Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dubai's new 5% rent cap

I've rambled on in the past about some of the things jeopardising Dubai's future, which depends entirely on us being commercially successful.

Poor telecoms with Etisalat's lack of speed and bandwidth, the TRA's refusal to allow VoIP, the huge costs caused by the roads & parking problems, the high cost of commercial property and the all-encompassing problem of high inflation. They make doing business in and from Dubai more and more difficult and costly, and alternative cities become more attractive locations.

Dubai's future depends on solving these problems, and solving them quickly.

Recently the Central Bank Governor announced that the government was setting up an agency to monitor inflation, reflecting the growing concern. The official inflation figure is around 10% but I don't think there are many residents who believe it's that low. It's a problem on a personal level, but the bigger picture is that it's seriously damaging Dubai's future.

With the insistence on keeping the dirham pegged to the dollar the government has little room to manoeuvre to control inflation. We have the ridiculous situation where we follow US interest rate reductions even though our economies are going in opposite directions.

A band-aid answer being used is to stop or limit price rises - but that really is a very short-term and unsustainable option.

Scenario - world wheat prices are rising steadily but bakers are not allowed to put up the price of bread. How long can they stay in business if their selling price doesn't reflect their costs?

Rents have been one of the major problems and today we have an announcement that at least this aspect of inflation is being tackled with a 5% rent increase cap being set for 2008.

Rent increases over the past few years have caused huge problems for people. There are plenty of stories of families having to go back home while the husband stays on in shared bachelor accommodation. A ripple effect of high rents is that tens of thousands are adding to the traffic chaos because they've had to move out to Sharjah, Ajman & Umm Al Quwain where accommodation is relatively affordable.

Company costs have increased dramatically if they provide accommodation as part of staff packages or provide an accommodation allowance. An example of another ripple effect of the situation is given by a friend who owns a business and pays accommodation allowance for senior staff. Because of rising rents he's increased the amounts as much as he can, but there's a limit to how much the company can afford and he knows their rents have gone up more than the increase he's been able to give. He's lost some valuable senior staff as a result.

We've had rent caps in Dubai for the past two years, 15% in 2006, 7% this year. For 2008 it's been set at 5%. It applies to new tenants and to tenants whose rents did not increase in 2007. For tenants who did have a rent increase in 2007 there can be no increase in 2008.

It's certainly a move to battle one of the big inflationary factors.

The story in Gulf News is here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

More pointless murders


On reflection I suppose it really wasn't a surprise that Benazir Bhutto was murdered. In fact she talked of the danger herself several times recently.

Plus the 'collateral damage' of others killed and injured as a result of the attack on her. And make no mistake, there will be even more deaths in the coming days and weeks as a result of this.

What an appalling comment on where we are as human beings. Tens of thousands of years of evolution and we're mentally still in the Stone Age, brainless, the worst animals on the planet.

Pakistan, India, the USA - it doesn't make any difference which part of the world we're talking about. Find someone you disagree with, you don't like, or even a complete stranger who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - and kill them.

And then, these days as so many do, kill yourself as well.

I'm speechless.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Tecom zone road

I won't go as far as saying it's been a pleasure to drive on Dubai's roads over the last week or so, but it's certainly been easier than usual.

It started with the Eid Al Adha holiday of course, then into Christmas, New Year coming up and weekends in between. A lot of people seem to be away, companies have been closed for the festivals and the effect on our usual jams and gridlock has been dramatic.

There's a new road to access Media City too, which hopefully will relieve the awful jams morning in and evening out. It's impossible to say how much effect it's having because it opened at the beginning of the holiday period when there's much less traffic anyway, but it gives an alternative to and from Media City, then on the internal road system to Internet City and Knowledge Village.

The new road is actually where there was originally access to the Tecom zone, but it was closed off months & months ago so that the new road & tunnel could be built. Bad planning yet again, it should have been part of the free zone original plan. However, after months of unnecessary chaos and frustration, it's open.

The new road has a tunnel out of Media City leading onto a new stretch of road that runs parallel to Al Sufouh Road past the barracks and onto the Madinat Jumeirah/Mall of the Emirates road. It gives an alternative to Al Sufouh Road for drivers going on to Al Wasl or Beach Roads, onto SZR avoiding the Salik gate by MoE or across to Al Barsha and the developments beyond.

Here it is last week:

Give alternatives and spread the load is the way to plan roads and this new road does just that.

By the way, I see from this morning's papers that in spite of the lighter traffic the standard of driving didn't improve over the holidays.

Dubai Police report that during the five days of Eid Al Adha, patrols issued 26,937 traffic offences tickets, radars caught 17,057 people speeding and 138 cars were confiscated.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What chance do we have!

Another of those reports that has me sitting here shaking my head in disbelief.

One of the major topics of conversation in Dubai is the appalling standard of driving of far too many people. Two specific subjects that are very much part of those conversations are how ridiculously easy it is to obtain a Dubai driving licence and criticism of the standard of driving instruction.

A story in Gulf News gives us the good news and the bad news on those subjects.

First, the RTA has taken over responsibility for driver testing and the good news is that they've raised the bar. They've apparently made it much tougher to obtain a driving licence.

An RTA official is quoted as saying that they want only capable, qualified and expert people to obtain a driving licence in order to reduce the number of road accidents.

I don't often say it, but I applaud the RTA for doing the right thing.

Now for the bad news. The reaction of some driving instructors.

Their attitude gives an idea of what we're up against, and says a lot about their professionalism, their desire to produce good drivers.

How's this for a disgraceful figure: An instructor from one of the leading driving schools in Dubai said when 40 or 30 people who get trained by his school apply for driving test, only three or four out of them are be able to pass the test.

'One of the leading driving schools' and they only manage to train 10% well enough for them to pass the test!

And of course the instructor blames not himself and his colleagues but the strict test: "We work very hard to train a person on driving but unfortunately they are unable to pass the test due to strict testing rules adopted by the RTA officials conducting the tests."

See, they fail the test not because they're not trained well enough but because the test is too tough.

Another instructor says it has a bad impact on the trainer when a learner "...has to repeat the test again and again."

Well, how about training them well enough and not letting them take the test until they're capable?

Unbelievably she says that they have people who have to go for retest 10 to 14 times.


Surely at some stage in there they should be told that they simply don't have the ability to be a driver.

And of course this instructor is asking the RTA to make it easier for people to get their licence.

No thought for the quality of driver they're producing, the safety of both the driver and other road users. No, she simply wants to get licences for as many of her learners as possible, the easier the test the better.

Shaking my head in despair at all this, then comes the worst of all. The instructor says: ""We hope RTA will change their policy and be more flexible to help us to do our work professionally."

Habibti, if you were doing your job professionally you would be training drivers well enough for them to pass the test.

The RTA needs to bring in an additional test, that of the driving instructors themselves. If even 'a leading driving school' has a 90% fail rate, a major cause of our road accidents has been identified.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

RAK shows the way

For a long time I've been saying that while we need education to improve motorists' attitudes in Dubai, in the short term we also need strong measures against today's moronic drivers.

In simple terms, get them off the road.

The news from Ras Al Khaimah is encouraging and I hope the other emirates will follow with tougher measures.

The Head of the Traffic & Licencing Department announced new instructions from the RAK Chief of Police, including sensible fines, vehicle confiscation and jail for reckless drivers in the emirate.

Col. Nasser Salem Muradad said reckless drivers will spend two weeks in jail, be fined Dh3,000 and have their vehicle confiscated for six months.

The rules apply all over the emirate, the tourist area of Awafi being mentioned specifically, and include motorcycles and quad bikes.

Failing to fasten seat belts and using a non hands-free mobile phone will be a target and there will be an instant Dh2,000 fine for vehicles exceeding the legal window tinting limit.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Silly story...

Sent by a friend in Australia:

Two mates are out hunting and they come upon a huge hole in the ground. They approach cautiously, and are amazed by the size of it.

The first Aussie says " Wow Mate, that's some hole, I can't even see the bottom, I wonder how deep it is?"

The second hunter says" I don't know, let's throw something down and listen to hear how long it takes to hit bottom."

The first hunter says " Hey, here's an old auto transmission, give me a hand and we'll throw it in and see".

With great effort they pick it up and carry it over. They count one, and two and three, and throw it in the hole. As they are standing there listening and looking over the edge they hear a rustling in the brush behind them. They turn around and see a goat come crashing through the brush, run up to the hole, and jump in headfirst.

They are stunned. They stand there looking at each other, looking in the hole, and trying to figure out what that was all about, when an old farmer walks up. "Say there", says the farmer, "you fellers didn't happen to see my goat around here anywhere, did you?"

The first hunter says " Funny you should ask, but we were just standing here a minute ago and a goat came running out of the bushes and jumped headfirst into this hole here!"

The old farmer, scratching his head says, " Why that's near impossible, I had him chained to a really heavy car transmission."

Realising the obvious

Earlier this year an excellent system was put in place by Dubai police to deter traffic offences. Vehicles were confiscated for a minimum of a week and up to three months, depending on the seriousness of the offence.

But there was what I always thought a strange part of the system. Apart from dangerous driving offences, the vehicles could get out of jail by payment of the derisory ransom of Dh100 a day.

Car impounded for a week? No problem. Pay Dh700 and you can have it back.

It's no surprise that the system was abused. According to police, 'the majority' of motorists who paid the fine and kept their vehicle then repeated the offence.

So now common sense prevails and the system has been abolished. Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, our Police Chief, said that confiscation of the vehicle was a stricter punishment and was more effective.

In future, if your car is confiscated it will stay confiscated for the full term.

Excellent news. We need effective policies to get the morons off the road.

By the way, I made the point in my 'smoking fines' postings (scroll down to find them) about the inconsistency between fines for smoking and for traffic offences. The Dh100 a day fine here emphasises the point.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

EmBiz247 - the verdict

Emirates Business24/7 has published it's first week's issues and the pattern is set.

Being interested in business and business reporting, I thought I'd post my view on the new business paper.

In a mirror of its previous incarnation, the late Emirates Today, it's got just two things wrong.

Content and layout.

It's awful.

Bad design, re-hashed stories, boring writing, years out-of-date photographs.

And they just couldn't resist a tabloid section at the back, which has nothing to do with business.

Commercially it will be viable for a while yet. Today's 48 pages include 13 pages of advertisements, but that's par for the course in this area. Companies here advertise for very different reasons from their counterparts in more sophisticated markets.

Advertisers include the usual suspects plus some very odd ones, given the positioning of the paper and its obvious reader target.

There's a doozy, by the way, from our beloved RTA that sums up marketing communications here for me. A full page ad that tells us they're working on building a Metro rail system.

Whoda thought it!

We really could do with some authoritative, quality newspapers here. News dailies, business dailies in particular. What do we get instead? EmTod, 7Days, EmBiz247...

They are serious!

I said yesterday "they seem to be serious about the smoking ban" and I went on to list the fines for non-compliance that had been announced by Dubai Municipality.

For a first offence of smoking in a non-smoking area the fine was to be Dh500.

Today the news is that it will be a whopping Dh1,000 for a first offence.

That's what Salem Bin Mesmar, Director of the Public Health Department at Dubai Municipality, told Gulf News. He said proposals had been sent to the legal department to revise the original fines and they may now range from Dh1,000 up to Dh8,000 for individuals and from Dh10,000 up to Dh80,000 for establishments ignoring the new regulations.

He went on to say that the idea was not to impose fines but to get society to accept the new laws. I'll go along with that - if it was a fifty or hundred dirham fine it would be ignored, just as the laughably low road offence fines are.

But with a thousand dirhams fine hanging over you for a first offence - and maybe eight thousand for repeat offenders - you're sure gonna think about obeying the law.

That's good thinking from the Municipality.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

They seem to be serious about the smoking ban

Last time a smoking ban was introduced it wasn't enforced, smokers ignored it and it was dropped.

This time the whole story seems to be different. Boy, did I get that one wrong!

Mind you, I was mislead by earlier statements from the Municipality.

Here's what I said in an earlier posting:

" countries such as Australia, the US, Britain, smoking bans are respected. It's highly unlikely they'll be respected here.

More importantly, they won't be enforced.

As I reported in June, Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director-General of Dubai Municipality, said that under the terms of the understanding with the malls, the onus of enforcement would be on the mall management.

"There will be no fines. Malls will be self-regulating,"
he said, adding that mall employees would have to tell smoking patrons to stub out and direct them to designated smoking areas."

I'm amazed, but delighted, that smokers appear to be obeying the ban. Certainly in the various malls and restaurants I go into I haven't seen anyone smoking.

There are even not many grouped around outside the entrance, having furtive drags.

A big help, I'm sure, was that the timing of the ban had been thought about, starting as it did immediately after Ramadan.

The ban is going to be enforced by big fines on both smoker and venue - something that originally the Municipality said would not happen. And the establishment can call the police if a smoker ignores the instruction to stop.

From next month the fines for smokers disobeying the law will be Dh500 for a first offence, Dh1,000 for a second offence, Dh4,000 for the third and Dh5,000 for any repeat thereafter.

That's an expensive cigarette!

Malls and restaurants must have a designated smoking zone with specific ventilation and smoke-absorbers. If they don't meet the requirements, smoking must not be allowed in these zones.

Fines on the establishment for not correctly regulating smoking will start at Dh10,000 and could go up to Dh50,000.

There is a total ban on smoking in establishments such as educational establishments, hair salons, internet cafes, health clubs, food courts and public offices.

Just going off at a tangent for a moment - this surely gives a hint that fines for driving offences must be increased dramatically. If you can be hit with a Dh5,000 fine for smoking a cigarette surely dangerous driving should atttract a fine several times bigger than that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Just passing the time, as I do every so often, investigating to see who comes to my blog and why.

As I've said before there are some interesting, not to say mystifying, phrases put into search engines.

Today I've come across:

Someone in Dubai asking about "Chinese girls in Dubai". Hmmmmm...

Somebody in Malaysia wants to know about "Expats run up debts in Dubai". A suspicious spouse perhaps?

What about the naughty "Getting past Etisalat" from another frustrated person in Dubai.

And one from Romania that has me totally confused, "Rummy etisalat"

The material's all here, I'm gonna write a book.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Our new business daily

There were only two things wrong with Emirates Today. The content and the layout.

Now it's gone to the newspaper graveyard, to be replaced by a business daily.

Sorry guys, it's all wrong, it just doesn't look the part. Here's the masthead:

A serious daily reporting on business from an international business centre and it looks like that?

And "Emirates Business 24/7"? Who came up with that doozy?

You can picture the meeting can't you.

Boss: 'A business daily, covering the Emirates. What shall we call it?'

Serf 1: 'How about 'Emirates Business? Short, descriptive, to the point. Says what it is.'

Serf 2: 'I know! I know! 'Emirates Business 24/7!

Today's business is obsessed with using buzz words - buzzing - and Serf 1 won't get on. Serf 2 will be promoted to In-Charge.

Mind you, if I'd been there I'd've won the sucking-up-to-the-boss battle. I'd have shown them what buzzing is all about. I'd have said we need an exclamation mark after 24/7!


Just look how impressive that would be

If you want to see what the new paper's like you can go to the website

The War on Jargon

I suppose 'jargon' is the wrong word. It's buzz words and buzz phrases really, the stuff that's used more and more in business by not-very-good people who think it will make them appear clever and knowlegeable.

I'm going to call it 'buzzing' in future.

I've ranted a couple of times recently about examples I've come across here - my doomed campaign to try to make the users see the stupidity, the pointlessness, of it. To see what appalling marketing it is.

Anyway, in the London Financial Times there are some great examples in a column by the business commentator Lucy Kellaway.

Going around for a day with a professional headhunter, she pretended to also be one. At the end of the day she asked whether the real headhunter would offer her a job. "No, because you say what you think" she was told.

Pretty well sums up buzzing - don't under any circumstances let people know what you're talking about. The great art of miscommunication prevails.

Lucy goes on with some classics. For example, she comments that "...recently I have started to feel less bruised about the rejection. Talking my mind may have ruled me out as a headhunter, but now saying anything that even makes sense disqualifies one from joining what practitioners call the "executive search space".

Modern headhunters spout as much guff as management consultants, but without the excuse. Consultants have to, to hide the fact that it often isn't clear what they're selling. Headhunters are selling something pukka so there's no reason why they can't come right out and say so.

The examples she quotes are mind-numbing.

Remember that what these companies actually do, the reason they are hired and paid, is find the right person for the right job.

Simple, direct, explanatory, crystal clear. That's what they do.

What do they say they do?

Korn Ferry describes itself as "The premier provider of human capital solutions".

Heidrick & Struggles says "as innovators, we are actively redefining top-level search to encompass complementary services".

Michael Page says "Our journey starts when we see a difference between where we are today and where we want to be".

An aquaintance went to a headhunter to find a new Managing Director. He told her the introductory e-mail from them said: "As a Leading Total Talent Solution Provider, we have some special assessment tools to help identify the 'right' candidate."

Lucy's column is worth reading in full and you can find it here.

RTA comes clean

It's all about getting our private cars off the roads folks. That's The Grand Plan.

As I said in my post 'Stupid, stupid me' last month, it took a while for me to see the obvious, but now the RTA has come clean.

In the new Emirates Business 24/7 (who on earth came up with that for a title?) there's the admission that Salik is to be extended to cover all major roads and Creek crossings. The objective is to "encourage people to use public transport."

Bad news for the huge number of Dubai's workforce who live in Sharjah because of the impossibly high rents in Dubai - all the gateways between the two emirates will be toll-controlled.

If they, and the rest of us, are going to have to use public transport to get around I hope we're going to actually get an efficient public transport system.

The story in Emirates Business 24/7 is here.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sorry, it's another rant.

Feel free to ignore this, I'm just venting my frustration at the way companies here inconvenience us, waste our time and money.

I'm sure we all have many examples of the syndrome - having to go in person, not being able to make appointments etc - but here's my latest.

Background: my car insurance includes a very useful Vehicle Registration Service - they take the car for its annual registration.

Great, that'll save me best part of a day messing around getting to & from plus all the aggro. of doing paperwork here.

Except that when he was bringing it back to me, the driver called to say an idiot had run into the back of my newly re-registered car.

I have to take the car with the police report, copies of my registration card & driving licence, the insurance policy, to the Mazda dealer Galadari so that they can give an estimate.

I'm in Dubai Marina, they are on Al Ittihad Road, not only the other side of Dubai but - literally - in the middle of the disaster that is the new interchange under construction near the airport.

I fight the traffic and the roadworks all the way, they give me the car back after an hour of fiddling around and I fight the traffic and the roadworks back to Dubai Marina. Over three hours of my life have disappeared.

That's not the problem, here's where the typical Dubai company don't-give-a-damn-about-the-customer starts.

After they've received the estimate the insurance company wants to check it against the damage. That's OK too.

Galadari Mazda tell me to take the car in before 7.30am Sunday, which is when the insurance company inspects the cars. If that's too early for me I can leave it there before 5pm Saturday. They will call me "sometime on Sunday" when the inspection's done and I can collect the car.

So I'm to be without the car for that time and either have to pay for a hire car or taxis for two days. We have to get from and to Galadari, get to work on Sunday morning, two of us moving around but without the car.

Mrs Seabee has a friend of a friend at the insurance company, calls, discovers their man will actually be at Galadari around mid-day Sunday. I drive there then, he takes two photos, I drive away within 5 minutes.

No hire car, no taxis, no leaving my car at the dealer for a day and a night as I would have done had I listened to Galadari.

It simpy doesn't occur to them to try to give customer service. To make appointments, to tell the customer when the assessor will be there, to save their customer large slices of time, money and inconvenience.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Madinat's Winter Wonderland

A few days ago I posted a silly thought about the Christmas tree going up at Madinat Jumeirah.

It was part of what a sign said was a 'Winter Wonderland' being created, and I said I'd post photos when it was done.

Well, I went for my morning caffeine fix today and here's the view from the central outdoor eating area:

They've fenced the bloody thing off from prying eyes! A tacky hessian wall tarted up with a crown of plastic holy.

Anyway, I wandered off to the side, squeezed onto Prunier's terrace and took a shot of the Winter Wonderland area:

That's the big tree that was up in the eating area last year, now replaced by the much smaller one in the first photo. They've decorated it well I thought. Not sure what the cabins are for - food probably, or perhaps traders.

Just a touch incongruous in that setting wouldn't you say, but hey this is Dubai and anything's possible.

It was all a bit strange I thought, being fenced off with no apparent way to reach it. So I wandered around and the obvious was soon revealed - this is Dubai so it's gonna cost you.

A narrow entrance, a security man and a sign that says 'Admission Dh20'

Beach mystery solved

I was musing last month on 'Another beach mystery'.

I saw lots of sand being moved about on Umm Suqeim beach, huge bags being filled with it, gangs of workmen, construction machinery, trucks etc. I wondered what was going on.

Tody Gulf News has the answer, in a very interesting article 'Saving Dubai's Beaches'.

The sea is eroding the coastline, as it does quite naturally. We also have the changing water movement caused by the huge offshore developments and the artificial breakwaters.

Apparently the 5-tonne bags of sand are placed about 100 metres from the shore to form protective groynes.

Of course it isn't that simple, a complex tracking system is involved to determine exactly what's happening so that engineers can work out the best solution.

The full article and the photos are well worth looking at.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Safety? What safety?

I posted last week on Yet more avoidable deaths the dangers to road-workers.

Lack of adequate protective barriers, lack of adequate warnings.

Today on Sheikh Zayed Road raceway was a classic of don't care, don't think, utter stupidity.

Two workers wandering along sweeping the roadside, completely unprotected, no barriers, no warning - not even the ubiquitous red flag.

A plastic helmet and a lime green jacket aren't much help when six lanes of traffic are doing a minimum of 100kph.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More on jargon.

Two signs that I've read this morning highlight the fact that none of us are people any more.

Even worse than not being thought of as an individual, we're no longer collectively even people.

First, in Knowledge Village I was confronted by a sign declaring "Empowering human capital."

Don't they mean empowering people...or even better, empowering you?

Then driving along Sheikh Zayed Road a very large advertising board told me that some company or other wanted me to "Come to us for human capital solutions."

(Bloody 'solutions' again!!)

I'm assuming it was an employment agency which can find the right person to fill a vacancy, although they obviously feel the need to hide that fact.

I have two main problems with this morning's jargon affront.

One, say what you mean, explain yourselves clearly and concisely, don't confuse people about what you mean.

Two, any company thinking of its staff as nothing more than 'human capital' isn't worth working for or dealing with.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dubious taste

The date palms along Al Sufouh Road have been 'decorated' to celebrate National Day.

The sentiment is OK, it's what they've done that I question.

It looks like someone's shredded a whole truckload of UAE flags and defaced the trees with them.

Not next year please, let's have something a little more tasteful.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Mubarak, UAE

National Day tomorrow marks 36 years of the UAE, which I've read is the longest-lasting federation in the Arab world.
I first moved to Dubai six years after the original six emirates joined together, and in those days the feeling was still largely that it was very much individual emirates in a loose federation.
In Dubai it was rare to see the country's flag, Dubai's own red & white flag was very much more in evidence, as you can see from this 1977 photo of dhows on the Creek...

The unified country has come a long, long way since then.