – and one might even say that they are the population since they give birth to the next generation – the enemies of Islam are bent on preventing the Muslim woman from knowing the truth about her religion and her role, since they know all too well what would happen if women entered the field of jihad... The nation of Islam needs women who know the truth about their religion and about the battle and its dimensions and know what is expected of them." Analysts say the idea is to market global jihad with the same slick feel as Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire push Western culture to young women....

UAE protests rumor tweet

@habibahamid Back at work in the UAE, with rumours of a protest this Friday circulating. Very vague, nondescript so far, unclear what the foci might be
1 hour ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

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Paragraph of the day

Regarding the division between the US and Saudi Arabia over Bahrain:
The crackup was predicted by a top UAE sheik in a February meeting with two visiting former U.S. officials. According to notes made during the conversation, the UAE official said: “We and the Saudis will not accept a Shiite government in Bahrain. And if your president says to the Khalifas what he said to Mubarak [to leave office], it will cause a break in our relationship with the U.S.” The UAE official warned that Gulf nations were “looking East” — to China, India and Turkey — for alternative security assistance.

Read, in the Washington Post.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Torture in Egypt continues

Here are just two examples.

The Washington Post
Samira Ibrahim Mohamed is a 25-year-old woman from Upper Egypt. She came from her home more than eight hours away in January to join in the protests in Tahrir Square. Like many others, she has stayed in Cairo, occasionally returning to camp out in the square as a reminder of the democratic promises that the military and remnants of the old regime have made. She was in the square on the afternoon of March 9 when members of the army and men in plainclothes attacked the demonstrators, arbitrarily arresting people on sight. Samira was one of the protesters who was dragged away from Tahrir that afternoon.

Soldiers beat and kicked her. They tore her headscarf from her. And then, in what was as bizarre as it was shocking, they took her and other peaceful demonstrators to the famed Egyptian museum on the north side of the square — to be tortured.

Samira was handcuffed to a wall in the museum complex. For nearly seven hours — almost every five minutes, she said — Samira was electrocuted with a stun gun. Her torturers would sometimes splash water on her and others to make the shocks more painful. The electrical jolts were applied to her legs, shoulders and stomach. She pleaded with the soldier to stop. Repeating what the demonstrators had chanted in Tahrir Square, she said, “I begged them. I said, ‘You are my brothers. The army and the people are one.’” Her tormentor replied, “No, the military is above the nation. And you deserve this.”

At around 11 p.m., Samira and others were moved to one of the main military prisons. She would remain there for three more days. Over those days, the abuse, insults and intimidation continued. They spit on her. All of her belongings were stolen. She was given kerosene-soaked bread for food. But the most humiliating moment was when they first brought her into the prison. She and 10 other women arrested in the square were stripped and forcibly examined to determine whether they were virgins. She had been told that any woman found not to be a virgin would have prostitution added to her charges.

Without warning, the army stormed the square, ripping down tents and arresting more than 100 people, including Essam.

He says men in army uniforms dragged him to the Egyptian National Museum, which had become a security headquarters.

He says the men took him to a courtyard, stripped him to his shorts, and beat him.

An interpreter rendering Essam's Arabic into English says, "there was a soldier who jumped up in the air and (came) down on his head."

Essam, also through the interpreter, says the men beat him with a stick and a metal rod, and applied electricity "all over his body."

By the time the army released him, he could barely walk.

He says he still believes that there are honest people who will investigate what happened.

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Revised: When what's not said is as important as what is said

[I may have missed it, but I believe The National's article has been revised to emphasize that there is some dissatisfaction with indirect elections by an electoral college. See insert below.]

The Abu Dhabi owned The National reports:
The UAE announced today it would hold nationwide elections for the Federal National Council on September 24.

The elections, in which a minimum of 12,000 Emiratis will participate as members of the electoral college, will see half the members of the FNC elected by vote.

The election announcement, which came in a statement by the National Election Committee, follows a decision to triple the minimum number of Emiratis allowed to vote and the release of updated election guidelines by the NEC.

This will be the second election ever for the FNC, the country's advisory quasi-parliament.

The other half of FNC members are appointed by the rulers of each emirate.
So the number of with a vote has tripled. Let's do some more math. The UAE reports a population of 8 million. As much as 20% of those may be Emirati citizens. Compared to 12,000? And relative to the dilution due to giving the rulers choice of half the FNC membership? (Not to mention that the rulers also choose the 12,000.)

Omitted from the report is the recent call for direct elections. That's not responsible journalism. But that's not something you can blame the journalist for.

Inserted into my original post. I either missed or it's been been added to The National's report:
Dr al Muazzin, who has called for oversight committees to ensure that all families are represented as voters, said: “Our only concern is that there must be transparency in choosing the names for the electoral colleges.”

A decree last month tripled the minimum size of the electoral colleges in each emirate, which elect members to the FNC. Now at least 12,000 Emiratis will take part in the elections. There is no maximum number of electoral college members.

Nevertheless, several former FNC members have called for all Emiratis to be allowed to vote, and a petition posted online last week and signed by 133 Emiratis called for direct and universal elections for the FNC and full legislative powers to the council. Currently the FNC cannot initiate legislation.
That's all of interest. What I find it especially interesting is call that all families be represented. I suppose he means families as in tribes. Would that be equal representation? or proportional?

Amir Taheri writes:
What we see in the greater Mideast is a political upheaval, not an economic revolt. People are fed up with being treated as subjects of a pharaoh, sultan, emir, sheik or "supreme guide." They want a new relationship with their governments, based on respect for the citizen.

Are citizens in the UAE so comfortable with the paternalistic system that they don't want to rock the boat and risk losing that comfort?

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hundreds of protesters in Bahrain injured by shotgun blasts and clubs

King announces statement of emergency: Other Gulf leaders have urged Bahrain’s king not to give ground, fearing that gains by
Bahrain’s Shiite Muslims could offer a window for Iran to expand its influence on the Arab side of the Gulf. There are also worries that political concessions could embolden more protests against their own regimes, which have already confronted pro-reform cries in Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

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Analysis of military tactics in Libya

Talk of the Nation:
NEAL CONAN, host: ... we begin with George Joffe at the BBC studios in Cambridge, where he's a research fellow at the Centre for International Studies. ...

CONAN: And is the situation for the rebels becoming critical?

Mr. JOFFE: I don't think it's critical yet. It's becoming serious. That is to say, they've lost control of two of the towns in the Gulf of Sirt. There are still two towns on the way to Benghazi, and they're some way away from the city, and there they're still fighting to make sure that the forces loyal to Colonel Gadhafi can't break through.

And even if those forces do break through, they're running into problems, too. First of all, their lines of communication are getting very stretched. And secondly, their numbers apparently aren't very large.

So whether they can really attack Benghazi, a town of over a million people, seems to me rather doubtful.

CONAN: Yet air attacks are continuing in that direction.

Mr. JOFFE: That's certainly true. Air attacks are continuing. They're being used against small towns on the way, along the coast up towards Benghazi, but whether again they can be used effectively in Benghazi itself to destroy the resistance, I wonder.

CONAN: And when you talk about lines of communication, this is not just radio contact, but food, fuel - in particular fuel.

Mr. JOFFE: It's the whole logistics chain that any army requires to keep itself moving. And that's getting longer and longer. Distances in Libya are very long indeed, and indeed when the forces get to Agedabia, if indeed they do, then they've got a very difficult choice to make.

They could travel due east and try and reach Tobruk and the Egyptian border, thereby isolating Benghazi, or they could try and attack Benghazi itself. In either case, the lines of communication will get even longer, they'll become more vulnerable, and of course, they're approaching the rebel stronghold, Benghazi, and therefore they may well find themselves facing a resistance that they can't overcome.

CONAN: What kind of forces have the rebels been able to organize?

Mr. JOFFE: Well, the rebels certainly have irregular forces. They've been recruiting very heavily inside Benghazi itself. They have some organized, regular Libyan army forces that defected to them in the very early days of the rebellion.

And amongst those, there appear to be some elite troops. They were used recently in Mersa Brega to force the Libyan army out. And they therefore are quite well-prepared.

What they lack, of course, is air power and apparently heavy artillery, too, and that's going to put them at a disadvantage. But again, in terms of house-to-house fighting inside a major city, that disadvantage may be minimized.

CONAN: Yet house-to-house fighting in a major city, that can also be a very bloody operation.

Mr. JOFFE: Oh, undoubtedly. I think one has to assume that any operation involving Libya's supporting Colonel Gadhafi is going to be a very bloody operation indeed, and the use of air power makes it more so. So I don't think we should be under any illusions but that the continuation of this struggle is going to cost many, many lives.

CONAN: And the pro-government forces, are these conventionally organized armored brigades?

Mr. JOFFE: Yes, they are. They are conventional forces as far as one knows, together with paramilitary groups, partly from Colonel Gadhafi's tribal territories but particularly mercenaries that have been recruited over some considerable period of time, I think, in Tripolitania.

So they represent a threat, but their real effectiveness as a fighting force we don't really know. We only know that their armaments are superior.

CONAN: Tripolitania the western part of Libya, Cyrenaica the eastern part of Libya and the home of the rebellion, and obviously students of the Second World War and the campaigns in North Africa remember places like Tobruk very, very well and decisions like: Do you cut straight across east? And in the case of General Rommel - or do you cut straight across west in the case of General Montgomery.

Mr. JOFFE: That's quite correct. And, indeed, the memory of those campaigns still remains amongst the people of Cyrenaica, as do certain physical remnants, as well. There are very large minefields still along the Egyptian-Libyan border, and these regularly cost people's lives as they travel through the desert.

So in a sense, the Second World War is there as a reminder of what is to come and what has already occurred.
I've taken a big quote, but there's more. Read (or listen) here.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Gulf states send force to Bahrain following protests

I said recently the Saudi-Bahrain causeway was built with this in mind, but I didn't expect to be right so soon. This, to me, is very surprising. Would it happen if it wasn't royalty putting up a common front?

The BBC:
Troops from a number of Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, have arrived in Bahrain in response to a request from the small Gulf kingdom, officials say.
A Saudi official said about 1,000 Saudi Arabian troops arrived in Bahrain early on Monday.

The troops are part of a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) deployment, a six-nation regional grouping which includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

It is believed they are intended to guard key facilities such as oil and gas installations and financial institutions.

I wonder if the "guarding" is both literal and metaphorical. Market watchers are concerned about the possibility of protests in Saudi Arabia.

Business Intelligence - Middle East / Stratfor:
Troops from the United Arab Emirates are reportedly expected to arrive March 14. Al Arabiya reported that Saudi forces have already entered Bahrain, but these claims have yet to be officially confirmed by the Bahraini regime.
The ongoing tensions are exacerbated by the split between Bahrain’s Shiite movement, which became clearer during protests on March 11. The more hard-line faction of the Shiite movement, led by the Wafa and Haq blocs, has been increasing the unrest on the streets in the hopes of stalling the talks between the Shiite Al Wefaq-led coalition’s negotiations with the regime.
...If Bahrain indeed has requested Saudi intervention this time, the implication is that the Bahraini military is not confident in its ability to contain the unrest now.

Riyadh’s decision to send forces to Manama could be taken for this reason, since wider spread of Shiite unrest from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia would aggravate the already existing protests among Saudi Arabia’s own Shiite population. Saudi military intervention in Bahrain is also not unprecedented; Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain in 1994 when Riyadh determined that Shiite unrest threatened the al-Khalifa regime.

The regional implications of the unrest in Bahrain were underscored when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Manama on March 12 and urged the Bahraini regime to implement bold reforms....

Dubai's Gulf News has a brief Reuters report on the troop deployment. Abu Dhabi's The National has picked up a more complete report from Agence France-Presse although the story is headlined Saudi troops 'enter Bahrain'.
The message seems to be, "don't try this at home".

Does this mean the GCC won't be able to help with a no-fly-zone over Libya?

Did Bahrain call in the GCC because it needed more firepower, or because needed foreign troops willing to fire because they aren't their own people? It's a scary thought, but I can't believe the GCC troops would use force unless their own lives are threatened.

Another thought -- I'm pretty that the bulk of the UAE armed forces are not Emiratis. That's partly because the work is not the kind Emiratis would accept, and partly because the rulers like it that way for a variety of reasons.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

The UAE auto market

Take a look at this post by Autohack for his views on the structure of auto market in the UAE. He's got more practical knowledge of the market than I do.

I recommend his piece on growth statistics as well in the context of an expat community that comes and go with the economic tides.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bahrain deaths

A roundup.

Violence Re-Emerges in Bahrain - WSJ
Clashes between demonstrators and progovernment loyalists left hundreds injured in Bahrain on Friday, in the worst outbreak of violence here since the military was ordered off the streets nearly three weeks ago.

Conflicting reports centered on whether police had used rubber bullets to disperse protesters, something the government vehemently denied.

The violence came hours before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates paid a surprise visit Friday to Bahrain in a show of support for the island kingdom's royal family. ...
Despite its clear backing for the ruling family, the Obama administration has launched an investigation into the role of Bahraini security forces in previous violent crackdowns, part of a broader reassessment of U.S. security assistance and big-ticket arms sales to long-time Arab allies caught up in a wave of popular revolts.

Hundreds injured during clashes between rival groups in Bahrain - CNN
Hundreds of people were injured in Bahrain Friday, when rival groups clashed over an attempted march in the town of Riffa, a residential area where the ruling Al-Khalifa family lives. The national health ministry said 774 people were injured and 107 were hospitalized in the wake of the fighting.

Anti-government demonstrators in Riffa had planned a march. A crowd numbering roughly 8,000 set off on the march, according to Bahrain's ambassador to the United States. But they were met by hundreds of people carrying swords, hatchets, metal pieces, cricket instruments and pieces of wood with nails hammered into them. The opposing group had already taken up positions in an effort to stop the planned march.

Gates Visits Bahrain Amid Huge Protests - NYT


Editorial in The National offers advice to Egyptians

The National:
Recent clashes in Cairo have shown that removing a mindset can be more difficult than removing a regime ."Go home and wash dishes!" men shouted as women marched this week in Tahrir Square to celebrate International Women's Day. The division was a stark departure from the solidarity between genders as they stood by side, calling for Hosni Mubarak to step down just weeks ago.

Likewise, fighting between Christian Copts and Muslims on Tuesday was a sad reminder that Egypt is still fraught with dangerous religious tension. Last month Copts surrounded Muslims to protect them as they prayed and Muslims did the same for Copts as they celebrated Sunday Mass.

The spirit of those recent days need not be forgotten. In fact, there is an urgent need to rekindle those feelings of unity as the hard work of rebuilding Egypt's institutions begins. Bringing marginalised groups into the political process is one of the most important aspects of reform.

Token measures will not suffice. The appointment of one female member in Essam Sharif's new cabinet - a holdover from the Mubarak government - is a disservice to the thousands of women who agitated for greater political representation. The formation of a cabinet committee to deal with "women's issues" does not do justice to the economic, social and legislative hurdles that Egyptian women have encountered for decades.

Economic and legislative reform could also help defuse tensions between Copts and Muslims.
Read it all.

If Emiratis petitioned their government for political reforms, how would The National report it?

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Rumors of Qatar coup attempt in Arab press

The Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, succeeded over the past weekend to foil a coup attempt against him, Arabic press reports claimed on Monday.
The news about the military coup attempt coincided with a statement issued by figures in the ruling families of Qatar, who oppose the current regime, announcing they are not recognizing the legitimacy of the Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, while they backed his brother, now exiled in France, Abdul Aziz bin Khalifa in Hamad Al-Thani. The statement was signed by 66 opposition figures, including 16 from the ruling Al Thani family. The directed serious charges against the Emir, including the establishment of relations with Israel, total coordination with the United States of America and breaking the Arab ranks. They also claimed his close family members and his wife's family members are involved in cases of corruption and social injustice.

But I can't imagine FIFA or VCU are comforted by this report.

Do a Google search on Qatar coup and you find many over reports over the years. But all I find about the current alleged attempt traces back to the Albawa story of February 28. So, is it bogus?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

133 UAE activists call for direct elections


It has been 39 years since the adoption of the UAE constitution. The preamble of the constitution state the desire,
to lay the foundation for federal rule in the coming years on a sound basis, corresponding to the realities and the capacities of the Emirates at the present time, enabling the Union, so far as possible, freely to achieve its goals, sustaining the identity of its members providing that this is not inconsistent with those goals and preparing the people of the Union at the same time for a dignified and free constitutional life, and progressing by steps towards a comprehensive, representative, democratic regime in an Islamic and Arab society free from fear and anxiety.
133 UAE activists say its time to complete the transition to a constitutional democracy.

A group of Emirati intellectuals and activists on Wednesday petitioned the president of the Gulf state to introduce direct elections and vest the parliament with legislative powers. The petition, posted online, cites "rapid regional and international developments that necessitate improving national participation," in calling for the direct election of all members of the Federal National Council (FNC), which serves only as an advisory body.
Petitioners lamented that the process of efforts to widen political participation over 39 years, since the United Arab Emirates federation was formed, "have not followed the constitution." They wrote that the constitution stipulates a "process towards a comprehensive democratic parliamentary system."

The UAE, which groups seven emirates including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, had indirect elections in 2006 for the first time, where members of electoral colleges appointed by the emirates' rulers were entitled to vote half the members of 40-strong council.
The remainder were named by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan.

Najla Al Awadhi, a former member of the Federal National Council, one of the first women to join the FNC and its youngest member has a related op-ed in The National:
Through the UAE Constitution, the founding fathers set out a political structure that would ensure a gradual evolution of the FNC into a fully empowered parliamentary body. The key words here are gradual and evolution. These principles were meant to nurture stability as the political process matured. A society requires the proper institutions and mindsets to implement and safeguard a democracy.

... We have seen this progress in the UAE as a result of this centralised, benevolent rule.

The challenge we face today is that the FNC's role is fundamentally the same as the day it was created. Building a legislative body is a process and yes, this process is continuing. Recent news that the size of the electoral pool of eligible voters will be increased for the next session is a major milestone in the FNC's development, and will ensure more Emiratis are able to participate in the building of a civil society.

But more needs to be done. For one, I believe in the need for a joint committee to work between the council and the cabinet, in order to begin the process of joint legislation. This would be an early phase building towards the time when the council fully legislates.
Thanks to @emile_hokayem for leads used in this post.


Gulf News:
Over 100 UAE nationals have signed a call for comprehensive reform of the UAE's Federal National Council, including universal suffrage and more legislative power. A petition to President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan was circulated Wednesday online calling for more signatures.

The group called for "a comprehensive reform of the parliamentary system of the Federal National Council (FNC), and included demands for free elections by all citizens in the method of universal suffrage. It also demanded reform of the work of the parliament to include legislative and monitoring authorities".

The group includes intellectuals, university professors, former FNC members, former government officials and civil society activists. The petitioners say they are responding to international and regional changes and seek a democratic parliament as stipulated in the UAE constitution of 1971.

More than 100 citizens of the United Arab Emirates have submitted a petition to their rulers demanding an elected parliament with legislative powers, the first sign of a political response in the country to the political changes sweeping across the Middle East.

"This is probably the first political petition in the history of the U.A.E.," said Ibtissam Ketbi, a political scientist who is the first of the petition's 133 signatories.

"The group called for a comprehensive reform of the parliamentary system of the Federal National Council (the Parliament), and included demands for free elections by all citizens," Mansoor said in an email. "It also demanded reform of legislation governing the work of the Parliament to include legislative and monitoring authorities and calling for necessary constitutional amendments to ensure that."

Despite widespread political unrest across the Middle East and North Africa, there have been no protests in the U.A.E. Demonstrations aren't technically illegal, but police never grant permits for them.

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Tahrir. Except for women:
A Million Women March was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in Tahrir Square, to coincide with International Women’s Day. It did not go well.

The men populating the tent city in Tahrir had been gravitating toward the chatting women. They had clearly not checked their Facebook accounts in time to learn of the intended invasion of their informal houses by adamant, outspoken women. What began as a casual, curious eavesdropping soon turned into a series of confrontations.
The men were particularly incensed at the notion that a woman could be President of Egypt. It was, they argued, against a hadith which states that men should not take orders from women. “Don’t you obey your mother?” wondered a colleague of mine, an Egyptian whose style of dress often causes her to be mistaken for a foreigner. “I obey religion,” he replied.

Shades of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and others. Women in authority? God forbid said Paul.

All over the square, women who were on their own were standing firmly in large clusters of angry men, voicing their demands. I asked a red-faced young man why he was tearing up signs and fliers. “Because this is my country. You are not Egyptian,” he said. “You don’t understand.” Another man, hearing our discussion, put it more gently: “Women have some rights already. Right now, it’s not very important. It will happen eventually.” A passing woman shouted, “You have no right to say that! We have different salaries at work. It is very painful.” People began to close in as the two argued, until one woman was arguing with twenty men for her right, basically, to argue at all.

When I left, at 5:45, the confrontations were still mostly verbal. Later, though, reports came in of women being harassed or attacked, and pushed from the square. It’s hard to see how, at this moment, anyone would blame that sort of violence on pro-Mubarak thugs. Mubarak is gone. Misogyny might be a tougher foe.

Read it all.

Two twitter feeds to follow: Pakinam and Voice, and!/Women4Democracy


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Arab News (Saudi Arabia): What if women could drive?

What would it matter if women were allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia? They'd still men need to do anything.

It's impossible to capture this piece in one quote. Read it all.

By the way, today is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day.


Advertisers love less anonymity

Revenue at is up and The Atlantic earned a profit for the first time in decades. Social network sites get much of the credit says paidContent: S
late’s ad growth has appeared to mirror the increased numbers of comments on its stories. “The amount of comments has doubled in the past year, ” Weisberg said. The not-so-secret key to its success was relying on Facebook and other social media sites to encourage less anonymity and more respectable, thoughtful exchanges.” All of which helped to spur more ad spending. And as Facebook rolls out its newer commenting plug-ins available for most media sites big and small, Slate will have a pretty good chance to try to repeat its good fortune with both readers and advertisers.

“Advertisers have gravitated toward the social aspects of the site because past fears of doing so have dissipated,” Alderman said. “The ease of going by people’s real names and addresses makes people act in a more publicly responsible way and the advertisers have loved it.”

The social element has been most important in consolidating Slate’s business, technology and women’s sites. “When Slate started 15 years ago, there were very few female visitors, but that has changed as well.”

Commenting is considered so crucial to Slate’s current identity, there will be new commenting features on the revamped site, as well as its mobile and tablet version will come with a range of sharing options.
My emphasis.

Introspectively, I find that nonanonymouse commenting creates value-added to my web surfing experience. I more likely to linger on a page if I know the comments at that website are good ones. And I'm sure that loss of anonymity increases the quality of comments. Thus it's plausible that loss of anonymity has increased ad revenues via the "respect" channel.

However, surely the really important channel is the information advertisers obtain because of the lack of anonymity. Advertisers are willing to pay more for ads when they can match their product with the desired audience. I struck that the post doesn't mention this channel. Are they afraid to say it in public?


Applying game theory to revolution

Tim Harford AKA Undercover Economist is back blogging, and the revolution wave in MENA has got him thinking about how game theory applies. A taste:
...mass protests are fragile and revolutionary crowds must extract concessions before their moment passes.

What kind of concessions should protesters look for? According to the economists Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, who have built a detailed series of game-theoretic models of political transition, the answer is: ones that cannot be easily undone. Tunisia’s Ben Ali will surely not return, but already activists are concerned that democratic reforms may not be entrenched, and have returned to the streets to protest. Mubarak may be Egypt’s past, but Egypt’s future is unclear.

A fresh constitution, civil rights, and credible elections are all ways of safeguarding the gains so far. The revolutionary protesters are right to insist on them; it would hardly be a surprise to see feet being dragged by those who profited from the status quo.

It is intriguing to view events in the Middle East through this game-theoretic lens. For example, Saudi Arabia’s “royal gift” of $35bn does not seem to have satisfied activists in the kingdom. That makes sense: gifts can be withdrawn. If a dictatorial government can vent the revolutionary head of steam for a while, then the momentum for reform may be dissipated for many years – especially if the ringleaders are rounded up while all is quiet.

But by the same token this issue of credible reform can give further impetus to a revolution. As I write, Gaddafi is still in Tripoli and seems willing to stop at nothing. Yet his courageous opponents are now committed, too: they know that nobody is going to get away with giving the Libyan dictator a bloody nose and then asking for a school-building programme.
Read it all.


Monday, March 07, 2011

Women Fight to Maintain Their Role in the Building of a New Egypt

Egyptian women were present in large numbers in Tahrir Square, and they seek a role in the building of a New Egypt.
Egypt’s popular revolution was the work of men and women, bringing together housewives and fruit sellers, businesswomen and students. At its height, roughly one quarter of the million protesters who poured into the square each day were women. Veiled and unveiled women shouted, fought and slept in the streets alongside men, upending traditional expectations of their behavior.

The challenge now, activists here say, is to make sure that women maintain their involvement as the nation lurches forward, so that their contribution to the revolution is not forgotten.

Egypt is a step ahead of other popular uprisings in the region, which have had similar bursts of female participation, accompanied by a recognition from men that their support is vital. In Bahrain, hundreds of women wrapped in traditional black tunics stood up to the authorities in the demonstrations against the government, but in a nod to their conservative culture, they slept and prayed outside during protests in a roped-off women’s section. In Yemen, only in the past few days have significant numbers of women started to protest in Sana, the capital, but their numbers were dwarfed by the crowds of men.
...The committee of eight legal experts appointed by the military authorities to revise the Constitution did not include a single woman or, according to Amal abd al-Hadi, a longtime feminist here, anyone with a gender-sensitive perspective.
A coalition of 63 women’s groups started a petition to include a female lawyer on the committee, arguing that women “have the right to participate in building the new Egyptian state.” Ms. Hadi noted that in past Egyptian revolutions, in 1919 and 1952, women’s contributions had been met with similar setbacks....

A coalition including Nawal el-Saadawi, a leading feminist, is planning a million women’s march for Tuesday, with no set agenda other than to promote democracy.
Read it here.


PorTgate cum PorKgate

This story in The Nation today is mostly about the plans for the richer GCC countries to put together a Marshall Plan for Oman and Bahrain to address what one official elliptically called "the circumstances that the region is experiencing".

But what really caught my line was this paragraph:
Meanwhile Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad Al Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, has helped to mediate between the UAE and Oman to "clear the atmosphere" between the neighbouring countries following the arrest last month of what Oman alleged was an Emirati spy ring in the sultanate.
The story of the UAE spying on Oman is something I'd miss. Why would the UAE want to spy on Oman?

It turns out it's industrial espionage, otherwise known as market research.

You can do a Google and find plenty.

Muscati Confidential posted this back in November:
Well, Oman's Government, led by the Ministry of Finance, is investing heavily in a new industrial mega-port complex in Duqm, a previously sleepy coastal town in the middle of nowhere between Muscat and Salalah.
As part of that complex, the obvious play for Oman was to add a 'free trade port facility', where goods can be shipped in and out without significant duty or paperwork. The goods can be processed too, and 'value added'. It seems the Abu Dhabi crowd were concerned that the strategic location of the port* would impact the outlook for the UAE's planed free trade zone in Abu Dhabi, and indeed were concerned about the impact on the existing Jebal Ali Free Trade port in Dubai [note: now also effectively owned by Abu Dhabi, post Dubai-meltdown].

So it seems the foreign intelligence arm of the Abu Dhabi Royal family had managed to bribe several Omanis to betray their country and provide intel on the goings on in Duqm.

And how did Abu Dhabi respond? Muscati Confidential says:
The word is the UAE, as a demonstration of their petulance, have blockaded all pork shipments from the UAE to Oman. This is why there is a drastic shortage of nice American and other land imported pork product in Oman right now.

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A monopoly for creating monopolies

Someone correct me if I wrong, but it is my understanding that the UAE has exclusive car dealerships (monopolies) and that these monopolies are protected by the monopoly power of the government. On top of that, many of these companies sell more than one brand. Consumers would be better off if there was competition.

In Qatar, the Peninsula newspaper reports that exclusive dealerships are likely to go:
Plans are afoot to open up protected dealership trade to foreign competition to ensure that the prices of durables (including, perhaps, automobiles) and other key imports come down to rational levels. Exclusive dealerships are so far a monopoly of Qatari companies and the law (Number 13 of 2000) regulating the trade forbids non-Qatari investment in
It is, however, not clear how the existing car or even other dealers could be affected by the amendments since they have inked long-term dealership contracts with overseas manufacturers and have been allotted ‘specified territories’ as their target markets.
Also, Qatar has its own set of standards and specifications for cars which are different from other GCC states. Considering that car dealers from neighbouring states are allowed to set foot here, they will have to import cars of different standards and specifications. This might frustrate the economy of their business.
Setting your own specifications is a classic way of deterring competition.

Does the move to greater competition have anything to do with heightened political pressure for reforms?


Sunday, March 06, 2011

The state of journalism in the GCC

Mideastposts praises a recent editorial in The Peninsula, a Qatari newspaper:
In a ground-breaking newspaper editorial, the Qatar Peninsula is pointing to a giant elephant in the room – despite the high praise for its flagship Al-Jazeera news outlet, the local press in Doha doesn’t do a very good job.

In the masthead editorial entitled “A crippled fourth estate,” the paper writes that the timid local press results from a combination of weak legal protections for journalists, self-censorship from top editors who favor job security over good journalism, and the media’s tangled web of loyalties to big businesses and the government.

Such a description could equally apply to most press outlets in the GCC.
The entire Peninsula editorial should be read to understand the breadth of issues. Here's a part from the concluding paragraphs:
The Al Jazeera network is often cited as an example of free media in Qatar. But, of late, the famous TV station has been at the receiving end on Qatari social networking sites. It is being criticised for focusing too much on the outside world and ignoring the very country of its birth — Qatar.

Critics say there are enough areas in Qatar which require media attention. From delays in holding parliamentary elections to loopholes in the public health and educations sectors, there are issues that need to be raised. Then there are cases involving official corruption being heard by Qatari courts.

Al Jazeera is at the receiving end also because of what viewers in the country claim is its “poor” coverage of public protests in neighbouring Bahrain and Oman. Some say they are “perplexed” by the unevenness of the channel’s coverage — it is zealous in some countries and uninspiring in others.

According to analysts, the problem in this part of the world is that people like to have democracy in their midst but at the same time they abhor criticism. Free expression being an indispensable feature of a democratic polity, it is thus hard to see a democracy at work without people being allowed freedom of speech.


Alleged ghost writer identified

Was Saif Gaddafi's LSE PhD thesis ghost-written? There seems little doubt he bought a lot of help.

The Independent:
Colonel Gaddafi's son enlisted Libyan academics to help ghost-write his thesis, according to Professor Abubakr Buera of Benghazi's Garyounis University. "I learnt that Saif gathered some PhD holders from Garyounis University in Benghazi, Libya, to help him write his doctoral dissertation. Among the people he consulted was a professor of economics who was a graduate from Germany. His name is Dr Menesi; what gives credibility to this allegation is that Dr Menesi, who was then retired, was brought back to active service as a government bank chairman in Libya, then governor to the Central Bank in Libya, then minister of finance, and finally Libya's ambassador to Austria."
According to the Austrian Foreign Ministry, Menesi is currently Libya's ambassador to Libya. He began serving as ambassador July 3, 2007 (Saif was awarded the PhD in 2007):

Foreign representations in Austria (in German)

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

Blaasstraße 33, 1190 Wien

(+43 / 1) 367 76 39
(+43 / 1) 367 76 01
Republik Österreich, Republik Ungarn, Tschechische Republik

S.E. Herr Dr. Ahmed M.A. MENESI, m
Ambassador, (03.07.2007)


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Saif Gaddafi takes down another

The head of the LSE has resigned.

The Guardian:
His resignation came as a US consultancy admitted mishandling a multimillion dollar contract with Libya to sanitise Gaddafi's reputation in the west. Monitor Group, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, organised for academics and policymakers from the US and UK to travel to Tripoli to meet the Libyan despot between 2006 and 2008, as part of a $3m (£1.8m) contract.

The Guardian does not make the connection that the Monitor Group is credited with gathering data for Saif Gaddafi's thesis.


Friday, March 04, 2011

Video of protests in Saudi Arabia

Here and here.

I'm picking these up from a twitter search on Ahsa.

About the Ahsa Governate: "Al-Ahsa (Arabic: الأحساء‎ al-Aḥsāʾ, locally pronounced al-Ḥasāʾ) is the largest governorate in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, named after Al-Ahsa oasis."

This Irish Times report is good even though it's from six days ago:
Sadek al-Ramadan, a human rights activist in al-Asha, Eastern Province, said: “People here are watching closely the protest movements across the region, which are tapping into long-held demands for reforms in Saudi Arabia.” Al-Ramadan said that there are “deep frustrations” in Saudi society over high levels of poverty, unemployment, poor housing and perceived widespread corruption among the rulers of the world’s top oil exporter whose gross domestic product last year is estimated at $622 billion.
“Unemployment is as high as 50 per cent among Saudi youth, whether Shia or Sunni, and there is a serious shortfall in housing and education facilities,” said al-Ramadan. “People want more transparent governance, an end to corruption, and better distribution of wealth and welfare.”

He said there was widespread recognition reform in Saudi Arabia is badly needed. “The question is: how far will the call for reforms go?” The Saudi authorities are undoubtedly mindful of the rapid escalation of anti-government protests in the neighbouring Persian Gulf island state of Bahrain, only an hour’s drive away from the Eastern Province across a 25km causeway.

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Chickens coming home to roost

In the gulf war provoked by Saddam's invasion of Kuwait there was a split between those Arab governments who supported Saddam, and the GCC countries that did not. At the time the GCC countries employed Jordanians and Egyptians and others some of whom demonstrated in support of Saddam. The result was that the GCC countries expelled these foreign nationals from the country, and replaced them with Asians. That policy has continued to this day.

It is much easier to manage foreign nationals who do not claim an Arab kinship. The Asian workers are not seen as the same kind of security threat.

The Wall Street Journal takes notes and makes the case that the policy of using Asian workers rather Arab workers is feeding discontent in the region:
AMMAN—Rasmy Mahmoud Khair supported his family in Jordan for nearly 15 years by working on a farm in Saudi Arabia. In the two decades since the farm job ended, he and two adult sons have tried in vain to reconnect the family to a Saudi paycheck.
The Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, countries—which include Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates—employ more than 15 million "guest workers," according to World Bank figures.

Arab manpower once comprised the bulk of this imported work force. Now, some 11 million of the GCC's guest workers hail from countries east of the Persian Gulf, mainly India and Pakistan. Some countries have contingents from China. The remaining four million migrants arrive from places like Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Syria and Egypt.

Demonstrations that have gripped countries across the Middle East have been fueled, in part, by resentment over the lack of opportunity in countries across the region. But even as unemployment grows across the Arab world, jobs are increasingly going to Asian guest workers.
"The Arab employee is seen as someone who is demanding and as someone who poses a political risk," explains Muhammad Malallah, a management consultant in Amman. "The Indian employee does not. The Pakistani does not."
In 2003, Saudi Arabia announced its intention to reduce foreign residents—then some six million—to less than one-fifth of the total population. But instead of shrinking the foreign presence, the Saudis kept importing. Today more than eight million foreign workers reside in the kingdom, increasing the foreign presence to nearly a third of all residents.

Families like the Khairs have been shut out of the GCC boom. Rasmy Khair doesn't expect to work outside Jordan again.

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The ties that bind

Abu Dhabi announced a spending program for the less well-to-do northern emirates. The timing is in the context of protests in other GCC countries for better living conditions and political reform.

The National:
The President yesterday ordered Dh5.7 billion [$1.6 billion] of investment in electricity and water infrastructure in the northern emirates that analysts say will breathe new life into the area and strengthen the ties that bind the nation.
Local politicians and residents who have complained in the past about services being inferior to those in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, with frequent water and power cuts, said yesterday they were optimistic about the future.
Sharjah, which has suffered power cuts every summer, will receive an additional 700 megawatts from the capital, and a new distribution plant will be set up in the emirate,at a cost of Dh500 million. The emirate will also receive an additional 10 million gallons of water a day.


Welfare princes

In America we have welfare queens. In Saudi Arabia they have welfare princes. Reuters has taken a look at U.S. State Department cables obtained by Wikileaks.

The November 1996 cable -- entitled "Saudi Royal Wealth: Where do they get all that money?" -- provides an extraordinarily detailed picture of how the royal patronage system works. It's the sort of overview that would have been useful required reading for years in the U.S. State department.

It begins with a line that could come from a fairytale: "Saudi princes and princesses, of whom there are thousands, are known for the stories of their fabulous wealth -- and tendency to squander it."

The most common mechanism for distributing Saudi Arabia's wealth to the royal family is the formal, budgeted system of monthly stipends that members of the Al Saud family receive, according to the cable. Managed by the Ministry of Finance's "Office of Decisions and Rules," which acts like a kind of welfare office for Saudi royalty, the royal stipends in the mid-1990s ran from about $800 a month for "the lowliest member of the most remote branch of the family" to $200,000-$270,000 a month for one of the surviving sons of Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia.
The above the table welfare is just the beginning. Read it all.

One of those scheme is what we call "turning them loose on the local economy":
Royals kept the money flowing by sponsoring the residence permits of foreign workers and then requiring them to pay a monthly "fee" of between $30 and $150. "It is common for a prince to sponsor a hundred or more foreigners," the 1996 cable says.
These foreign workers compete with citizens for jobs. For every member of the House of Saud, and there are many given the royal welfare incentives to procreate, there many more Saudis who are poor by western standards.

Turning foreign workers loose on the economy to find a job and pay you an annual fee is common in other GCC countries.

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

How to stop a contagion?

Wall Street Journal:
Gulf officials are planning an economic aid package for Bahrain and Oman, a Bahraini official said Thursday, in an effort to support the two countries in the oil-rich region that have seen the largest anti-government protests.

Member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, are holding discussions on the exact structure of the aid package, according to Sheik Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, the head of Bahrain's Economic Development Board.
...Jawad Fairooz, a Bahraini opposition lawmaker, said the preliminary amount agreed on for Bahrain stood at 4 billion Bahraini dinars ($10.61 billion).

The GCC groups together oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Bahrain and Oman, which are smaller oil exporters and less able to increase spending to calm anti-government protests.
My emphasis.

To put it in other terms, either (1) the protests are about government welfare spending, or (2) it is believed governments can avoid giving political freedoms by increasing the social safety net.

Foreign policy is self-interested. The oil-rich states believe there is a contagion effect. They want to put out the protests in neighboring states so their own people catch the protest fever.

Assuming the protestors in Oman and Bahrain the oil-rich states will follow through with these promises what's the rational thing to do? Be satisfied or demand more in foreign aid? It sounds to me like the incentives are protest more.

Gulf News titles its story GCC marshall-style aid package for Bahrain, Oman. It includes this unlikely statement:
The sources said that the labour markets in the other four GCC countries will be used to employ Bahrainis and Omanis who will be given employment priorities and benefits,
There is discontent in KSA and UAE surrounding unemployment of citizens. And I don't see Bahrainis and Omanis taking jobs in the oil-rich GCC that are done by high-skill expats or expats from Asia.


Missing link to article on planned UAE protests

A Google search of UAE protests turned up the following result right now:
  1. UAE protests planned for 25 March | News | MEED

    4 hours ago - Demonstrations planned for UAE and Saudi Arabia in March. - United Arab Emirates
  1. However, when I click on the link,,

I get the message,

The page you are looking for cannot be found.

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