Sunday, February 28, 2010

Just what we needed

After a few days of strong winds everything was covered with a layer of dust and sand and the air was heavy with it.

Last night we got what we needed...

Thunder, lightning, plenty of heavy rain.

Apart from the usual flooded spots it's been good news. The trees and plants are looking green instead of gray, the streets, footpaths and buildings have been washed.

Plenty of water came down, but on Sheikh Zayed Road's Interchange 5 it's being added to by water coming up...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Our worst kind of weather

Summer is very hot, 50C, very humid, 98%, very uncomfortable.

Winter rains cause flooded roads, crashes, flooded car parks, leaking roofs.

But what we've had the last couple of days is the worst of all in my opinion. Strong winds thick with sand and dust.

Who'd want to swap jobs with the poor guys who have to work out in it all day, wrapped up as best they can to keep the dust out.

Not much job satisfaction either - as he sweeps it up even more replaces it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Did 'Dubai' do it?

I've been reading some of the reports around the world about the leak at Dubai Aquarium.

They often add the the old property crash/debt crisis/Burj Khalifa lift problem stuff, so they become very negative about Dubai. And of course it encourages the real Dubai/Arab/Muslim bashers to jump in with their comments.

Here's a classic from the Huffington Post for example:

"Coool! Dubai is the farce of modern society. They have everything.... but it's built with our oil money ..... they are NOT a modern society... they are the oppose. People still get flogged for kissing in public, jailed for infidelity, and any other horrific thing you may hav heard about; men whip women on the beach in bikinis, spit on them...and that's just the tip of the sand dune."

Anyone in Dubai recognise the place from that?

But I did enjoy a couple of the other comments:

"It was probably caused by a stray bullet from the not-so-secret Mossad hit squad.

Boy! When things go wrong..."


"Dubai has a lot of problems,,,,,,,,,,,,,, i.e. bankruptcy; closure of their new tower; this.

Is it possible that they themselves staged the hit on the Palestinian murderer to take attention away from its own problems?"

Anyway, that was really an aside, I distracted myself.

What I was going to post about was that while 'Dubai' is taking all the flak there's an important part of the story that isn't included.

'Dubai' didn't make the huge acrylic window, 'Dubai' didn't design the aquarium and 'Dubai' doesn't operate it.

The difference in reporting is interesting.

Buildings collapse in other cities but the stories aren't negative about the city itself.

Toyota has major problems and the negative stories are about Toyota. Not about 'Japan'.

But with the aquarium leak, and other stories about problems in Dubai, it's 'Dubai' itself which takes the hits. In fact, the aquarium problem must surely relate to either the designer and operator, Oceanis Australia Group, or to Emaar.

The viewing panel, which leaked, was commissioned under the supervision of Oceanis Australia Group. I can't find the name of the manufacturer, although there seem to be only three companies in the world capable of producing it. It's the world's largest acrylic panel, 32.8 meters wide, 8.3 metres high, 750 mm thick and weighs 245,614 kg.

When it was commissioned it was, according to Emaar's press release:

" the limit of production abilities by major acrylic manufacturers..."

It isn't in one piece though. If you stand at an angle to it you can see where the panels are joined. The panels are apparently fused with acrylic-soluble cement. From what I can gather from the stories it was a joint that was the problem, although the information is vague as usual and I could well be wrong.

I assume the panels were joined in the specialist factory, in Japan or wherever, which built it. Or could it be that the panels were joined here? That might be something that could be (but won't be) clarified by Emaar's PR people.

It would be good to hear from Oceanis Australia Group and from the manufacturer of the window about what happened and why.

I wonder if the PR people from the three organisations are talking to each other and getting factual information together that would stop the speculation...

Huffington Post story is here.

Emaar's original press release is here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Now Dubai Aquarium has a problem

Following closely on the malfunctioning lifts in Burj Khalifa creating bad international publicity for Brand Dubai we have another bad story.

The huge aquarium in Dubai Mall has sprung a leak, causing an area of about 100 shops to be cordoned off with people told to leave the area.

The Wall Street Journal heads the story "Leak at Dubai Mall Aquarium Forces Evacuation"

It notes that it's: "the latest mishap to hit one of Emaar's prestigious projects. The company was forced this month to close the viewing deck in the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in the center of Dubai."

A visitor from the US is quoted as saying: "It seems that as they're building things here, they're crumbling at the same time."

And the head of Middle East research at UBS AG told the WSJ: "Emaar has always been known as a quality developer, but they've been under pressure to finish Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa. I'm not surprised that they've had maintenance issues. They've definitely put into question their quality and are compromising their quality over volume."

The news wires have put the story out, it's starting to appear in the media all over the world and the reports use words like 'evacuation' and 'shark tank' to add to the drama.

The Chicago Tribune headlines the story "Dubai's latest blooper".

Even the usually restrained BBC runs the headline "Huge shark-filled aquarium in Dubai cracks open".

Apart from the more serious media I always like to check out what the tabloids are saying, because they have the most readers and so shape much more opinion, sadly.

Predictably, the UK tabloid The Sun screams: "Terror as mall shark tank cracks". It goes on to tell its several million readers: "Shoppers at the Dubai Mall fled in terror fearing that they about to be engulfed by 10 million gallons of water holding 33,000 sea creatures...Mall security men donned life jackets"

And inevitably, according to The Sun: ...anyone with photos of the drama were ordered by cops to delete them."

Too late, the paper has a photo of water gushing from the crack.

Naturally, most of the stories also refer back to the lift problem in Burj Khalifa and to Dubai's debt problems.

It's all doing huge damage to Dubai's reputation and it's becoming a PR man's nightmare.

The Wall Street Journal story is here.

The Chicago Tribune is here.

The BBC has the story here.

The Sun story is here.

Racism again

How irresponsible it is for people who influence opinion to immediately claim that any violent assault on a non-caucasian is racially motivated.

Before there's a police investigation, before the perpetrators and motives have been established, the accusations that it was racially motivated have started.

Australia has been getting a lot of criticism lately, particularly about attacks in Melbourne on Indian students. There's no doubt that some were racially motivated, and my guess is that a lot of those are copycat attacks by neanderthal youths who brag to their friends about it.

However, many are simply muggings and some are by people of the same ethnicity as the victim, as I've pointed out in previous posts (just hit the 'racism' label to go to the earlier posts if you're interested).

A Malaysian-born Australian was killed in Sydney on Sunday. In Australia we had the headline "Race-hate fears over fatal bashing".

Malaysia's New Straits Times had "Road rage or hate crime?" The story went on to emphasise the race angle:

"Australian police should work quickly to ascertain the motive behind the murder of Malaysian-born Mohd Shah Saemin who was brutally attacked by two men in Sydney on Sunday night.

Police there linked the attack to a possible road rage incident but Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, while offering his condolences to the victim's family, asked if the incident was a race-based hate crime.

In a statement released on Monday night, Anifah urged the Australian authorities to "thoroughly investigate the case to ensure that the incident is a genuine road rage case and not a case of race-based hate crime".

Australia was rocked recently by a series of attacks against Indian nationals and students living there.

There have now been arrests.

Guess what. Race isn't remotely involved.

"Love triangle behind murder of consulate employee Mohd Shah Saemin" says the headline.

"THE wife of a Sydney taxi driver accused of murdering her alleged lover is due to face court today.

Nita Eriza Iskandar, 46, was yesterday arrested in Leichhardt and charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder, and hindering a police investigation.

Her husband, taxi driver Hazairin Iskandar, 55, was arrested at his Croydon home on Tuesday night. He was charged with murder and will appear in court again in April.

The couple's 20-year-old son was arrested in Singapore, and NSW detectives will seek his extradition today."

I don't pretend that race crimes don't happen, and when they do they should be exposed as such. But politicians playing to their voters and the media looking for sensationalism by immediately screeching 'racism' at every opportunity do nothing but irresponsibly add to tensions.

Road rage or hate crime.
Love triangle behind murder.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Getting back to basics

People say that Dubai has no culture. I think it has, and that culture is working.

Trading. Doing business. Wheeling and dealing.

Location has always been a key. Added to that has been access and infrastructure. Dubai has always led the region in all three.

It's very much a working city. People come here to work, they work long and hard hours. It's all about working. Working is Dubai's DNA.

It's something I've talked about it in several previous posts, recently in response to gleeful 'Dubai crash' stories.

The fact is that Dubai always has been and always will be a trading centre, but that was all but forgotten in the mad property scramble.

It was madness.

Billions of dollars changed hands in spite of there being no laws governing the sector.

Speculators were allowed to flip properties, even without having made one payment, and made millions doing so. For the first two or three years it was all done not only with no laws in place but with no properties actually built.

Caught up in the madness too many senior executives went on huge ego trips. They announced more and more outlandish developments and they borrowed short term money to buy companies which would produce only long term returns.

Then the world hit the wall. Dubai is part of the world so we hit the wall too.

Not a bad thing, it was a runaway train out of control.

Huge, badly thought out developments have been halted. Many of the incompetent senior executives have gone.

But behind all that madness, unnoticed, was the trading Dubai. From the big merchant family conglomerates to the small and medium business which are so important to the economy, the trading went on. The world didn't comment because it didn't notice.

It's why the 'Dubai doomed' stories, the 'ghost town' predictions are wrong. The people writing them don't know Dubai's history. They think, indeed they say, that the city sprouted from the desert ten years ago. Before that it was just a small village they say. They think that property is what Dubai is all about.

They couldn't be more wrong.

Today's Gulf News has some stories talking about the real economy.

The lead story is that Dubai's non-oil direct exports jumped 23% in 2009 over 2008. The value of exports through Dubai Customs exit points in 2009 was Dh52.4 billion (US$14.25 billion).

The major product categories were valuable metals and products made from them, processed food products, plastics, rubber and natural metal products.

The top export markets were India, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran.

Another front page story says that passenger and cargo business at Dubai International Airport were way up in January over January last year. Passenger traffic was up 17% at 3.38 million, which was also a monthly record, beating the previous best of 3.81 million of December 2009.

Freight volume was up 31.5% over last January, at 171,453 tonnes.

The airport is now the world's fourth busiest for passenger traffic and fifth busiest for freight. Last year 40.9 million passengers used the airport.

A fourth Chinese airline, China Eastern from Yunan, also began flying into Dubai this week, so trade with the world's third largest economy should grow.

The new cruise ship terminal was also opened yesterday, in a joint inauguration with the cruise ship Costa Deliziosa.

The terminal, which can handle four ships simultaneously, is currently used by Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Aida cruises. Last year there were eighty cruise ship calls to Port Rashid, bringing 263,000 passengers.

So there's plenty going on in the real world of Dubai's economy, as it always has.

Let's hope that lessons have been learned and in future the focus will be on Dubai's strengths.

The full stories:

Chinese airline
Cruise terminal.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Metro completion delayed again

While it's clear that work has been continuing on the Metro, you can see workers on the stations and bridges along the Red Line, it's obvious that they're way behind with completion.

Now the official word is that the opening of the remaining eighteen stations has been put back, with seven due to open on April 25 and the final eleven opening 'in phases' on unspecified dates.

I think most of the seven new stations will encourage more people to use the Metro because of their convenient locations. They're at Ibn Battutu, Dubai Marina, World Trade Centre, Karama and Terminal 1 at the airport, plus the stupidly named GGICO Station (Al Garhoud) and Emirates Station (which people will confuse with Termnal 3 I'm sure).

Mrs Seabee had to go to Terminal 3 last week at peak traffic time so she decided to take her first trip on the Metro. Taxi to MoE station from her office in Knowledge Village, Metro from there right into the terminal. Quicker, easier, less stressful than driving, quicker and cheaper than a taxi all the way so she gave it a thumbs up.

As for the Green Line opening, that's been put back yet again, this time to August 2011.

Gulf News has the story here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Photo mix

I was sorting out my recent batch of photos and thought this random selection might be of interest.

We're used to seeing Dubai police in BMWs and 4x4s, but at Dubai Marina/JBR they have a whole different kind of fleet, hardly hot pursuit vehicles:

There's some appropriate topiary in that area too:

A bit further on, Ibn Battuta Gate is looking good:

Also looking good is the bouganvillea around town, coming towards its best at this time of year:

And at JBR, a Russian bear has appeared. It's in a restaurant we tried the other evening, called Suvoroff. I'm no expert on Russian food but I thought it was pretty good. The menu has a big variety, with very different dishes from the usual things we're offered.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spiderman at JBR

I'm told they do it for fun. I'd die of fright.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The anti-immigrant immigrant

I love the irony in the story about Australia's most famous anti-immigrant becoming an immigrant herself.

Pauline Hanson made news around the world with her anti-immigration rantings. In fact it was pure racism, she was anti-immigrants if they were not Anglo-Saxon.

She had a short-lived political career and in her maiden speech in parliament commented that Australia was being 'swamped by Asians', which did great damage to the country's standing abroad, especially of course in Asia.

In particular I loved her reasons for leaving Oz:

"Over-regulation, increasing taxes and lack of true representation are affecting our way of life."

So she's decided to get away from that by moving to what UK blogger Keith calls Britanistan.

BBC report is here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Curiouser and curiouser

Seeing curious signs with strange names, spelling mistakes, letters transposed is not unusual around Dubai. They're hand-painted or printed.

But on Al Wasl Road the other day I came across a type I've never seen before...

Friday, February 12, 2010

The opulence of Dubai

In Deira the other day I thought of the image Brand Dubai has generated overseas.

A picture's been drawn of luxury, opulence, wealth, the biggest, the tallest...

Walk through Deira though and you see the Dubai that isn't publicised overseas. From the stories I'd guess that most visiting journalists never see it and don't even know it exists.

We don't all drive around in luxurious cars or 4x4s...

It's not all, and only, huge marble-tiled shopping malls...

It isn't all high-end designer label boutiques...

We don't all live in super-luxury apartments or villas...

It's not all fancy jobs with huge expat salary packages, maids and gardeners...

It's a pity there's no balance in the stories.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Codeine doesn't mean Al Slammer any more

You remember the over-enthusiastic enforcement of the drug laws at Dubai airport?

People were escorted to Al Slammer for carrying what in their countries was over-the-counter medication, or having poppy seeds in their clothing, or having minute specks of cannabis on their shoes.

I did some posts about them at the time, back in 2008 I think.

There was outrage in the western, especially British, media, plenty of online criticism and 'don't visit Dubai' websites appeared. It was a real blow to Brand Dubai and I think it might have been this issue that was the beginning of the negative stories.

This problem has quietened down recently, presumably partly because people coming in were much more careful, maybe others cancelled their trip, but also it appears because the authorities have been less heavy-handed recently.

A report in Gulf News suggests a more reasonable approach. It also says that the damage being done by the reports was taken seriously by the authorities.

Major General Abdul Jaleel Al Mahdi, Director of the General Department of Combating Narcotics at the Dubai Police told Gulf News that the increase in reports about passengers carrying medical pills without a prescription got them to change the earlier regulation.

The law is still in place but the way people are dealt with has been changed.

"I agree the previous regulation was somehow strict whereby passengers were extensively interrogated and in extremely few cases detained till the substance is examined," said Lieutenant Colonel Khalid Saleh Al Kawari, Deputy Director of the General Department of Combating Narcotics at Dubai Police.

"Now if the pills are not clear to us or do not include a prescription, then we hold the passengers' passport till they provide evidence and for us to examine the substance, which only takes less than couple of days."

I've mentioned on here over the last couple of days some of the most often asked questions on forums from people planning to come to Dubai. 'How much do I need to live on' is one, 'what's the weather like in (a month)' is another. The third is about OTC or prescription medicines.

The medication question came up again yesterday on a forum, showing that those reports are still having an effect.

What a pity the new more reasonable approach wasn't used in the past.

The Gulf News story is here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Handled the worst way - again

The official statement:

"Due to unexpected high traffic, the observation deck experience at the Burj Khalifa, At the Top, has been temporarily closed for maintenance and upgrade".

From a visitor:

"I was walking around the observation deck when I heard this really loud noise and what looked like smoke or dust coming out from one of the elevator doors. One of the elevators had not reached all the way to the 124th floor and I saw some people climbing a ladder from the elevator up on to the observation deck."

The story goes on with visitors' reports that around sixty people were trapped on the deck for over an hour until they were taken down by service elevator, that they were scared, angry, crying, that there was a lack of information

Absolutely typical. And absolutely the wrong way to handle issues.

It's not rocket science. First, tell the people involved what's happening. Quickly. It's not hard.

'There's a mechanical problem with an elevator. There is no danger and you will shortly be taken to the ground floor by the service elevator. While we're arranging that please continue to enjoy the view.'

Then tell the media what's happened. That's not hard either.

'There was a fault with an elevator, no-one was hurt and there was never any danger. All visitors were taken to the ground floor by service elevator. The deck will remain closed for one week, affected tickets will be refunded and there is no delay in handing over the rest of the building.' Take questions and answer them honestly.

But what's the normal way to handle a problem here?

The immediate reaction is 'can we deny it outright'?

If what's happened is too public to deny outright, make an excuse that dismisses the problem as routine or so minor as to not require comment. Under no circumstances do you say what actually happened. All senior people immediately go to ground.

Pointless. Wrong. Counter-productive. You've added hugely to the problem.

Because people who were affected reveal what really happened.

Senior people remain in hiding. The 'ignore it and it'll go away' strategy. But the damage is done and they're adding to it by their actions.

I've ranted about it many times in the past. It's not the problem that's the problem, the way you handle it is the problem. And here we have yet another repeat of the absolute worst way to handle a problem.

It's yet another blow for Brand Dubai too, because it's making news around the world. Bad news.

I've seen it in US, Australian, British, New Zealand, Indian papers already this morning.

The Huffington Post story, for example, includes:

Electrical problems are at least partly to blame for the closure of the Burj Khalifa's viewing platform – the only part of the half-mile high tower open yet. But a lack of information from the spire's owner left it unclear whether the rest of the largely empty building – including dozens of elevators meant to whisk visitors to the tower's more than 160 floors – was affected by the shutdown.

The indefinite closure, which began Sunday, comes as Dubai struggles to revive its international image as a cutting-edge Arab metropolis amid nagging questions about its financial health.

In a brief statement responding to questions, building owner Emaar Properties blamed the closure on "unexpected high traffic," but then suggested that electrical problems were also at fault.

Despite repeated requests, a spokeswoman for Emaar was unable to provide further details or rule out the possibility of foul play. Greg Sang, Emaar's director of projects and the man charged with coordinating the tower's construction, could not be reached.

The shutdown comes at a sensitive time for Dubai. The city-state is facing a slump in tourism – which accounts for nearly a fifth of the local economy – while fending off negative publicity caused by more than $80 billion in debt it is struggling to repay.

It goes on to say:

Questions were raised about the building's readiness in the months leading up to the January opening.

The opening date had originally been expected in September, but was then pushed back until sometime before the end of 2009. The eventual opening date just after New Year's was meant to coincide with the anniversary of the Dubai ruler's ascent to power.

There were signs even that target was ambitious. The final metal and glass panels cladding the building's exterior were installed only in late September. Early visitors to the observation deck had to peer through floor-to-ceiling windows caked with dust – a sign that cleaning crews had not yet had a chance to scrub them clean.

Today's story on what really happened is here.

The Huffington Post story.

A couple of previous examples of how not to handle a problem are here and here.

Monday, February 08, 2010


Open all of four weeks, now "due to unexpected high traffic, the observation deck at Burj Khalifa has been temporarily closed for maintenance and upgrade."

Absolutely typical.

Build something, open it to great fanfare. Almost immediately surround it with red & white cones and dig it up.

'Unexpected high traffic'? It was always going to be a major attraction, numbers are capped, volume of traffic to expect was obvious.

The real problem is in the statement though: "Technical issues with the power supply are being worked on".

Again, it's absolutely typical. Had the work been done properly in the first place there wouldn't be 'technical issues' after four weeks.

The story's in Arabian Business.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

"What salary do I need?"

One of the most frequently asked questions on various forums I'm active on is along the lines of "what salary do I need to live in Dubai, and to be able to save."

Some are more specific, quoting salaries they've been offered which are often four or five thousand dirhams a month.

Answers vary, but usually say that whatever the figure quoted is, it isn't nearly enough.

I always say "it depends" and try to explain, so that the questioner can work it out for her/himself.

It depends where you come from, what your standard of living is and therefore what standard of living is acceptable to you, how you want or are prepared to live, what your current salary is and whether you're able to save anything from that.

In terms of saving, the cost of living in your home country comes very much into the picture. Transfer a thousand dirhams to many countries and it's a huge amount, in others it won't buy you much more than a few meals out.

I know people here earning Dh100,000 a month, with luxury accommodation, family air fares, school fees, top medical insurance, a luxury car all paid by the company.

I know others being paid Dh2,000 a month and sharing a villa, living ten to a room. And yet others being paid Dh600 a month and living in storerooms.

As a general rule too, I find that those at the bottom of the ladder are often providing for an extended family back home, while those at the top of the salary ladder are usually responsible only for their immediate family.

What they have in common is that they all say they're better off than they were back home.

Gulf News had an illuminating full page yesterday on the subject.

The main story is about Diane, a Filipina now working in Dubai.

In 2004 she experienced what happens to so many people; to pay the placement fee, in the Philippines, for a job in Taiwan she borrowed from a loan shark. The employment deal was a scam, the money she borrowed disappeared and there was no job.

After a year she managed to find a job in Kuwait, on a salary of about Dh1,280. On that meagre salary she managed to not only pay off the loan shark but also apparently saved 'a few thousand dirhams'.

She returned home where there was an ailing mother to take care of and siblings needing money, so her savings didn't last long.

Like so many others she came to Dubai on a visit visa, did some visa runs while she searched for a job, and eventually after almost a year she found one that paid Dh2,500 a month. This was early 2007.

The story gives details of her expenses and lifestyle. She shares a room with seven others, eats cheap take-away lunches, buys storeable food to cook at home, such as canned goods and rice, rarely goes out.

She not only lives on the Dh2,500 a month, she saves between 20% and 40% of it and is helping her brother buy a property back home. The story tells us that in three years she has almost fully paid the equity line on the new home, which is equivalent to 19 per cent of the property value. "I'm almost down to a zero balance. And I did it without borrowing money! I paid the equity line in cash".

On a salary of Dh2,500 a month.

The story ends with the fact that it's not the lifestyle she dreamed of before she moved to Dubai, with its prospect of a high salary.

On the other hand, she hasn't gone back to the Philippines so the assumption has to be that she's yet another person doing better here than she would back home. She's able to live, to save, to buy a house.

It explains my 'it depends where you're from' answer to the question of 'how much do I need'.

Let's take Diane's current Dh2,500 a month and look at it from others' perspective.

No way in the world would an Aussie be prepared to live as Diane does - nor would a Brit, an American or many, many others. Share a room with seven others? Not on your life. We'd be so much better off back home.

We wouldn't be able to live on Dh2,500 a month, let alone save. It's about A$785, or GBP435, or US$680.

We wouldn't accept that kind of money anyway, a fraction of our 'back home' salary. Again, we'd be much better off back home.

On her small salary Diane's able to buy a house back home. To do the same thing an expat Sydneysider buying a house at the median price of A$630,000 (over Dh2 million) would be paying about Dh13,000 a month on a mortgage.

To live to a standard we're prepared to accept and be able to provide exactly the same things for when we go back to our home countries, it depends where you come from.

The Gulf News story gives an insight into what a lowly paid worker can do with a small salary and it gives some typical salary ranges for various job functions.

Gulf News has it here.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Some good news for Dubai

We're no longer Top Ten, which for once is good news.

This Top Ten is a list of the cities with the world's most expensive hotels. Dubai has been at or close to the top for expensive hotels for some time.

Now we're not even in the Top Ten according to the report of a survey I found in The Daily Telegraph.

World's most expensive cities for hotels

Moscow £266.56

Abu Dhabi £223.35

New York City £203.70

Paris £201.07

Manama (Bahrain) £189.36

Milan £185.73

Geneva £185.19

Copenhagen £182.74

Washington £179.53

Athens £177.81

Friday, February 05, 2010

Sponsorship system under review?

What a massive change it would be if the much criticised employer sponsorship system under which expatriates work and live in the UAE was replaced by a new system.

Well, it could happen according to Gulf News, which reports that the current system is under review.

They're quoting a 'cabinet source' as saying that cabinet is discussing a new employment system for expatriates, proposed by the Ministry of Labour.

On the same subject, a couple of days ago the president of the Emirates Human Rights Authority said that the Ministry of Labour is expected to approve "a new system to replace the sponsorship system" by year's end.

There are no details of what's being discussed and there's been no official comment or confirmation so we'll just have to wait and see.

There's another report on labour conditions in The National today too, which has me confused.

The report says:

"New York University has demanded a sweeping set of rights for workers hired to build its Saadiyat Island campus.

The university and its Abu Dhabi Government partner said workers must be allowed to keep their passports, receive 30 days annual leave and not be left indebted to recruiters. Foreign employees must also receive medical insurance and an airline ticket home each year.

Employers must pay or reimburse fees for requirements such as visas and medical examinations.

Wages will be paid on time by electronic transfer."

Now I know that those things are often not provided by employers, especially in the construction industry, but I thought they were part of the Labour Law anyway, which a quick search seems to confirm. For example:

The maximum prescribed working hours for an adult employee is eight hours per day or forty-eight hours per week.

For every year of service, an employee is entitled to annual leave of not less than the following:
1. Two days leave for every month if his service is more than six months and less than one year.
2. A minimum of thirty days annually, if his service exceeds one year.

At the end of the contract the employer is responsible for the repatriation expenses of the employee to the place of recruitment or to any other place which the two parties have agreed upon.

I found that here.

In addition, keeping passports is illegal, employers have to pay for visas, salaries have to be paid by electronic transfer and Abu Dhabi made providing medical insurance for expat workers obligatory a while ago, didn't they?

It would seem that the 'sweeping set of rights being demanded' are already covered by the law. All it needs is enforcement, and as the government is a partner in the development surely that won't be an issue...

Then to the other bit I don't understand:

"Recruitment specialists said the demands were unrealistic."


So as I read it the developers, NYU and the Abu Dhabi government, are demanding that contractors abide by the law. But recruitment specialists say that's unrealistic.

Not for the first time, I'm left confused.

Gulf News.
The National.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

It's never that simple

A couple of reports recently from Oz prompt me to post again about the attacks on Indians in Victoria.

I posted a couple of times last year, when the media frenzy in India seemed to be at its peak.

The theme was that Indians were being targeted in racially motivated attacks. There were the inevitable protests on the streets, effigy burning, government discussions at the highest level, calls for Indians to boycott Australia because it's so unsafe, the Indian government issuing a travel warning.

Of course, like everything, it's not that simple.

I don't doubt that some of the attacks were racially motivated. Morons, usually young males, usually with the bravery that comes from being in a group and often drunk, attacking lone walkers after dark.

But then you look at context.

According to the Victorian police, in 2007/08, 1,447 people of Indian origin were victims of crimes against the person such as robberies and assaults. This compared to 24,260 Caucasian victims and 36,765 victims overall.

The police go on to say that a lot of international students work and study late at night and are often travelling home by themselves on trains, equipped with their laptops and phones. That makes them much easier soft targets than the average person.

Then to the two recent reports.

At the end of December Ranjodh Singh was stabbed repeatedly and then set on fire. Another racially motivated attack?

At the end of last week it was reported:

"In a new twist to the 'horrific' murder of Indian youth Ranjodh Singh, whose partially charred body was found from the city of Griffith Dec 29, Australian police Thursday arrested an Indian couple in the case and said the victim was burnt alive. Police charged a 23-year-old Indian man and his wife with murder."

An Indian couple.

The report is here.

Early in January we also had:

"In yet another attack targeting Indians in Australia, a 29-year-old man from the country was set on fire by four assailants, drawing strong condemnation from a student body which called such assaults unacceptable and asked authorities not to "dodge" the issue."

The Times of India reports that story here.

Today's report:

"AN Indian man who told police he was attacked and set on fire by a gang of four men has been charged with making a false report to authorities and criminal damage for financial gain."

It was an insurance scam.

That story's here.

As I said, things are always more complicated than the knee-jerk reaction would have us believe.

Monday, February 01, 2010