Monday, July 31, 2006

UAE Census 2005 results begin rolling out :: Gulf News

The UAE population is 4,104,695, of which 20.1 per cent are UAE Nationals in last year's census compared with 2,411,041 in the last census conducted in 1995, said Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Economy, yesterday.

UAE population by nationality and educational status (pdf)

"This is 74.8 per cent increase in the population over the last ten years and reflects the strong economic growth the UAE is witnessing," Shaikha Lubna added.

Answering a Gulf News question about the UAE's projections in view of the imbalance in the population structure, Shaikha Lubna said, "We do not look at it as imbalance. The UAE has been smart in attracting economic and human capital in terms of intelligence and creativity. It is in our interest to continue our strong economic growth," Shaikha Lubna said.

Shaikha Lubna also ruled out the idea of optimal population for the country for the time being. "The UAE has a dynamic and fast growing economy and it is therefore too difficult to set an optimal population now. This figure is hinged on the growth and strength of the economy."
A few more numbers:
- Total number of non-nationals is 2,944,159, which is 78.1% of the total population that were counted in the reference period, and it is 79.9% (3,279,774)of the total UAE population.
- Total number of non-national males is 2,128,986, which is 72.3%.
- Total number of non-national females is 815,173, which is 27.7%.

Mid-day break: Press fails to publish errant firms list, says minister :: Khaleej Times

Speaking to BBC in an interview recently Dr. Al Kaabi said, “ the Labour Ministry has released a list of erring companies following its drive to 'name and shame' the companies which violate the mid-day break for the workers. But none of the newspapers in the country have carried the news.” (Informatively, Khaleej Times is not aware of any such list having been released by the ministry or the labour officials.)
Somebody needs to get their story straight. How can the names by released and newspapers not be aware of the release?


... Accident claims plummet, baffling insurers Crain's Chicago Business ...

looks like a job for Freakonomics.

I, too, am baffled why they'd plummet. Mere aging of the population would explain some decline, but not a plummet.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Modern life is healthy :: New York Times

Those wacky microeconomists are looking in places where the average Joe would be surprised to find an economist (no, most of us have no expertise in stocks, bond and foreign exchange). So reports the New York Times.
New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled. Over the past 100 years, says one researcher, Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago, humans in the industrialized world have undergone “a form of evolution that is unique not only to humankind, but unique among the 7,000 or so generations of humans who have ever inhabited the earth.”

The difference does not involve changes in genes, as far as is known, but changes in the human form. It shows up in several ways, from those that are well known and almost taken for granted, like greater heights and longer lives, to ones that are emerging only from comparisons of health records.

The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease, lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years later than they used to. There is also less disability among older people today, according to a federal study that directly measures it. And that is not just because medical treatments like cataract surgery keep people functioning. Human bodies are simply not breaking down the way they did before.
. . .
Dr. Barker of Oregon Health and Science University is intrigued by the puzzle of who gets what illness, and when. “Why do some people get heart disease and strokes and others don’t?” he said. “It’s very clear that current ideas about adult lifestyles go only a small way toward explaining this. You can say that it’s genes if you want to cease thinking about it. Or you can say, When do people become vulnerable during development? Once you have that thought, it opens up a whole new world.”

It is a world that obsesses Dr. Barker. Animal studies and data that he and others have been gathering have convinced him that health in middle age can be determined in fetal life and in the first two years after birth.
. . .
But not everyone was convinced by what has come to be known as the Barker hypothesis, the idea that events very early in life affect health and well-being in middle and old age. One who looked askance was Douglas V. Almond, an economist at Columbia University.

Dr. Almond had a problem with the studies. They were not of randomly selected populations, he said, making it hard to know if other factors had contributed to the health effects. He wanted to see a rigorous test — a sickness or a deprivation that affected everyone, rich and poor, educated and not, and then went away. Then he realized there had been such an event: the 1918 flu.

The flu pandemic arrived in the United States in October 1918 and was gone by January 1919, afflicting a third of the pregnant women in the United States. What happened to their children? Dr. Almond asked.

He compared two populations: those whose mothers were pregnant during the flu epidemic and those whose mothers were pregnant shortly before or shortly after the epidemic.

To his astonishment, Dr. Almond found that the children of women who were pregnant during the influenza epidemic had more illness, especially diabetes, for which the incidence was 20 percent higher by age 61. They also got less education — they were 15 percent less likely to graduate from high school. The men’s incomes were 5 percent to 7 percent lower, and the families were more likely to receive public assistance.

The effects, Dr. Almond said, occurred in whites and nonwhites, in rich and poor, in men and women. He convinced himself, he said, that there was something to the Barker hypothesis.
If life in the womb and in the first two years has such a large impact, that bodes well for Jeffrey Sach's program of concentrating development aid on direct relief of extreme poverty: people will be able to lead much more productive lives. And, no, I have not lost track of the opposite direction of causality that Fogle points to: the Industrial revolution has allowed people to live longer with fewer disabilities.

Economic development even seems to be a cure for cancer:
“Suppose you were a survivor of typhoid or tuberculosis,” Dr. Fogel said. “What would that do to aging?” It turned out, he said, that the number of chronic illnesses at age 50 was much higher in that group. “Something is being undermined,” he said. “Even the cancer rates were higher. Ye gods. We never would have suspected that.”
Economics development in the last century has so improved lives that Fogel is suggesting the world's population carrying capacity is 50 billion.

Life for UAE nationals was quite harsh up until 40 or 50 years ago. The first two years of life for someone born here in 1960 was quite different for someone born here in 1980. Yes, we are seeing lots of childhood obesity. But is that extra weight due to a good start in life or to an unhealthy lifestyle? Moreover, even if it is the latter going back to the economy of the 1960s would be literally unhealthy.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

In praise of globalization :: Daniel W. Drezner :: Us greedy, chocolate-eating, Wal-Mart-shopping, family-protecting academics

If Gendle wants to make his Elon students really ponder their consumer behavior, here's a question worth asking -- what is the welfare effect of not purchasing goods and services made in the least developed countries?
Read the whole thing.


Post War Economics :: Aplia Econ Blog

Brandon Fuller, a regular contributor to Aplia Econ Blog, draws our attention Austan Goolsbee's latest column for Economic Scene at the New York Times.

Goolsbee marshalls evidence that countries can recover from the devastation of war. That is, if they are not "artificial states."

Iraq is an artificial state.

In Fuller's words:
Iraq's artificial borders pose the biggest threat to prosperity because they force a contentious mix of ethnic and religious groups to live within the same national boundaries.
I am reminded of what Milton Friedman had to say about homogeneity of a country's population.


Friday, July 28, 2006

US military recruit selection criteria

No, don't want you.

Yes, you're okay.

Pathetic and sickening.

In Praise of Sweatshops :: Greg Mankiw's Blog

Greg Mankiw, who put a lot of effort into naming his blog, draws our attention to Kristof writing in praise of sweatshops. See also Mankiw's followup from the satirical magazine The Onion.

Meanwhile, the latest Human Rights Watch report is out, this one focusing on domestic workers. It's disappointing, but true, that it is in homes working for families - not for Nike or some other major corporation - that workers are most likely to receive abusive treatment. Why? Because abuse is easiest to commit in the home without being caught.

The Iraq Index :: All Things Conservative

Electricity output is up, successful attacks on the oil sector are down. Direct violence against civilians is up. (Indirect violence being attacks on the infrastructure that improves life.)

Have terrorists changed their preferences, or have they changed their choices of targets due to improved defense of infrastructure? Economists tend to look for changes in behavior induced by changes in incentives rather than changes in preferences. People - economists believe - are less likely to experience a change in heart than they are to face a change in price. As it becomes more costly or less likely to succeed at attacking a power plant or a pipeline you may see less violence, but you are more likely to see a substitution in violence towards other targets.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

"Absences with a 28-day cycle explain a significant fraction of the male-female absenteeism gap."

"This difference disappears for workers age 45 or older. ... higher absenteeism induced by the 28-day cycle explains 11.8 percent of the earnings gender differential."

- From an NBER working paper by Andrea Ichino and Enrico Moretti.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Economist :: UAE "government's boldest move yet in its policy of Emiratization"

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has given all companies operating in the country—excluding small businesses and those in the free zones such as Dubai International Finance Centre and Dubai Media City—18 months to remove expatriates employed as secretaries or human-resource managers. This is the government’s boldest move yet in its policy of Emiratisation, the process of replacing expatriates with native workers.
Secret Dubai had this to say:
There's only one way to describe the latest episode in the proposed emiratisation of secretaries, an embarrassing climbdown. After ruling that all expat secretaries - public and private sector - would be sacked and replaced with locals, and that expat secretaries would not be allowed get around this by changing job titles, we then learnt that probably only half of foreign secretaries would be replaced. Then we learnt that it wouldn't apply to small businesses. And now we learn that expat secretaries will be able to stay on under new job titles.

How did such an appalling mess come about? The usual stunning fusion of arrogance and ignorance. First someone figures out that: "most unemployed UAE nationals were secondary school graduates between the ages of 15 and 24". Next it's probably presumed that secretarial positions are low-skilled (because most of them are low-paid: "Indian lady on husband's/father's visa" being the usual job ad) so would therefore suit school leavers. Then it's presumed that all unemployed people actually want to work (in any country, there are plenty of dole bludgers far happier to sit on their arses if generous welfare is available). Finally it's presumed that unemployed UAE nationals actually want sectretarial positions.
Now we read "The Ministry of Labour has submitted a memorandum to the Cabinet proposing that companies which do not wish to replace expatriate secretaries with UAE nationals can opt to pay a Dh60,000 yearly fee." If there was a climbdown, it didn't last long.

In the end, though, this means of Emiratization does not make sense - Secret Dubai has articulated this well - so I expect it will go the way of nevermind sooner rather than later. See these other nevermind examples. Halfbaked ideas collapse under their own light weight, just like halfbaked cakes. You might think quick decisionmaking enhances your reputation for decisiveness, but you'd be wrong.


Is Israel's disproportionate response intended to produce international intervention?

The Lift

We're blogging today from the comfort of The Lift Coffee Shop & Cafe in the Richmond art district. Terrific food, staff, and ambiance. And -- no charge for the WiFi.

If you're passing through or by Richmond it's no far off the Interstate. Definitely worth the stop. So do it, and say hello to Diane Peacock, CIC "chick in charge" when you do.

Aid to ranchers was diverted for big profits

Page A1 of today's Washington Post:
When a drought left pastures in a handful of Plains states parched in 2003, ranchers turned to the federal government for help. Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture quickly responded with what they considered an innovative plan. They decided to dip into massive stockpiles of powdered milk that the agency had stored in warehouses nationwide as part of its milk price-support program. Livestock owners could get the protein-rich commodity free and feed it to their cattle and calves. The milk would help ranchers weather the drought while the government reduced its growing stockpile. But within months, the program spawned a lucrative secondary market in which ranchers, feed dealers and brokers began trading the powdered milk in a daisy chain of transactions, generating millions of dollars in profits.

I guess it's true what they say: people respond to incentives.

Oh, and just how massive were those stockpiles of powdered milk?
For years, the government has periodically purchased powdered milk -- as well as butter and cheese, the other byproducts of raw milk -- as part of a congressionally mandated price-support program for milk producers. By 2003, the Agriculture Department had accumulated a record 1.4 billion pounds of powdered milk in warehouses and in a huge limestone cave in the Kansas City area.
Even the USA is not immune to wacky government policies that can be easily gamed for personal gain.

Via Marginal Revolution which in another post has this amusing tale:
I solicited donations with the promise that I would run just one lap. Unsurprisingly, the other students were most displeased when I sauntered around the track finishing just as everyone else was beginning to work up a sweat. More surprisingly, the charity organizers didn't like my methods even though I raised a lot of money.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Students at Lebanese universities consider alternatives :: Gulf Daily News

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How to deter teenagers from hanging around

1. Play Barry Manilow 24/7.

2. Require male economists to wear Speedos.

Alternative title for this post: What do Barry Manilow and Jeffrey Alan Miron have in common?

Ending labor market segmentation :: Gulf News

The paper [by the National Human Resources Development and Employment Authority, Tanmia] suggested measures to reduce segmentation in the labour market, lift restrictions on the mobility of both foreign and national workers, enhance the productivity of nationals and strengthen links between education systems and the labour market.
The paper also proposes abandoning previous policies set to overcome unemployment as they encouraged "paper emiratisation."
I look forward to seeing more details, especially on lifting of restrictions on labor market mobility.

Here's something to ponder:
Another finding showed unemployment was five times higher in low-income households than wealthier ones, which Tanmia says contradicts the belief that unemployment among nationals is voluntary.
It's true that, all else equal, greater wealth means it takes a higher wage to induce you to accept a job. But is all else equal? It could be that the government income support is greatest to low-income households, and it is reduced considerably as your income increases. Such a policy increases the wage required to induce a low-income household to accept a job.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

File under: All right to show your stuff as long as you are known to be impotent

As TigerHawk observes: "Can anybody imagine a phalanx of tanks such as this on Pennsylvania Avenue? ... Is there any other major democracy that parades its military the way the French do?"

It's more costly to parade your tanks if you might actually want to use them for their intended purpose. The implication is: contrary to first impressions, parading them shows you are not likely to use them. That may be exactly what the French want to communicate.

An alternative theory is that the worldwide outcry that would follow such parades in Bonn, London or Washington deters them. It wouldn't be politically correct.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fallout in the Middle East :: Inside Higher Ed

For colleges in Lebanon and Israel, recent years have been remarkably encouraging. As the violence of civil war in Lebanon and the Intifada in Israel subsided, normalcy had returned, and with it came more American students and professors. The expanding war between Israel and Hezbollah during the last week — both in Lebanon and in Israel — has shocked educators.
“Students and faculty, especially international faculty, are in various gradations concerned, depressed, scared and terrified,” said Peter Heath, provost of the American University of Beirut, in an e-mail interview.
MSNBC has this report:
Joanne Nucho thought she would be spending her summer in a safe Western-style city when she headed off to Beirut, Lebanon, to study Arabic as part of her doctoral program at UCLA. The city is hip and urban, with many comforts of home — there's even a McDonald's across the street from her school, American University in Beirut, and several Starbucks stores nearby.

But suddenly she finds herself huddled in a college dormitory with 40 other Americans, trapped in the middle of an undeclared war and fearing for her life.

"I've never been this scared in my life," she told by phone Friday afternoon (the middle of the night in Beirut). "... Two hours ago I was curled up in a corner crying. The sound of the bombs are shaking me to the bones. My whole body is in trauma. ... As an American you never experience things like this. You see it on TV, but it's nothing like this."
. . .
The group is holed up in a low floor on the dormitory, one that is "not a proper shelter," she said. She has access to clean water and some food she bought at a local store during the day, but not much. There are no school officials nearby, so the students are running the shelter operations by themselves.

"It's literally being run by 19-year-olds," she said. "We don't know what to do."
. . .
“Obviously, the current situation in Lebanon is of great concern to all members of the AUB community,” Provost Peter Heath write in a message to students and faculty on Thursday. “I met with international students, including those attending the CAMES summer Arabic program, to advise them to stay on or very close to campus.”

Krugman does it again :: Greg Mankiw

Greg Mankiw (click title of this post) catches Krugman in yet another self contradiction:
NY Times columnist Paul Krugman yesterday:
There's a persistent myth, perpetuated by economists who should know better -- like Edward Lazear, the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers -- that rising inequality in the United States is mainly a matter of a rising gap between those with a lot of education and those without.
Greg finds this quote from Krugman 2005:
The causes of this increase in equality [from 1979 to 2003] are a subject of some controversy, but probably the most important cause is rapid technological change, which has increased the demand for highly skilled or talented workers more rapidly than the demand for other workers.
Source: Microeconomics, by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, page 512.

I suppose that Paul has changed his mind since this book (copyright 2005) was written. It is a bit harsh, however, for Paul to be so hard on Eddie for believing what Paul believed not very long ago.
A bit harsh, but that's Krugman for you. Caustic and confident. But not always right.

4WD drivers really as bad as we thought - World -

They found the 4WD drivers were almost four times more likely than car drivers to be using a mobile phone, and 26 per cent more likely not to wear a seatbelt.
. . .
"Although 4WD vehicles are safer in a crash, their owners may be placing themselves and other road users at increased risk of injury," she said. "They take the risk because they are higher up, they feel they can see better … but the person in a car or the pedestrian on the road has a much worse outcome."
What do you think? Would these results be replicated in the UAE? This is spooky:

Some features of the design of four wheel drive vehicles,
especially tinted windows, meant that we had more missing data
for drivers of those vehicles than for drivers of normal cars.
Link via Newmark's Door. It's called the Peltzman Effect. Those freaky microeconomists. What will they think of next? Here's a macroeconomist who has his doubts about the Peltzman Effect.

UPDATE: The SMH article also had this quotation
[Study co-author Lesley Walker] said "breaking one law was significantly associated with increased likelihood of breaking the other". Previous studies from the US, Britain and Australia have shown that using a mobile phone while driving is associated with a fourfold increase in the risk of having an accident.

That means drivers of four-wheel-drives are 16 times more likely to have an accident than other drivers because they are four times more likely to use a mobile while driving, she said.
Mankiw shows why this inference is incorrect -- which I confess I did not catch in my read. Perhaps the headline, "4WD drivers really as bad as we thought", should read "4WD drivers really as bad as we thought, but not that bad."

UPDATE 2: Some have criticized the 4WD study on the ground that those who select 4WD vehicles are also more likely to be aggressive drivers - not that the 4WD vehicle causes you to drive more aggressively. However, mandatory safety equipment in NASCAR also appears to lead to riskier driving.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hezbollah's Motives :: Stratfor

Read the whole thing.

Thanks to Island Larry for the link.

UPDATE: For some of you the link isn't working. Here are some excerpts:
There is a generation gap in Hezbollah. Hezbollah began as a Shiite radical group inspired by the Iranian Islamic Revolution. In that context, Hezbollah represented a militant, nonsecular alternative to the Nasserite Fatah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that took their bearing from Pan-Arabism rather than Islam. Hezbollah split the Shiite community in Lebanon -- which was against Sunnis and Christians -- but most of all, engaged the Israelis. It made a powerful claim that the Palestinian movement had no future while it remained fundamentally secular and while its religious alternatives derived from the conservative Arab monarchies. More than anyone, it was Hezbollah that introduced Islamist suicide bombings.

Hezbollah had a split personality, however; it was supported by two very different states. Iran was radically Islamist. Syria, much closer and a major power in Lebanon, was secular and socialist. They shared an anti-Zionist ideology, but beyond that, not much. Moreover, the Syrians viewed the Palestinian claim for a state with a jaundiced eye. Palestine was, from their point of view, part of the Ottoman Empire's Syrian province, divided by the British and French. Syria wanted to destroy Israel, but not necessarily to create a Palestinian state.

From Syria's point of view, the real issue was the future of Lebanon, which it wanted to reabsorb into Syria, or at the very least economically exploit. The Syrians intervened in Lebanon against the Palestine Liberation Organization and on the side of some Christian elements. Their goal was much less ideological than political and economic. They saw Hezbollah as a tool in their fight with Yasser Arafat and for domination of Syria.

Hezbollah strategically was aligned with Iran. Tactically, it had to align itself with Syria, since the Syrians dominated Lebanon. That meant that when Syria wanted tension with Israel, Hezbollah provided it, and when Syria wanted things to quiet down, Hezbollah cooled it. Meanwhile the leadership of Hezbollah, aligned with the Syrians, was in a position to prosper, particular after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.

That withdrawal involved a basic, quiet agreement between Syria and Israel. Israel accepted Syrian domination of Lebanon. In return, Syria was expected to maintain a security regime that controlled Hezbollah.
. . .
Syria could now claim to have no influence or obligation concerning Hezbollah. Hezbollah's leadership lost the cover of being able to tell the young Turks that they would be more aggressive, but that the Syrians would not let them. As the Syrian withdrawal loosened up Lebanese politics, Hezbollah was neither restrained nor could it pretend to be restrained. Whatever the mixed feelings might have been, the mission was the mission, Syrian withdrawal opened the door and Hezbollah could not resist walking through it, and many members urgently wanted to walk through it.
. . .
In addition, it allowed Iran to reclaim its place as the leader of Islamic radical resurgence. Al Qaeda, a Sunni group, had supplanted Iran in the Islamic world. Indeed, Iran's collaboration with the West allowed Tehran to be pictured among the "hypocrites" Osama bin Laden condemned. Iran wants to become the dominant power in the Persian Gulf, and one part of that is to take away the mantle of Islamic radicalism from al Qaeda.
. . .
Hezbollah, by its nature and its relationships, really did not have much choice. It had to act or become irrelevant.

TigerHawk provides another excerpt.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Key money

Gulf News headline: Key money puts Abu Dhabi rents beyond reach.

Key money - a charge for the transfer of an apartment - occurs when rents are held below the level that would balance supply and demand. When rents are held down - say, by rent control - you create apartment seekers who are willing to pay more for an apartment but cannot find one. That creates the opportunity to collect key money.

Who collects the key money? It may be the apartment owner who charges the legally allowed rent, but then charges an additional fee to transfer the apartment to a new tenant. Or it could be the existing tenant who transfers her contract to a new tenant for a fee.

In the Abu Dhabi case there is no mention of rent control. Rather it appears that the apartments are government owned and the government has chosen to rent at below market rates. Enterprising building supervisors (the watchmen) watch for match-making opportunities between tenants moving out and persons seeking apartments. When a match is made the new tenant pays the key money, and the watchman and the departing tenant split it.

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At Colleges, Women Are Leaving Men in the Dust :: NYT

Not just in the UAE.

Energy myths

1. The electric car. Why did it die? Range.

2. Ethanol, efficient? "As a motor fuel, ethanol from corn produces a modest 25 percent more energy than is consumed _ including from fossil fuels _ in growing the corn, converting it into ethanol and shipping it for use in gasoline. While often touted as a "green" environmentally friendly fuel, corn-based ethanol's life cycle environmental impacts are mixed as best, the researchers said. Compared with gasoline, it produces 12 percent less "greenhouse" gasses linked to global warming, according to the study. But the researchers also said it has environmental drawbacks, including "markedly greater" releases of nitrogen, phosphorous and pesticides into waterways as runoff from corn fields. Ethanol, especially at higher concentrations in gasoline, also produce more smog-causing pollutants than gasoline per unit of energy burned, the researchers said."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Remittances: the New Foreign Aid - Los Angeles Times

Press Release

Career Education is an industry leader whose gold-standard brands are recognized globally. Those brands include, among others, the Le Cordon Bleu Schools North America; the Harrington College of Design; the Brooks Institute of Photography; the Katharine Gibbs Schools; American InterContinental University; Colorado Technical University and Sanford-Brown Institutes and Colleges. The mission of CEC, through its schools, its educators, and its employees is education--their primary goal, to enable students to graduate successfully and pursue rewarding careers.
But the school, which has seven campuses, including two in Atlanta and one in Dubai, and another in London, and an online division, has been put on probation by the Commission on Colleges Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for all of 2006, according to its website.

The AIU website boasts that it is fully accredited.

The Commission website says staff will not comment further on questions related to AIU, but explained that probation "is the most serious sanction short of loss of membership."

AIU's status will be reviewed in December. The school offers associate degrees and bachelor's degrees in such areas as business administration and criminal justice. It also offers master degrees in information technology and education.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Call-centre workers in strike protest :: 7DAYS

The protest - thought to be the first of its kind in Dubai by white-collared employees - was temporarily suspended after the management agreed to discuss the employees’ grievances. Among other things the employees of Skycom Communications are demanding that they be allowed to work a maximum eight-hour day.
. . .
Many employees who called 7DAYS said they desperately want to quit the company but are being forced to stay on because the company has their passports. Atif Rehman, manager at Skycom, blamed non-performing employees for causing the problem. “We are paying them according to what has been agreed in the contract.”

When asked why the company was holding employees’ passports Atf said it was at the company’s discretion to do so.
"SkyCom Sky Communications is the Middle East's foremost Contact Center Service Provider. Its mother company, Advanced Communications Group (U.K.) is a major player in the web mobile phone market. Sky Communications, is a UK company which operates the 3 biggest call centers in the United Kingdom and Dubai UAE."

"SkyCom Sky Communications is looking for individuals who are qualified for the position of Call Center Agents. Successfuly applicants for Call Center Agents will have a great career in SkyCom Sky Communications. Be part of a high caliber call center operations based in Dubai. Sky Communications is now recruiting top-caliber Filipino call center agents to be part of their outbound call center operations based in Dubai, UAE. So if you have at least 1 year outbound call center experience, with a good command of English (preferably neutralized accent), highly motivated and with strong customer service/sales orientation, and ready to relocate to dubai immediately."

Emphasis added.

Miss Egypt, Fawzeya Mohamed, and Miss Israel, Anastasya Yentin, pose together as they arrive for a party in Los Angeles


CleanFlicks et al. v. Kate Winslet's Titanics: How Hollywood won a lawsuit while losing a cultural battle :: Reason

the old model, in which a producer produces and an audience passively consumes culture, is over. To be completely honest, that old model was never the way culture worked anyway, but even the pretense of full artistic control is finished in today's environment, in which individuals have an ever-increasing ability to produce and consume culture on their own terms.
. . .
I'm squarely on the side of the easily offended CleanFlicks' customers. They are doing precisely what technology is there for: to create the sort of art, music, video, and text that an individual or group of individuals wants to consume.

By all accounts, the CleanFlicks-type outfits weren't ripping off Hollywood in any way, shape, or form—they were paying full fees for content—and they weren't fooling anyone into thinking their versions were the originals; the whole selling point of CleanFlicks' Titanic is that it spared audiences the original movie's brief moment of full-frontal Winslet. CleanFlicks was simply part of a great and liberatory trend in which audiences are empowered to consume culture on their own terms—not the producers'.

Big content providers may have prevailed in this specific case, but the sooner they understand and adapt to a much larger and more powerful cultural dynamic, the better they'll be at serving the audiences who are increasingly in control of what they watch, listen to, and read.

It's hard to see what harm was being done. Companies like CleanFlicks were adding value, bringing the providers' products to a wider audience. Greater demand for your product -- that's a good thing.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Oman decree on workers unions strengthens FTA

The US-Oman FTA requires Oman to broaden workers' rights to form unions. Why? It makes Omani goods more costly; it's a form of protection against free trade. It is inconsistent with free trade. So why did the US bargain for that condition? The US Congress must approve trade agreements; this is a way to buy enough Democrat votes to garner passage of the agreement.

UPDATE: Much more coverage of the US-Oman agreement here.

UPDATE 2: "US Democrats opposed to a free trade pact with Oman said that new reforms to the country's labour laws fall short of what is needed to win their support for the agreement.... they said a provision against forced labour was inadequate because it "does not address the withholding of workers' documents" - a situation the US State Department has said sometimes prevents foreign workers in Oman from changing jobs."


Monday, July 10, 2006

UAE items that caught our eye

$5.5b due as Zakat this year from the 59,000 millionaires in our country: "Abdullah bin Aqidah Al Muhairi, Secretary-General of the Zakat Fund, . . . pointed out that some members of the Zakat Fund had personally contacted a number of businessmen to urge them amicably to pay the Zakat, stressing that the move did not take an official form, 'but was meant to familiarise these people with the importance of performing this religious obligation to purify and safeguard their wealth via Zakat,' he disclosed."

Govt plans to use Emirates Post to ensure firms pay workers on time - "The construction sector in the country has 916,000 workers who represent 40 per cent of the total workforce."

Price of Oil Tracked by Soaring Heights of Dubai's Skyscrapers - Mohamed Kamal, an analyst at Dubai-based Shuaa Capital, said that the United Arab Emirates had announced $312 billion of projects since 2004, with more than 100 towers planned or under construction in Dubai alone. Saudi Arabia has announced about $250 billion of projects in the same period, and Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman are catching up.

The Ministry of Labour is considering giving preferential treatment to companies that pay their workers through Emirates Post.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement :: NBER Digest

Dee finds that gender interactions between teachers and students have significant effects on these important educational outcomes. Assignment to a teacher of the opposite sex lowers student achievement by about 0.04 standard deviations. Other results imply that just "one year with a male English teacher would eliminate nearly a third of the gender gap in reading performance among 13 year olds…and would do so by improving the performance of boys and simultaneously harming that of girls. Similarly, a year with a female teacher would close the gender gap in science achievement among 13 year olds by half and eliminate entirely the smaller achievement gap in mathematics.
. . .
Overall, the data suggest that, 'a large fraction of boys' dramatic underperformance in reading reflects the classroom dynamics associated with the fact that their reading teachers are overwhelmingly female.' According to the U.S. Department of Education's 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey, 91 percent of the nation's sixth grade reading teachers, and 83 percent of eighth grade reading teachers are female. This depresses boys' achievement. The fact that most middle school teachers of math, science, and history are also female may raise girls' achievement. In short, the current gender imbalance in middle school staffing may be reducing the gender gap in science by helping girls but exacerbating the gender gap in reading by handicapping boys.

The question is, how to get more men interested in teaching adolescent boys? How much would pay have to increase to attract men into the profession? Right now, schools are paying that attracts women, but not men.

Why High Earners Work Longer Hours :: NBER Digest

Kuhn and Lozano conclude that many salaried men work longer because of an increase in 'marginal incentives' to supply hours beyond the standard 40 per week. These workers don't immediately get overtime pay for the 'extra' hours. But over a longer time period, they get a substantial reward in the possibility of earning a bonus or a raise within their current position, or they may win a promotion to a better job, or simply signal to the labor market that they are productive and ambitious and thus suitable for a better job in another firm. Alternatively, the longer hours may enable them to acquire extra skills or to establish networks and contacts that could be rewarded in their current firm or in another one. In addition, the long hours may enhance their prospect of keeping their current job if the firm decides to lay off workers in the future. Studies suggest that perceived job insecurity has risen substantially among highly educated workers.

As evidence, the authors note that an extra hour beyond 40/week was associated with a 1.2 percent increase in earnings for male workers overall between 1983 and 1985, and with more than a 2 percent increase by 2000-2. For salaried workers, the man putting in 55 hours per week in the early 1980s earned a weekly salary of 10.5 percent more than an equivalent worker putting in normal hours. By the early twenty-first century, that gap had more than doubled, to 24.5 percent. Such pay gaps, or 'long-hours premiums,' were accommodated by a markedly wider dispersion of earnings within an occupation between 1983 and 2002.
Note that these incentives are not family friendly. And, given the choice most families make to place greater childcare responsibilities on the wife than the husband, they also work to the disadvantage of women.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Pepsi did the right thing

Pepsi did the right thing, but I figure it had nothing to do with ethics, and much to do with the fear of being caught (especially given the ineptitude of the sellers).

Self interest. It's the real thing.

I'd like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love
grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtle doves.
I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony
I'd like to buy the world a coke and keep it company.
It's the real thing.I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.
I'd like to buy the world a coke and keep it company.
It's the real thing.
Coke is what the world wants today. Coke Cola
It's the real thing
Coke is what the world wants today. Coke Cola
It's the real thing

Thursday, July 06, 2006

family responsibility discrimination :: ABC News

"The fact is in many situations, workers with family responsibilities are not treated the same as workers without family responsibilities," Williams explained.

Same Work, Less Pay

A recent experiment at Cornell University seemed to suggest the same. It found that when subjects were asked to pick from among the resumes of potential job applicants, mothers were 44 percent less likely to get hired than nonmothers with the same resume. What's more, when they were hired, the mothers were paid $11,000 less.

"The great majority of employed women do have children, so this is impacting a huge number of women in the workplace," study author Shelley Correll told ABC News.
There are two possibilities:

1. Those with family responsibilities do the same work for less pay. In this case a company is not maximizing its profits. It should replace the more expensive workers with the equally productive but less costly workers with family responsibilities.
2. Those with family responsibilities are not as productive. They are paid accordingly.

Calling kids fat: does it help? ::

"If that same person came into your office and had cancer, or was anemic, or had an ear infection, would we be having the same conversation? There are a thousand reasons why this obesity epidemic is so out of control, and one of them is no one wants to talk about it."

The diplomatic approach adopted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and used by many doctors avoids the word "obese" because of the stigma. The CDC also calls overweight kids "at risk of overweight."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Greg Mankiw bucking for a return as Chair of CEA


On trade policy.

On farm subsidies. (Yes, the same farm subsidies as in the first link.)

Meanwhile, he's serving up another feast of words for Paul Krugman to consume.

Second link fixed thanks to The Eclectecon.

Dallas Austin :: The Business of America is Business

Starling Hunter at The Business of America in Business has a roundup of the arrest, sentencing and pardon of the American Hip-Hop artist, Dallas Austin: Dubai does Dallas I, II, and III.

See also the post and comments at Secret Dubai.

I recall Paul McCartney and his experience with the Japanese justice system.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

UAE's stock markets loses $152.1 billion in H1:: MENAFN

Why? I don't know. I'm not that kind of economist. Very few of us are.