Thursday, March 30, 2006

UAE: Address Abuse of Migrant Workers (Human Rights Watch, 29-3-2006)

Human Rights Watch recently conducted a fact-finding mission on the conditions of migrant workers in the UAE and will be releasing its full findings in the next few months.
There is much in this report that is accurate. There is much in this report that is embarrassing to the UAE. But much of what is embarrassing is only embarrassing because many good-intentioned people believe the UAE should be ashamed of the way it treats low-skilled immigrant workers while in fact the workers like it that way.

If those people could carry out their good intentions many of the workers they intend to help would in fact either lose their jobs or see some of their salaries diverted to be spent on things they would rather not buy like better living conditions or safer working conditions.

There is a reason that the UAE has the highest net immigration in the world: it is the land of opportunity for many impoverished people who prefer working to being trapped in their home country, and who would prefer to trade higher wages to better living and working conditions. It's revealed preference - no one is forcing them to come the UAE, and if workers really did prefer better living conditions innovative firms could offer better conditions at lower salaries and hire workers for a lower total cost than existing firms.

There is a direct parallel in the working conditions of the grandfathers and great grandfathers of the citizens of the UAE today. Many of those men worked in the pearl diving industry and lived in squalid conditions at sea for months, not seeing their families, and eating retched food. In the profit-sharing arrangement of that time those awful conditions were the choice of the workers collective.

Just as in the time when pearl diving thrived what was most difficult to enforce was payment of what was due to the workers. With pearl diving you might be able to verify the catch by opening the pearl bearing oysters together. But there remained the problem of the unfaithful agent who sold the pearls and may have taken a hidden side payment from a pearl buyer cheating the divers out of some of their share of the revenue.*

Likewise, today, we hear frequent stories of workers not being paid when promised and in some cases not being paid at all. In a country that does not allow workers to change jobs to protect themselves from dishonest or incompetent employers, 80 labor inspectors for something like 2,000,000 expatriate workers is a ridiculously small number. Either increase the number of inspectors considerably and give them significant enforcement power, or - better - let workers change jobs. Do one or the other or both. But don't do virtually nothing.

samuraisam draws our attention to this quote:
"To link what happened [protests] to the construction boom in the country - which represents a sign of progress in the region - or to negotiations on free trade is really devious, illogical and insane," labor minister Ali Al Kaabi told the Al Khaleej daily.
As the reader will infer, I agree with the labor minister that report contains much that is illogical. Labeling it "insane" is too strong, especially when there is some truth to the abuses enumerated.

*Ironically, the stories of these heroic men are best told in a book that is banned in the UAE, Shaikhdoms of Eastern Arabia by Peter Lienhardt. Probably it is banned because of a few lines in the author's acknowledgments that is interpreted as defaming a royal. Or perhaps it is the discussion of piracy in the early 20th century. If you are interested you can probably read some of those bits by following the link above and then going to explore.

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Isn't it a bit early for April Fools?

Item: Emotional social intelligence device alerts wearer when they are boring the listener. Give them as stocking stuffers.

Item: United Arab Emirates becomes less like Kentucky and more like France.
"Labourers will be allowed to form unions.
We’re going to have one union, with separate representatives for the construction, fishing, agriculture and other industries,” Labour Minister Ali Al Kaabi told The Associated Press. . . . “The law will control how strikes will be conducted. It will outline rights, the do’s and don’ts. There will be a labour representative who will be our point of contact. It will make contact with the labourers much easier.”
I believe that's what you call a company union. This move may be window dressing. Or it may be part of a pattern of central control of labor movement (in both senses of that phrase. UAE workers don't need a collective labor movement. They need individual job mobility. But that would involve trusting the Invisible Hand. Too scary.

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Shrinks hemorrhoidal tissue
Legally blind

Preparation H used the marketing phrase "shrinks hemorrhoidal tissue" for many years. For all I know they may do so still. In one long running TV commercial, or series of commercials, the spokesmodel would put his hands out about 2 feet apart and as he said "shrinks hemorrhoidal tissue" he would shrink the distance to one foot.

As one comedian famously stated while doing the hand motion, "if this is your problem, this is not a solution."

That's what we thought of when we saw this article in the Khaleej Times today.

The UAE has laws on the books to protect workers, but the effort and resources devoted to enforcing the laws is miniscule. The UAE may not be blind to the exploitation (employer malfeasance) of the most vulnerable of workers. But we all know people who are not totally blind, but who are Legally Blind.

Wasn't that made into a movie?
Does U.S. policy towards Israel give a whole new meaning to most-favored nation status?

In his Farewell Address, co-written with Alexander Hamilton, George Washington wrote this prescriptive statement about foreign policy:
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
This statement has been the anchor of U.S. foreign policy throughout its history not so much by conscious reference to the words of George Washington but by the prescription is a description of how a rational self-interested government will behave. Arguably, self-interest has not always led the U.S. in an admirable or honorable path - numerous alignments of convenience with foreign dictators come to mind. But in general it is hard to argue that it is not right for a country to pursue a policy which aims to ensure its own survival and promote the welfare of its citizens. And that that is exactly what the U.S. has done throughout its history.

It would appear that since the Truman administration, U.S. foreign policy towards Israel is more of an "infatuation" with a "favorite nation." This seeming departure from a pragmatic approach has been hard explain. And it feeds a theory spun in coffee shops and shisha bars throughout the Middle East; that theory being that the Jews run America. What else, these theorists say, can explain the apparent exceptionalism of U.S. policy toward Israel?

That question is addressed by a recent article, The Israel Lobby, in the London Review of Books written by John Mearsheimer (Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago) and Stephen Walt (Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard). (Link via Dad and a colleague at work.) See also Tikun Olam's review of Mearsheimer & Walt.

By appearances these three authors have taken a serious run at understanding U.S. policy towards Israel. I shall have to find the time to read both articles with care.

John Palmer (at The EclectEcon) has a roundup of the critiques of Mearsheimer and Walt. I reserve judgment until I have had a chance to read M&W (and their critics). If the charges of the critics hold true - "a new document that rivals the Protocols for anti-semitism" ... "method of analysis presumes Israel's guilt" ... "clearly does not meet the academic standards of a Kennedy School research paper" ... "an article that is redeemed from complete dullness and mediocrity only by being slightly but unmistakably smelly" - the exceptionalism question will still remain.
Is what's good for Wal-Mart good for the Pentagon?
Just-in-time goes to war


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What if you got to choose which society to live in?

Society 1: You get
a. A lifetime job of doing the same thing with the same employer and not having to perform to keep your job.
b. Extra marital affairs are not considered cheating on or being unfaithful to your marriage partner.

Society 2: You get
a. A fluid job market were you may have multiple partners over your lifetime where each rewards you according to your performance.
b. It is expected that a marriage is a lifetime monogomous commitment or - at least - while married having a paramour is cheating.

Somehow, I prefer Society 2 [typo corrected!], and I believe it is the healthier society, less jaded, more optimistic, and more productive. But may be that's just the prudish adventurous Anglo-Saxon in me.


"My water"

Thank God, John Kerry is not POTUS. Be sure to follow the last link therein, "he studied a laboratory analysis". Scary who/what the Democrats put forward. Clearly, they can do better.
Mohawk Indian ironworkers and the construction of the tallest building in the world :: NPR
A blast from the past from the "Present at the Creation" series at National Public Radio.

Nothing much has changed. Today, the tallest building in the world employs vast numbers of construction workers from India and other countries in the subcontinent.

I'm stumbled upon this checking a conjecture - which is that massive construction projects have a long history of labor disputes. I'm still checking and will report back whether or not that dog barks.

Meanwhile, I and my fellow Dubaians (and Sharjans) are present at the creation of world marvels of construction.

In related news, a underwater hotel dream goes bellyup as expected:

We are absolutely no longer considering the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East as a possible location for anything. Our business experiences there were truly terrible.
Oddly, I don't see that news mentioned at Google (Dubai underwater hotel - Google News). Instead there are lots of stories mentioning underwater hotel plans in Dubai, and even one about the global race to build the first underwater hotel.

Interested in a job that involves heights and pays well for changing lightbulbs? Check out this guy's job.

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Thanks to samuraisam for co-authorship of this report including the pointers to seabee's discovery of the Poseidon Resorts statement and the lightbulbchanger salary report.


Desperate labourers seek death on roads :: Gulf News

Bravo to the Gulf News, and the state that moderates it, for having the guts to run stories such as this.

One thing that low-skilled workers arriving in the workers' paradise which is the UAE discover is that their dormitories are not convenient to shopping or banking, etc. Often it is an 8 lane limited access highway that lies between them and the market. The cost of a taxi can easily exceed a day's wages. Walking safely means going miles out of your way. Many therefore take their chances crossing the Emirates Highway or the Sheik Zayed Road thick with traffic going 120 kph or more.

The expected cost of crossing in this way is not as high as you might think: under Shariah, you or your relatives collect blood money from the driver if you are hit. The Gulf News confirms my suspicions: for some crossing a busy highway is their livelihood. Quote (emphasis and hyperlink added):
Dubai: Labourers desperate to make a fast buck are quite literally playing with their lives: they rush into speeding traffic on busy roads hoping their dependants will inherit the diya (blood money) if they are knocked down.

Following complaints about reckless pedestrians in certain areas in Dubai, Gulf News

The labourers were seen crisscrossing the roads.
Motiram, who was bold enough to reveal his story, said: "We are trying to get knocked down."

Motiram, an illegal Indian who is part of the floating labour population, added, "There is no point living in such a pathetic state. I had come here on a visit visa paying a large sum to an agent in India. I was unsuccessful in finding a good job and have been living hand-to-mouth for the last several months.

"The last time I spoke to my family was some three months ago."

Motiram said he learnt about the blood money rule from his colleagues while working as a daily wage earner.

The choices by Motiram and his co-workers give a whole new meaning to "livelihood" and "occupational safety." Talk about moving along the hedonic wage function, making the risk-return tradeoff!

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Getting organized? :: Chan'ad Bahraini

Chan'ad Bahraini notices something about the recent labor unrest at the site of the Burj Dubai - a sympathy strike by workers at the construction site of the new DBX international terminal:
It seems that there may be some coordination and solidarity between workers on different work sites. I wonder on what level and to what extent this is taking place. It will be interesting to see if anything similar happens in the future, and how the employers and authorities will respond to any coordinated action.

Also, you might recall that workers at Dubai’s new airport terminal, who are also employees of Al Naboodah Laing, went on strike in September 2004.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Quote of the day
[I]n many developing countries it's the family that is most taxing.... Creating a market economy is thus about much more than eliminating regulation.
Caliphs are mentioned.

Source: Marginal Revolution
Islamardos' demand for raw sewage :: keynoter-dot-com
Markets in Everything*

It all sounds plausible enough:

The problem is that not enough residents of north Plantation Key - the area covered by the project - have hooked into the sewer system to get the system “operating and stabilized.”

“It's a brand-new plant,” Sante said. “When it first gets on line is the hardest time because there's no flow.”

In a worst-case scenario, he cautioned, Islamorada could wind up paying to import sewage so operators can hit the plant's “on” switch.
Wait a minute. Islamorada? No kidding, Islamorada, Florida does exist. But is the name of the councilman - Van Cadenhead? - a hint that this is a spoof. No, Mr. Cadenhead is a real guy.

Maybe we should take this seriously. Okay, so let's go back to the economics:
Sante urged Islamorada to come up with a rebate or group-discount incentive to encourage residents to complete the hookup to their residences “so we don't have to buy sewage.”

“If we wind up buying sewage, residents as well as Mr. Cadenhead, are going to tear us up,” Councilman Michael Reckwerdt said. “I don't want to do that.”

Councilwoman Patty Schmidt worried that any system to offer discounts should be available to all property owners mandated to hook into the sewer system.

Village Manager Gary Word expressed “reservations” about the village getting involved in a connection program that “can be handled by the private sector.”

In public comment, Deb Gillis said the delay in connecting to the network was caused by significantly higher than expected costs - a problem that can be expected elsewhere as Islamorada tries to meet the 2010 deadline for wastewater treatment.
For the deeply demented professor of intermediate microeconomic theory here's a nice exam question: Assuming Islamorada is not a village of idiots, what connection pricing rule will the council adopt?

Being deeply demented, I've not fully, erm, flushed out the answer - which is par for the course for any good intermediate micro prof.

As always, the comments section is open for your responses.

Link via the friendly folks at Fark, of course. The submitter's headline ain't bad.

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*With apologies to the good guys at Marginal Revolution.



Tim Newman of White Sun of the Desert locates an immoral equivalence drawn in a state-moderated Dubai newspaper.

9/11 = DPW - USA

That is in extremely bad taste. I hope the author of the piece is amused by himself.

Reminder: My defender-of-DPW-in-the-USA credentials aren't bad. The US alienates its friends in Dubai and that makes it okay for a Dubai newspaper moderated by the government to do the reverse? At a minimum that's not a money-making proposition my friends.
No Turning Back on Saleswomen Directive, Says Saudi Labor Minister :: Arab News
Saudi salesmen watch their backside

From the Kingdom we receive this uplifting news:
“Providing jobs for women has been a priority for decision makers in the Kingdom for more than 25 years,” he told reporters during his visit to the technical college along with Britain’s Prince Charles.

The labor minister denied that there were as many as two million Saudi men working as salesmen in female-clothing shops. “This figure is baseless. If there were two million Saudis working as salesmen in (shops selling products for women) we would not require five million foreigners who come from abroad to work as salesmen,” he said.

Al-Gosaibi also reassured Saudi salesmen already working female-clothing stores that they would not lose their jobs due to the implementation of the directive. He said that even if it were proven that the directive adversely affected a Saudi salesman, another job would be found for him.

Al-Gosaibi did not address this issue in relation to how it might affect expatriate sales clerks. He did emphasize the need to open the job market to Saudi women.

“There are large numbers of women who are in desperate need of jobs within the appropriate environment, which we seek to provide following Shariah regulations,” he said.
Millions? Time for a journalistic reality check. Mariam Al Hakeem reporting in Gulf News puts the figures in the thousands.

An ill-informed Westerner would assume that modesty would have long ago made lingerie sales a female-dominated profession as much in the Kingdom as it would be in the West. It strikes a Westerner as paradoxical in the extreme that the logic of protection of females could have ever have meant that a Saudi woman could only buy underwear from a man.

I have to assume the percentage of Saudi women wearing ill-fitting brassieres exceeds the conspiratorial 70% rate seen in the West.

The distribution of talents across the men and women is not all that different except (warning: Larry Summersesque statement ahead) in the tails. The Kingdom is now letting women into certain professions. But squeezing them into only certain professions clearly means many will end up in ill-fitting jobs that waste their talents. Is that a cost worth paying; or does Sharia (as interpreted in the Kingdom) make that an irrelevant and impertinent question?

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'Marriage Is for White People' :: Joy Jones in Washington Post

Read the whole thing. (Link via Instapundit.)

One quote:
Among African Americans, the desire for marriage seems to have a different trajectory for women and men. My observation is that black women in their twenties and early thirties want to marry and commit at a time when black men their age are more likely to enjoy playing the field. As the woman realizes that a good marriage may not be as possible or sustainable as she would like, her focus turns to having a baby, or possibly improving her job status, perhaps by returning to school or investing more energy in her career.
I wonder if Joy Joyce has read the Undercover Economist:
A little over one in 100 American men are in prison - but there are several states where one in five young black men are behind bars. Since most women marry men of similar age, and of the same race and the same state, there are some groups of women who face a dramatic shortfall of marriage partners.

Economist Kerwin Charles has recently studied the plight of these women. Their problem is not merely that some who would want to marry won't be able to; it's that the available men suddenly have more bargaining power.
. . .
The women's response makes sense: girl power. The women affected do everything to make the most of single life, including staying at school for longer and hunting for more paid work. The American prison system hasn't left them much choice.
What is it that puts a disproportionate and large number of black men in prison (or dead on the streets)? It's next layer of the onion. I do note, however, that one immediate implication is that if white men were imprisoned in proportionately the same numbers as black men, then white men would be as likely to be players as black men.


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Monday, March 27, 2006

The Burj Dubai Labor Riot: Tuesday 21 Mar 2006

At the cusp of this blog's recent Yemeni hiatus a riot broke out at the site of the construction site of what is projected to be the tallest building in the world. If you've arrived here looking for coverage of the story, I direct you to this post at DM Blog where BD is on the case. It's link rich with newspaper accounts. And BD adds his own excellent analysis. He's also provided an extensive amount of background on the unskilled labor sector in the UAE.

BD asks, why the Burj Dubai, where the workers are comparatively better paid and are provided better working and living conditions. His answer:
This unrest was, therefore, not about the usual issue of workers not receiving salaries for months or intolerable living conditions. Why then did the protest erupt in violence? On the face of it, it is rather ironic. It appears in fact, that the uprising was more spontaneous than planned. I would speculate that there was in essence a high degree of frustration over the transport and security issues which was ignited on account of the large numbers involved. I would surmise that this was the critical factor. What was unique in this instance was the combination of both a high level of frustration and large numbers gathered at the massive construction site. It does not represent a typical scenario.
My thoughts, too, ran quickly to why this site and not others. Probably BD is on to something in focusing on the scale of the project and the numbers involved. Most mobs are not far from being unruly because there is safety in numbers. Are there ring leaders to be singled out for punishment? Perhaps. But it is not in the interest of the owners to punish all the protesters - this simply converts a costly work stoppage initiated by the workers into a stoppage prolonged by the prosecutors.

It is in the owner's interest to see work resume by those workers. And why those workers? First by virtue of the sheer size of the project the workers cannot be replaced wholesale. Second, as they work on the project floor to floor the workers are gaining skills in doing the work faster and better.

The workers know this. The maximum the owner is willing to pay the workers is rising. A worker's protest is a way for the workers to extract more from the firm.

As BD wrote "this does not represent a typical scenario." In the typical situation in the Gulf, if workers strike to gain some of the economic rents flowing to the employer, the employer can rather costlessly replace the worker.

UPDATE - I see I'm getting visitors via this link: Pajamas Media: The other immigrant scene. The title of that post is a reference to what has become a hot political issue in the U.S., illegal immigration (see this coverage). If you conclude from this that the U.S. has a recent history of being tight-assed about immigration, consider this amazing world map showing net immigration by country. The U.S. remains the land of opportunity in both the demand (people wish to come to America) and supply (an open door policy) senses.

UPDATE 2 - See, also, Migrants and the Middle East - Welcome to the other side of Dubai which gets to the nub of the workers' issues. It's not clear who is expropriating who:
The interior ministry began negotiations with the labourers but were left somewhat bewildered by this very un-Dubai mood of militancy. "They have no right to continue this strike. I don't know why they don't realise that," said Lieutenant-Colonel Rashid Bakhit Al Jumairi, a ministry investigator.

"They came back to the site, but they still refuse to work. The workers are demanding overtime pay, better medical care and humane treatment from their foremen. The companies have agreed to some of the demands. But the workers agreed to their employment conditions when they signed."

A carpenter from Andhra Pradesh in India, Mangal Prasad, said the action was taken as a last resort. "We just want to be treated like human beings. The way some of foremen behave towards us is very bad. If we complain they say we will get sent back. This is wrong," he said.
"We have also got to work much longer hours than we were contracted to because they want everything finished quickly. So why shouldn't we get overtime pay? That's what happens everywhere else. Most of us aren't saving money at all. We are still paying back the loan we took to get here."
Thanks to the Canadian Expat Countertenor for the link.

UPDATE 3 - Welcome to Instapundit readers. Glad to have you drop in.

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The Box that Changed the World, and Dubai :: Virginia Postrel

My number one favorite columnist, economics or otherwise, has written her last column for the NYT. I may have to start a subscription to The Atlantic - which is where Virginia is headed.

The last column is vintage Postrel. Especially if you are a Dubaian seeking greater insight into how ports work and what makes Dubai the entrepôt of the region.

While I'm at it, I recommend you read one of my all time favorite books, Postrel's The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress.

Virginia ends her post by revealing that our number 1 favorite economics blogger is taking her place, Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution. Congratulations, Tyler. We look forward seeing your sphere of influence expand.


One Big Construction Site: Insane in the membrane

samuraisam has a deep attachment to Dubai bordering on affection. He wants to see Dubai succeed. So, take note when he writes:

Possible reasons for building the Burj Dubai
- Because it’ll be the worlds tallest building, and everyone will know about Dubai
- Because it’s pretty, it’ll become a world landmark
- Because it’ll increase tourism
- Because it’ll highlight how [expletive deleted] laborers are treated in Dubai, and everyone will know that Dubai is built on exploited employment (and has pretty towers)
Does anyone else sense the vast contradiction in building it? Is there any point in such a vast investment if it’s going to be made entirely redundant by the fact that it’s going to attract negative attention?

Why not a good 10 year or so wait until it actually looks like Dubai is ready to be in the world spotlight?
UAE community blog is hot hot hot

The blogteam at UAE community blog has been cranking out some great and timely posts. Here's a sampler:

>> Iraqi blogger nominated for Samuel Johnson non-fiction prize.
Post by nzm of mandjadventures.

>> Government working hours are changing. Post by Neglected-ism of neglected-ism.

>> Andy Rooney's commentary on Dubai. Post by Emirates Mac of Emirates Mac.

>> NEWSFLASH: Media Study Finds UAE Culturally Divided. Post by samuraisam of One Big Construction Site.
Sheikha Lubna Interview (video)

grapeshisha posts the link to the Sheika Lubna interview on CNBC. Good stuff.

I suspect grapeshisha will keep the link as fresh as possible.

More here.

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Go to Yemen

Looking for a great vacation destination? Put Yemen on your list of possibilities.

Over the coming days (weeks?) I will be posting on my trip to Yemen. Some posts will be travelogue - places, shopping, food, the people - while others will be economic and cultural reflections and observations.

So, come back to The Emirates Economist in the coming days. But I can give you the bottomline now: Yemen is fantastic in lots of dimensions. Don't hesitate. Make plans to visit Yemen soon.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Policymakers one step ahead of economists

If we ban smoking at work and in stores, and we ban smoking in outdoors, then substitution possibilities being what they are, won't smokers just smoke more in confined places like their private cars. Economists say so.

But, not so fast say New South Wales policymakers. You economists are one day late (literally) and an Australian dollar short. We've anticipated your objection:
Authorities in Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, are to consider banning smoking in cars. A parliamentary inquiry will look at the effects of passive smoking on passengers, particularly children.
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Supporters of the proposal have admitted, however, that enforcing such a ban would be difficult.

Smokers in Australia have already been squeezed out of bars and restaurants, as well as some beaches and most other public places.

Now Fred Nile from the Christian Democratic Party has drawn up a private member's bill that makes cars the next target.

His idea will be investigated by a parliamentary committee.

The plan appears to have the support of the state government.

A spokesman said that tough action should be implemented to stop the small number of irresponsible people who smoked around youngsters in their cars.
It's my blog and I get the last word (unless you comment): If you give smokers no other choice, then they will smoke at home with the windows closed. Heaven help the child with asthma.

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Spring Break UAE Style
Sultan's Palace, Sana'a, Yemen

The staff of The Emirates Economist will be on vacation through Sunday. The staff is taking a well deserved break.

Blogging is expected to be light. Very light.

If there is a need to contact the staff during this interval, they can be reached here beginning Thursday morning.

I anticipate that the team over at UAE community blog will pick up any slack while the EmEc staff is napping.
A&S Online - Oh deer

“In counties with the higher, four-point restriction, the probability of an accident related to mistaking another hunter as game decreases dramatically and at statistically significant levels.”

-John Pepper, University of Virginia economist
John Pepper, I've got Dick Cheney on the line. He's accidently shot a lawyer and he'd like to know if that's considered moral hazard.

- - - -
US: We'll trade with Kuwait, but not the UAE

More doofus behavior from Capitol Hill.

Credit for finding link: Dubai Bigus, via email.


Muslim Students at Virginia
No Rotunda for Oil ?=? No Ports for Oil

Following the link above I learned that "University of Virginia Muslims reacted to a cartoon depicted the Prophet (pbuh) in the Cavalier Daily" which is the principle student paper at UVa.

In an earlier time (April 1, 1975 to be exact) I was a student at UVa. As usual, I brought home a copy of the day's issue of the Cavalier Daily to share with my wife. The top story that day was a report that The University and a parent of student from an oil-rich Arab country had just closed a deal transfering ownership of The Rotunda to the parent in return for a large donation to The University. At the time, gas prices had never been higher nor have they been since (in real terms of course). So that was a sore point. And, besides, we Cavaliers hold Thomas Jefferson in rather high esteem so the thought of selling his Rotunda to anyone was outrageous. His Rotunda is priceless and not for sale. /sarcasm alert/

Of course it was an April Fools spoof. Funny then and funny now. Especially when we can laugh about how anyone can be taken in by something that outrages us and a thread of the story links to a current event. It's a spoof my wife and I still chuckle about all these years later.

I guess the ports for oil deal is connected to this somehow. It all harkens back to the No-Rotunda-for-Oil days.

- I am, John B. Chilton (A&S, UVa Economics with highest distinction, '75)

- - - -
Previous posts on Dubai ports * TAGS: , ,
Your wish, Anomolous, is my command: Dubai's oil reserves, information within reach of any good high school student with access to google.

Abu Dhabi holds the vast, vast bulk of the UAE's oil reserves. After that every other one of the six UAE emirates is a minor player in the oil market if they have any oil at all. Of course the same also holds true if by emirates we mean any of the other oil-producing countries on the Arabian peninsula.

Thus, Mark Steyn's point is well taken. Dubai's future hinges on succesfully integrating into the world economy including good relations with the U.S. And that is exactly the strategy that Dubai is following, quite successfully. In spite of some craven U.S. politicians, George W. Bush not included.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Thousands of Pakistani women facing charges under Islamic laws: Khaleej Times

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report also noted an increase in the killings of women in the name of honour, English ’Daily Times’ reported. Most such killings targetted women and girls who contracted marriages against family’s will.

Human-rights and civil-society organizations are demanding the repeal of the Hudood laws that were introduced by late military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, in 1979, to gain support of Muslim clerics for his rule.

President General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in October 1999, has called on religious scholars to review the strict Islamic laws that are considered highly discriminatory against women.
May be it's just me, but I can't help think religious scholars don't know the mind of God on this one.

Meanwhile, Secret Dubai finds some rather alarming bits in the lastest US State Department report on human rights in the UAE. Here's just one quote from the report I found especially chilling:
male guardians within the family have a positive legal right, in the Penal Code, to discipline women and children family members at their discretion, including use of physical violence.
Hey, it's not my religion and it's not my country but once again, I can't help think religious scholars don't know the mind of God on this one. Or do men always do what's right with this power over women? And if the answer is the Code says one thing, but in practice violence against women is punished, then the question is why would you want to leave the Code as is?
Hire to kill? - No problem
"Unfortunate" offer by "lawmaker"

NEW DELHI - An India court on Monday rejected demands for action against a lawmaker who put a bounty of 11.5 million dollars on the heads of Danish cartoonists who drew controversial images of the Prophet Mohammed.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Y. K. Sabharwal described as “unfortunate” the offer made by Mohammed Yaqoob Qureshi, a minister in the Uttar Pradesh state government, last month.
. . .
Qureshi told a Muslim rally after Friday prayers last month that he would give “the avenger” 510 million rupees (11.5 million dollars) and his weight in gold.

“The money will be paid by the people of Meerut (city),” said Qureshi, who is the state’s minister in charge of minority affairs and of the annual Haj pilgrimage which Muslims undertake to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
500 million rupees and the avenger's weight in gold would seem to be sufficient incentive. Maybe the 10 million rupees is for expenses.

And he's not even offering to pay it himself - he's offering other people's money. Maybe that's the technicality that got him off.

/Sarcasm alert./

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Mark Steyn eviscerates the ports opposition
Quote the day for March 19 2006

Port decision won't put U.S. in a safe harbor :: Chicago Sun Times

If I were Dubai Ports World, I'd sell the U.S. operations to Cosco, the Chinese Commies who run port operations in California, just for the fun of watching congressional heads explode. Or does Washington's new fun xenophobia stop at the (Pacific) water's edge?
Or is this the quote of the day?
Congress' demand that DPW sell its U.S. operations to someone even if there's no someone to sell them to is almost a parody of the Democrats' (and naysaying Republicans') approach to national security: Goddammit, we may not know what we're for but we sure as hell know what we're against.
Or this:
Arab Muslims fought in Afghanistan, British Muslims took up arms in Bosnia, Pakistani Muslims have been killed in Chechnya. When you're up against a globalized ideology, you need to globalize your own, not hunker down in Fortress America. Right now the Arab world's principal exports are oil and Islamism. Ports management is a rare diversification and long overdue.
Of course many Democrats will blame Bush for their own behavior. "He made me do it." Pretty childish, I say. Terrorism is a major threat. But if you say it is and make it the centerpiece of your administration you are said to be promoting xenophobia. Catch 22.

That's B.S.

B.S. is a good book, by the way. Fascinating to see that
Customers who bought this also bought
Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman
Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
Crimes Against Logic by Jamie Whyte
It should go without saying, but when it comes to Mark Steyn, always read the whole thing. May I suggest that Gulf News run his columns?

Thanks to The EclectEcon for emailing the link.

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And if you are French Turk studying at the Sorbonne does your head explode?

Sorbonne students protesting the proposed liberalization of workplace firing unexpectedly cross paths with Turks protesting against a memorial to Armenian victims of a 1915 massacre. A riot unexpectedly breaks out.

Turks, of course, are one of the groups that have the most to gain by reduction of firing costs. Reuters:
Unemployment is the top political issue in France, where the national average is 9.6 percent and youth joblessness is double that. The rate rises to 40-50 percent in some of the poor suburbs hit by several weeks of youth rioting last autumn.
Afterall, firing costs are hiring costs. Increasing security of employment increases the firm's insecurity in hiring in the first place. Better to hire a "real" Frenchman than gamble on an immigrant, better still an older better known quantity at that. I hope it's clear I regard the protesting students as misguided and (unwittingly?) racist.

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'Running tap' artist to try again :: BBC

HE: Water is too precious. No one should own water.

ME: Allowing prices to balance demand and supply of water will encourage conservation of water. Something as simple as fixing a leaky tag will save a lot of water. You have more incentive to fix the leak if price increases. Unfortunately, many publicly owned utilities price water below cost.

HE: To prove my point I "left a tap running in a south London gallery, but bowed to pressure to turn it off after a month. That stunt used 800,000 litres of water, and angered many Thames Water customers and gallery visitors - some of whom turned off the tap themselves. This time [I] intends [heh] to keep the taps running at secret London addresses, sending an estimated 100 million litres down the drain."

ME: I rest my case.

Can you say publicity whore?
McGowan has previously made a name for himself by rolling a monkey nut across London with his nose to highlight student debt, and pulling a bus with his big toe in protest against bus lanes and mayor Ken Livingstone's "ridiculous traffic strategy".
You can attract a lot of attention by ridiculing markets. But you'd still be wrong.

Via Fark, of course. The comments there (after you get past the confusion between "six taps" and "sex tapes") demonstrates the public, or at least the farkpublic sees this guy as clown but agree with him that water should not be privatized. Farkonomists have a long way to go in convincing our public.

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Victims of spare parts surgery

I've always believed that a market in human body parts would work well. This story gives me second thoughts: how do you know what you are buying?

Usually we think in terms of kidney transplants and the like, and look on in wonder at how few transplants take place in the current system that requires donation of organs rather than allowing price to stimulate provision.

There is already an active market in skin and tendons. As the story suggests, those body parts are relatively storable and can pass through the hands of middle men, market makers. Just where the parts were taken (evidently even taken as in stolen) can be difficult for recipient buyers to determine. This gives scope to unscrupulous behavior.

Banning trade in skin and tendons, though, would be a cure that is worse than the disease.
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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Heavens to Betsy: Betsy's Page is back.

What a long, strange trip it's been:
Then, today, I got a message from Blogger saying that they had recovered my blog and that somehow I had gotten caught up in some massive “automated spam prevention system" action that had thought that my blog was spam. Huh?! Then, the kicker was that they weren't yet ready to give me back my URL but would try to negotiate with the blogjacker who had put up a false Betsy Page using my URL. Huh?! The guy had just appropriated my URL yesterday and they had to ask him pretty please to give it back? Fortunately, after about five hours, they decided that, since all the content and comments had been deleted on the fake Betsy page, that they would kindly restore my URL to me. Thank you.

Google, I think we have a problem.

Welcome back, Betsy.

Betsy provided The Emirates Economist one of its first links, and certainly one of its highest ranked links ever. If you have not visited Betsy's Page you should.
Ceilidh, in Dubai

If you weren't there, this was among the many pleasures you missed. (Yes, haggis was among those pleasures.)

Image hosting by Photobucket

Edible art from the kitchen of
The Courtyard by Marriott, The Green Community, Dubai

Bannockburn (Scotland's Premier Party Band) performed. (Pic of Bannockburn from the Irish Village the previous night.)

Scottish dancing (e.g., Strip the Willow) was performed by the assembled Scots. In short, a ceilidh.

For future reference:
The Dubai Caledonian Society

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Policy prescription made easy :: Canadian Econoview

Quote of the day (yes, that makes two quotes of the day in just one day):

It's much clearer if you start from the premise that whatever markets do must be bad. Policy making is so much easier when you simply assume your conclusion, isn't it?

- Brian Ferguson

Via The EclectEcon, proud member of the Farkonomics Academy since 2006.


Managers need the S-factor to set workers' hearts aflutter :: Gulf News


By Lucy Kellaway, Financial Times
. . .
According to an article in the February issue of Harvard Business Review, great leaders need to know how to intimidate. . . .

The article, written by a psychologist at Stanford business school, is the bravest thing I've read in a long time. For the last two decades there has been only one view on management and leadership, and that is the squidgy-soft view. This reached a peak 10 years ago with Daniel Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence, which argues that what leaders need in the workplace is empathy, and since then no one has dared challenge it.

By suggesting that intimidation is good, Roderick Kramer may find he is at the receiving end of it. When I wrote, unremarkably, a few months ago that employees who screw up should be blamed, all hell broke loose. I got plenty of blame (and a fair amount of intimidation) from management thinkers who cling hysterically to the stupid modern view that, when it comes to motivation, only carrots are allowed. . . . Prof Kramer's research bears this out. He didn't start out with the theory that fear is good he came upon it by accident. Initially he went out into the field to look for the terrible psychological damage done to people with intimidating bosses. Yet to his surprise he found that many people actually enjoyed working under them, and given the choice would come back for more.
Not that Pol Pot would make a very effective manager.

But managers do need to confront and be blunt when necessary. Suppose there was an employee who consistently parked in the handicap spot at work. How many managers do you know would write an email going to everyone alerting everyone it is against the rules to park in the handicap spot if you are not physically handicapped. Yet the culprit is never confronted, does not desist, and no mention is made in his file. Is that the boss you want to work for?
Dynamist Blog: Economics Saves Lives

Quote of the Day:

Ah, instrumental rationality--so much better at saving lives than blabbering about the "sacredness" of the body.

-Virginia Postrel, kidney donor


VDH: OBL, UN, and EU :: NRO


The public wonders why the incompetent Americans can't catch Osama bin Laden, or at least Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Few note that it has been over six years since the collapse of the Serbian rogue regime, and still no one seems to know where either Radovan Karadzic, or his military commander, Ratko Mladic, is hiding inside Europe — not exactly the Sunni Triangle or the borderlands of the Hindu Kush.


UPDATE - Victor David Hanson is on a roll: "In retrospect, America went collectively insane over the possibility a company owned by Dubai's government would operate several of our ports. " [CWCID to grapeshisha.]

UPDATE 2 - Giving a whole new meaning to omnibus, Barney Frank (D, Mass) finds a link between homeland security and homosexuality:

In a recent hearing in the House Financial Services Committee on the issue of UAE government-owned company control of operations at six U.S. ports, Cong. Frank, the top Democrat on the committee, pointed to its recent imprisonment of gay men as one reason we should treat the Emirates differently from other countries.
(The same article describes the Bush administration's handling of the case: stern, patient, practical.)

This behavior, Barney, left you vulnerable to blackmail, something you appear to be rather mind-full of. Not a good thing in a government official, particularly a senior member of the loyal opposition on the House Financial Services Committee. Oh, wait, that's right, you're on Financial Services, not Foreign Services. Nevermind.
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Kudlow's Money Politic$: Big Losses in the Gulf

Lawrence Kudlow has a blog. He's "Lawrence Kudlow is a former Reagan economic advisor, a syndicated columnist, and the host of CNBC’s Kudlow & Company."

Here's what he's got to say about the selloff:
The chief catalyst contributing to the seismic corrections was the growing concern that share prices had gotten way ahead of themselves following a three-year bull run. The failure of the Dubai ports deal certainly did not help investor psychology either. And, perhaps, there has been some discounting going on due to the possibility of lower energy prices in the future.

Nice charts, too.


Strippers win right to meal breaks, OT
Gives a whole new meaning to mandated benefits

In the past, other strippers have criticized the union, saying its demands for better pay and conditions could lead to job losses.
Give that stripper a B.A. in Economics.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

He said it

The "more damaging critique of Bush is that he hasn't pressed the war hard enough -- against Iran, Syria, and the terrorist supporters in Saudi Arabia -- not that he should have done less." -

He also notes that Saddam's own documents, being released only now, make the case that Iraq under Saddam had WMD and supported terrorist groups.

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Is it just me, or do others also miss hearing Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick's views on a regular basis?

UPDATE. TigerHawk reminds us of another major figure from the glory years of the Reagan presidency:
In October 1984, George Shultz was quite obviously losing a bureaucratic fight along with a philosphical argument about American policy with regard to terrorism. Would 3000 Americans have died on September 11, 2001, if he had won them?
- George P. Shultz and the origins of the Bush Doctrine

It's a long post, but well worth reading. Did I mention Shultz is an economist?

Documents: Dubai Threatened by Extremists :: WaPo

The threat, contained in a letter dated 2002 and newly declassified by the U.S. military, shows the intimidation Arab countries face if they cooperate with the West. The letter came the same year the Emirates turned over to the United States a suspected mastermind of the deadly bombing of the USS Cole.

The UAE has kept making arrests, including the detention and handover to Pakistan in 2004 of a Pakistani suspect who allegedly trained thousands of al-Qaida fighters.

However, the issue of whether the country does enough to fight terrorism was at the center of a dispute in the United States over a Dubai company's plans - since abandoned - to run U.S. ports.
Read the whole thing.

Link via IM from samuraisam of onebigconstructionsite.

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The Washington Post's Take on Wal-Mart Bloggers :: Palousitics

Heh. Read the whole thing.

If bloggers are drama queens, what does that make NYT reporters?

If a reporter unilaterally emails me, am I obliged to assume that it is in confidence? What if someone from NYT visits my blog and it shows up on my SiteMeter [TM]? My open to the world SiteMeter? Beware the visits you make. The world can watch.

UPDATE: IRONY ALERT - The New York Times (IP 199.181.174) entered Emirates Economist on this permalink using the second Technorati tag below. Time: Mar 17 2006 10:57 am.
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Dubai is the Brain of the UAE - Youssef Ibrahim.

I love Dubai.

Last night was a case in point. The countertenor man and I headed off to Dubai about 5pm. We gave the senior economist from Bolivia a ride. On the limited access highway along which we traveled we were entertained by the mix of driving styles with Sunni-men traveling in the middle lane at 80 kph, Tata truck drivers streaming lugubriously along at 90 kph in the slow lane. And the rest us were in the fast lane doing at least 120 kph.

Oh, and for bonus points, mixed in were Wastafarians traveling at the maximum velocity their vehicles would allow subject to: the other cars on the road, the option of using either the left or right hard shoulder as necessary to achieve their objective, and the challenge of slaloming between other vehicles without encroaching on the other cars' personal space (defined here as about 5 centimeters).

We arrived safely at our first destination of the evening and parked on the curb. Literally. We were at the Dubai American Academy International Food Fest, in the shadow of the neighboring indoor ski slope. We partook of the food of most of the 30 countries represented, one for each countries represented by the student body. I managed to get a taste from countries from all continents (Antarctica excepted) including Denmark, France, Turkey, Palestine, Japan, Canada, Iran, Korea, South Africa, Australia, Mexico and Columbia. I'm sure I missed a few. The food was excellent, I must say. So was the company.

Could Dubai also be the stomach of the UAE? This is how I felt last night. If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, it was proved last night. I love Dubai.

With our gastronomic desires sated, and thereby prepared to climb Maslo's hierarchy, the countertenor and I proceeded to the Meadows to a house party. It was a lovely backyard evening where a choir gathered from many nationalities (American, Korean, British, Romanian, Australian & c.) and delivered a varied program of Purcell, Gorecki, and Norah Jones.

If my heart was already full from the first half of the evening, then what was I experiencing? Was my spirit being fed as well? Embraceable you, you are Dubai. Sharjah, you're lovable as well. Ajman, RAK, and Abu Dhabi, too. And the rest. I love the UAE.

And I really love that it lets me spend my summers in my home, Orkney Springs, VA.


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Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Dutch Film Warning: Nudity and Gay Kisses Ahead - New York Times

It's not a spoof.

NIJMEGEN, the Netherlands, March 15 — This is not exactly a run-of-the-mill homework assignment: watch a film clip of an attractive woman sunbathing topless, and try not to be shocked.

"People do not make a fuss about nudity," the narrator explains.

That lesson, about the Netherlands' nude beaches, is followed by another: homosexuals have the same rights here as heterosexuals do, including the chance to marry.

Just to make sure everyone gets the message, two men are shown kissing in a meadow.

The scenes are brief parts of a two-hour-long film that the Dutch government has compiled to help potential immigrants, many of them from Islamic countries, meet the demands of a new entrance examination that went into effect on Wednesday. In the exam, candidates must prove they can speak some Dutch and are at least aware of the Netherlands' liberal values, even if they do not agree with all of them.

Opponents of the tightening immigration policies have pointed to the film — a DVD contained in a package of study materials for the new exam — as an attempt by the government to discourage applicants from Islamic countries who may be offended by its content.

Dutch politicians and immigration officials have dismissed those accusations, saying the film, blandly titled "To the Netherlands," is a study aid that will give potential immigrants an honest look at the way life is lived here.
When I first read about this, I thought it could be a spoof and if it wasn't it was kind of wacky. Upon further reflection I'm changing my mind. How do you communicate to immigrants what they buying into in a way that allows you to say you did your due diligence to communicate your cultural values?

The same issue came up when Westerners living in Muslim countries were caught somewhat surprised by the cartoon kerfuffle. Had their host countries performed due diligence to communicate what is taboo? Or are all taboos absorbed implicitely, if not be osmosis?

Interesting that the photo the NYT uses to depict the Dutch scene could have easily been taken in Dubai. And the woman in the bikini would not have been one dimensional. Speaking of which, here is Thomas Friedman on Dubai: "Dubai is where we should want the Arab world to go. Unfortunately, we just told Dubai to go to hell."

UPDATE: Cheryl Bigus - yes, that is her real name! - sends along this link to an extremely powerful video that amplifies what Friedman has to say. Yes, it is MEMRI edited and translated. Watch anyway.

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UPDATE: Welcome Pajamas Media readers.
Domain Name (Unknown)
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ISP Dubai Internet City

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United Arab Emirates (Facts)
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Port security risks come under the microscope - APTS -Middle East
Deep port irony alert

Read the whole thing.

Is there a parallel conference in the U.S.?

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Craig Newmark joins Faculty of Farkonomics

Long-time readers of The Emirates Economist will know that we have long had our eye on Craig Newmark of Newmark's Door.* As we've often stated, Newmark is our number 1 favorite human browser. He's not a shabby economist either.

Thus, it comes as a great pleasure to announce that Prof. Newmark has accepted an appointment to the faculty of farkonomics. To quote from his letter of acceptance "I'd be pleased to have an adjunct appointment." Don't worry, Betsy, he's not giving up his day job.

Prof. Newmark has already made his mark in the young field of farkonomics. See a sample of his early work in the area here. Space and time limitations do not allow us to give a comprehensive list of his contributions to the area. (Google or Technorati would be likely sources for those interested to find out more his work - phrases like "via fark, of course" may produce acceptable search results.)

Prospectively it is anticipated that Prof. Newmark will participate in an occasional series tentatively titled carnival of farkonomics.

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*Not to be confused with
the other Craig Newmark.


Dubailand shelves new projects :: Hyderabad

Located around 20 km from the centre of the city, Dubailand was initially billed as the biggest leisure-based development on the planet.

Original designs included 45 main projects and 200 sub-projects, along with 55 hotels and resorts offering up to 50,000 new rooms.

Among the 21 projects to have been given the go-ahead are the $1.5 billion (AED 5.5 billion) theme park, Legends Dubailand, the $1 billion City of Arabia, including the Restless Planet dinosaur park, and the $540 million Dubai Sports City. Other projects approved include the $136 million Dubai Sunny Mountain Ski Dome and the $231 million Aqua Dunya.

While the project freeze will come as a blow to contractors and consultants who are hoping to win work on the Dubailand development, it will be welcomed by real estate players fearful of an oversupply of residential and retail space hitting the Dubai market. An official close to the project said that some of the ventures proposed since the development was announced went 'off the scale'.

"Many were unfeasible and inpractical — the numbers just didn't work, and they were simply shrouded by the glitz of the idea."
. . .
"I don't see it having a detrimental impact on development in general," said Ian Albert, director of Colliers UAE. "On the positive side, it allows for the rest of the projects in Dubailand to get started, and hopefully finished on time.

It will also remove some of the internal competition and allow other mega-projects in Dubai to move forward — we need to get on with projects like Business Bay, the Palms, Dubai Waterfront, and, more importantly, the Jebel Ali Airport — this is crucial to the future of Dubai. "There's also enough residential supply coming onto the market at the moment for this not to be affected, and there's enough demand to pace that supply."

The future success of Dubailand is hinged on the number of people the various attractions will draw in. These attractions range from a giant water park and a London Eye-style big wheel, to a ski dome and Dubai Sports City, which will feature four giant stadiums designed to accommodate international sporting events and academies, and, maybe one day, the Olympics Games.
Annals of job retraining
Prostitutes retraining as geriatric nurses :: UPI

Before opening this article I presumed that the point was that not all prostitutes can become madams, and most made a career change later in life.

Actually, though, it seems like the working girls are finding that their skills are valued in other professions for which there is a growing demand:
"They are in general very good at dealing with people, in addition to which they don't get squeamish and have absolutely no fear about touching or being touched," she said.
If you move from prostitution to nursing, are you still part of the undercover farkonomy?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Google Alert for: Zayed sheikh

I harvest some of my ideas using Google news alerts. Here's a compilation of emails I got today.


+Etisalat is main sponsor of President's Polo Cup 2006 - AME Info - United Arab Emirates... Polo Cup 2006, which will be held at Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club from 18th to 24th March 2006 under the patronage of HH Sheikh Falah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan ...
+Arab investment overseas will rise, say experts - AME Info - United Arab Emirates... Dhabi Investment Authority has built up an impressive portfolio in the two decades since it was set up by the late UAE President, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al ...See all stories on this topic
+US Homeland Security Expert to address Identity Summit in Dubai - AME Info - United Arab Emirates... the Identity Summit on 25-28 March 2006 at the Dusit Hotel in Dubai, which is held under the patronage of HH Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan ...
+Arab investment overseas will rise, say experts - Al-Bawaba - Amman, Jordan... Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has built up an impressive portfolio in the two decades since it was set up by the late UAE President, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan ...

What is Dubai after all? :: NYO: New York Observer

The Observer's Chris Wright has powers of, well, observation that are pretty keen and he possesses a turn of phrase that would make Secret Dubai green:

Of the 1.2 million people living in Dubai, about 80 percent are foreigners. The emirate is, in many respects, not just a multicultural model for the Middle East, but for the world. Mosques and Irish pubs stand minaret to beer garden. At the malls, European girls expose their sacral tattoos alongside local women in full body armor.

Cultural conflicts play themselves out on the letters pages of the newspapers, but never on the street. Certainly, anti-Western demonstrations wouldn’t be tolerated here, but even if they were, it’s doubtful too many people would drag themselves away from their satellite TV’s to attend.
. . .
America wishes it had security like D.P. World.

When the D.P. World affair kicked off, a friend back home e-mailed to ask me what people’s reactions were here. Were they outraged? Were they talking of U.S. imperialism and racism? Erm, no. People weren’t saying much of anything about it. They were too busy complaining about the traffic in Sharjah, the construction in Jumeirah, the rising rents in Karama. (Bingo!)

What Dubai lacks in political discourse, it makes up for in clamorous self-promotion.
All very much on target. Read the whole thing.

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A Futures Market for Ventilators? :: The EclectEcon

Can he really be off his game like he claims? The EclectEcon comes off the DL, gets inserted into the flu analysis game in the bottom of the 9th inning ..... and it's going ... going ... going gone! over the fence in center field for a home run.

If you are deeply concerned about the man-made consequences of a flu pandemic, then go read the whole thing.

Teaser quote:
And so the result of letting market forces determine who gets a ventilator would be that price would rise until some relatives told the doctor, "Forget it. We'd rather have a plasma HDTV than have Dad stay on the ventilator."

Or something to that effect. After all, in the spot market for ventilators, the sick person won't be negotiating for the ventilator, the sick person's relatives will be.

Consequently, spot markets will probably never be allowed to emerge.
Allow me to repeat myself: Read the Whole Thing.

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GCC bourses dive :: Trade Arabia
Ports are on the bubble

It's always dangerous to assume that a sequence of events implies cause and effect. But if we learn - from the ports deal - that America is more isolationist than recently believed, and this is followed by a rising threat of expanding economic dis-integration (only symbolized by the Boeing deal), what is a stockholder to think about the value of the paper she holds?

Now combine those events with an institutional environment in which investors acquire shares in the expectation that they get to keep any upside and the government will take the downside. What you have is an environment where bubbles grow until they reach an inevitable and sudden demise. Death of bubbles is inevitable, only the timing - humble investor - is unknowable.

In her usually colorful way, Secret Dubai describes the "I'll take the upside, you'll take the lowside" environment that GCC citizens inhabit.

Although there are claims to the contrary, nonperforming loans of at least some UAE nationals are still routinely paid off by the government. UAE banks are used to the government paying off bad loans. That, the careful reader will have already realized, only fuels the bank's readiness to loan money to punters. Double bubbles, boil and trouble.

Khaleej Times - Circuit breakers tripped, margins called. Geopolitical tensions (Iran). "The correction, which began on February 26, has trimmed market capitalisation by about a quarter, or more than $260 billion."

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UPDATE, March 17: Marginal Revolution takes a look and offers a link. See also these charts for the SA, AE, QA markets: the drop certainly looks dramatic.

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