26 December, 2009

Bahrain: World's Friendliest Country

The Middle East has long had a reputation for being one of the world's perennial trouble spots. But for expatriates, the tiny Persian Gulf county Bahrain ranks as one of the most welcoming places to work.

That's the surprising result of a new survey of 3,100 expatriates conducted by HSBC Bank ( HBC- news - people ). Bahrain ranked first in one key measure of how easy it is for expatriates to set up a new life for their families. It received high marks from expats who like the country's easy access to modern health care, decent and affordable housing, and network of social groups that expatriates can join.

Full story here.

23 December, 2009

All I want for Christmas is ... an extra 70%!

That's right - an extra 70% in my bank account at the end of each month would be most welcome. But as I was born in the wrong part of the world, and hold the wrong passport, all I can do is write a letter to Santa and hope! (Read the story here if you've been asleep for the past few days.)

However, my hard-working Emirati colleagues have been blessed already it seems, as they'll be receiving an enormous pay increase - without having to do any extra work to get it! Seeing as it's doubtful whether they do any work anyway, I don't suppose we'll see an increase in productivity, either. After all, 70% of not very much is ... well, not very much.

But I'm still wondering - will there be a 70% rise in Emirati absenteeism? Will they be drinking 70% more tea, and taking 70% more personal calls on their phones at work? And will those nice ladies at the Vehicle Registrations place be 70% more ineffective? One can only look forward to a whole range of possible surprises. Or not.

As one who has to jump through loads of hoops and fill in piles of paperwork to get even a 2% annual increase from my stingy federal employer, I feel I have a right to be peeved. But how do others feel - expats and locals? Please leave your thoughts below.

And any comments that comtain the yawning cliche "if you don't like it, go back home" will be automatically deleted, so don't waste your time. Those who actually try to justify the rewarding of inefficiency will be welcome.

21 December, 2009

Facebook... Big Brother again?

Can't access it. Not a computer issue or location issue. As far as I can tell Facebook access via Etisalat is down. Are they up to their block shenanigans again? Probably. I can confirm that it is possible to access Facebook in a roundabout way which I prefer not to elaborate on, so that suggests that there is no problem with Facebook itself.

Any New Dubai residents on the Du network care to comment? Are you guys still getting Facebook?

Fan pictures of Abu Dhabi 2009 FIFA Club World Cup

Last week was an action-packed one with Barcelona playing Estudiantes de la Plata of Argentina at the Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi at the UAE 2009 FIFA Club World Cup.


While pictures of the players are all over the news, here are images of what it felt like to be among the fans and watch the game live...

Fans arrive all geared up for action in an Abu Dhabi public bus

Isn't that the sweetest fan - loyal RCA supporter!

The best seat in the house - view from the top

FIFA Club World Cup Final Abu Dhabi UAE
The one face that I will remember from my visit to the Abu Dhabi 2009 FIFA Club World Cup.

You are more than welcome to see more amazing fan pictures on my copywriter blog.

17 December, 2009

City Center opens in Las Vegas

"CityCenter" has opened in Las Vegas yesterday. No, not the CityCenter Mall as we know it in the region; rather the kind of one, where you go in, spend your money and usually get nothing much in return.
Further to the last post on this topic and after all the financial turmoil Dubai is going through, I find the timing and price tag of the project rather ironic. Not any less ironic is the title used in the Media "reviving sin city's economy".  Watch the Bloomberg video here.

See the firework on the opening night of the MGM Mirage  - Dubai World joint venture:

14 December, 2009

Scientologist in the UAE

As the gibber goes on about UAE culture, they oughta had the CID at the Sharjah book fair, last month. His, could be fake holiness, L. Ron Hubbard of Dianetics, the science of the mind that has Will Smith and Jada Pinkett looking all glassy-eyed has arrived in the Gulf and they are taking no prisioners.

Posing as two education institute, called Applied Scholastics and The Way to Happiness, they were raking it in at the Bookfair, as everyone wondered "how did they get in?" When approached some officials said the didn't know, others said they new, but kept mum, while others said, they do the same in Arabic. But in UAE, of course anything goes, and one day, this might mean in like those Africans in Mexico, who once ruled, our own Locals will be no more.

Abu Dhabi to the rescue

"The Government of Abu Dhabi has agreed to fund $10 billion to the Dubai Financial Support Fund that will be used to satisfy a series of upcoming obligations on Dubai World.

As a first action for the new fund, the Government of Dubai has authorized $4.1 billion to be used to pay the sukuk obligations that are due today."

That's from a WAM report, which you can read in full here.

10 December, 2009

"UAE urges developed nations to make carbon cuts"

"The UAE made waves at the Copenhagen climate talks yesterday by putting its name to a joint statement calling on developed countries to commit to deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
The document, which was also signed by Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Iceland, Singapore and Slovenia, is one of the strongest statements on climate change to come from an oil-producing nation.
Members of Opec, the petroleum exporters, have generally sought to downplay the issue of global warming.
The UAE has maintained that developing states should not be committed to obligatory emissions cuts, a position reiterated on Sunday by Dr Saad al Numeiri, one of 22 senior officials representing the UAE in Copenhagen.
As an oil-producer, the UAE would suffer economically from measures to reduce the world’s dependence on oil. But yesterday’s statement focused instead on the need to strengthen co-operation among the international community.
Mari Luomi, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, said the statement represented a break with tradition for the UAE. “This is a significant departure from the Opec position, which the UAE has been inadvertently supporting. It is very bold in a way,” she said.
Opec, she said, has been “very vague” on what should be the maximum permissibly level of warming. The Saudi government has insisted on financial compensation for oil revenues lost due to measures to reduce the fossil fuel consumption of developed states."


It's bewildering that the UAE would take such a stance. If a binding 'cap and trade' agreement for emissions gets endorsed by the Copenhagen conference, it may lead to declining consumption of oil world-wide.

It's a little counterintuitive for an oil-producing country to support such a move.

But it's also noteworthy that the UAE "maintained that developing states should not be committed to obligatory emissions cuts", which means that it'd only be limited to developed nations. In other words, it's business as usual for China and it'll continue to emit smoke like a chimney.

So, simply put, the final agreement will either be insignificant, or it will be stalled by developed nations.

Have a nice weekend.

The first Domino

Surprisingly our local newspapers seem to have missed this story yesterday. Never mind, we at the UAE community blog are happy to assist them with the dissemination of relevant news.

According to this report by Dow Jones Newswire (printed in the Wall Street Journal Asia online edition and picked up by Zawya.com), Istithmar World (Dubai World’s investment vehicle) defaulted on loan payments on a hotel investment in NYC in October, which led to a foreclosure auction a few days ago where they got $2 million for their equity in the property.

The whole thing is terribly complicated and involves ‘junior debt’ and ‘mezzanine financing’ etc. but this really just obfuscates the issue. Let’s ignore debts and defaults for a minute and simply look at the bottom line. Which, I think, is the whole point of investing after all.

According to the article, “[I]stithmar spent about $50 million in cash and borrowed $232 million to buy a 90% stake in the trophy hotel in October 2006. In June, Istithmar bought the remaining stake from UBS AG for about $4 million”.

So, Istithmar spent more than $50 million in cash and got back $2 million for their stake at the auction.
OK, someone will pick up the debt and with it, loads of negative equity because the value of the property is now less than half of what Istithmar (and their lenders) paid three years ago at the height of the market. But the bottomline is that Istithmar put more than $48 million in the sand in the space of three years. And this - involving New York City prime property and not, say, a reclaimed lump of sand in the the Persian Gulf - is quite an achievement for an investment firm. (You have to remember here that Istithmar means ‘investment’ in Arabic and not as you might think perhaps ‘reckless and shortsighted debt splurge’.)

As the saying goes: the money is in the buying. Clever investing means not to overpay.

The first Domino has fallen.

By the way, the report makes a mistake by muddling up Dubai World with Dubai Holding. Its closing paragraph states that “[D]ubai World is expected to sell some non-core assets including Central Park South landmark the Jumeirah Essex House..”
Jumeirah Group (which owns and manages Essex House) is of course part of Dubai Holding, Sheikh Mohammed’s personal investment holding company. It has nothing to do with Dubai World other than the name Dubai in it and the fact that ultimately one man controls everything.

Ehm, you can clearly see the difference...

08 December, 2009

Burning the candle at both ends

I read in the local press about a Dubai resident who is organizing a ‘candle light vigil’ on Umm Suqueim beach tonight to raise awareness for climate change. But actually, she doesn’t want to just light candles. What she really wants is to save the planet. The organizer encourages people to bring along families and friends. To save the planet or light candles; I’m not sure which.

I believe you’ll find that you don’t actually need candles on the beach next to Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Burj Al Arab. The area is usually well lit by several thousands of metal halide floodlights of the hotel grounds, so ‘Hopenhagen’ won’t have trouble finding its way here.

But anyway you should go and help her light a candle. You know deep down that you are making a difference. For example to the small grocery on Beach road that sells candles.

And when you reach there please note that there is ample parking for your 4.8litre Range Rovers and 5.6litre Ford Exhibitions close by.

07 December, 2009

An honest start to keep Happy "happy"!

‘Happy to be in Dubai; I’ve a better life here’ – says Ms. Happy Bulosan (not her real name), a 22 year-old Filipina resident from Dubai. She and her name – Happy – represent the general state of mind of an estimated 2 million+ Filipinos working in the Middle East. Usually, whatever the time of the day or the place, if you come across a Filipino in the UAE / Middle East, you’d definitely find yourself being charmed by his/her good sense of simple humor, colorful, decent and stylish dress sense, and overall a “Happy-go-Lucky” attitude towards life in general.... (Read On)

For comments on the original post, CLICK HERE

06 December, 2009

What is Abu Dhabi's thinking?

He's back.

The man with his own UAE community blog category has added his voice to the speculation about what the Dubai default ways about relations between Abu Dhabi and Dubai:
The answer to this conundrum lies in both the past and the present, as an age-old rivalry has resurfaced that sees Dubai unwilling to part with its autonomy and come to the table. Dubai, after it broke away from the sheikhdom of Abu Dhabi in 1833, survived repeated attempts at reintegration only because of its peace treaties with Britain. Even in the 1940s, with Britain fully engaged in the second world war and less able to give attention to the region, there was an armed conflict between the two sheikhdoms. In 1979, just eight years after the UAE was formed, a constitutional crisis threatened to break the UAE apart, with Dubai resentful of increasing Abu Dhabi-led centralisation. It is remarkable that Dubai agreed to merge its armed forces - the Dubai Defence Force - into the federal military only in 1996.

In the light of this history of some tension, Abu Dhabi has taken an unexpectedly shrewd stance on the financial disaster. Its thinking appears to be that Dubai’s bad debts really are bad, and could well end up becoming black holes. Moreover, if Abu Dhabi gets involved now, then the lawsuits that will almost certainly be coming Dubai’s way may land on the desks of the federal government or even those of Abu Dhabi.

There is a deeper point. Sheikh Mohammed, his crown prince, and his top lieutenants are now all exposed as having long circumvented the truth; as a result, the ruling family has suffered a massive loss of legitimacy, both internationally and in the eyes of Dubai’s business elite and citizenry. Yet at the time of writing there have been no signs of humility; on the contrary, the ruler stated on 1 December that investors “do not understand anything”.
Read it all.

Christopher Davidson has not always been popular with either ruling family, but he's a favorite of the reporter looking for a quote.

04 December, 2009

Vote for Dubai in before and after contest

As we all know, the 2005 shot is so dated compared to today. Even so, take a look and compare it to the other eleven cities in the contest.

03 December, 2009

Family of murdered boy: 'Execute the killer'

Parents of four-year-old boy who was raped and killed seeks death for the murderer.

Dubai: Residents of Al Qusais were in shock over the gruesome rape and murder of a four-year-old Pakistani boy inside the toilet of a mosque where his father prays regularly.

The parents of Mousa - who was found dead on November 27 - said they do not want "diya" or blood money.

The father, Mukhtiar Ahmad Khuda, 30, a driver for Ahmad Eisa Ali General Trading, said that he will accept nothing less than capital punishment for the murderer. "I hope he gets executed," said Jamala Khatoun, Mousa's mother.

Police detained a Bahraini suspect, 30, who they said confessed during interrogation that he killed the boy after sexually assaulting him. He told police he had been drinking alcohol on the night before Eid.
 Read the whole article here.