Saturday, June 18, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Countries ranked by GDP per capita
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
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.”
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Fuel shortage? Financial Times and Emirates Economist on same page
... 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.I explained this the other day, and also back in 2008 when the same thing occurred.
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....
UAE called upon to drop charges against reform advocates
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.A maxim: Generally speaking, you're not humiliated by someone else, you humiliate yourself.
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."
Labels: Arab Spring
China, North Korea and 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.
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.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
I rest my case
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.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.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Emarat steps into the petrol gap
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.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
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
PBS provides a good account of the OPEC meeting's tensions
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.Read it all.
And then there's Morocco. The reforms the ruler is offering are not the kind Phelps has in mind.
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Study of social media during Arab Spring
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.
Report throws light on social-media usage in Arab world 0- Gulf News
Our first post on the report.
Someone who's not impressed with press coverage of the Arab Spring
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.I'm not familiar with Caabu but it says it's Advancing Arab-British Relation. It's About page isn't much help....
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.
Labels: Arab Spring
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Shortage at Dubai-owned gas stations
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 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”.
Egypt: Look to the economic example of Poland
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. ......
Why women graduates outnumber men in the UAE
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
Meanwhile (NYT),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?
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.
Labels: labor market
Why the French are desperate to run 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
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
Friday, June 03, 2011
Sciontology: family-managed businesses
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
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.
New Club for Growth of the GCC
A domino theory.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.
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.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Repression in the United Arab Emirates
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.”h/t to Davidson who tweets,
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.”
Gulf Research Council's license not renewed
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.
Dubai Debates: "After the Arab Awakening: Opportunities and Challenges for a New Arab World"
Labels: Arab Spring