Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hi Dubai, Bye Dubai

Dubai has really changed in only a month or two, and all because of the global financial turmoil.

I had a coordination meeting last Thursday at another sister company that I used to be part of. I was among the original team members (4 of us) who did almost everything to deliver our tasks on time while learning to adapt the new strange environment.

This company like the rest of Dubai before turmoil has grown tremendously into more than 300 staff within 4 years. I left for another new set up (my present workplace) for new challenges.

Last Thursday, 4 huge buildings seemed eerie when half of the staff was retrenched recently. Few good former colleagues were among the casualties. Finding another job for the unfortunate souls could prove a challenge, as most real estate and property development companies have been shedding employees all over Dubai.
In the past two months, Nakheel, my current employer and the development company owned by the Dubai government, laid off more than 500 workers. Emaar made 100 workers redundant, while Omniyat Properties reduced its staff by 69 people and Tameer by 180.

However, in a flip of the coin, the retrenchments have been good for relocation business which in November and December increased by almost 40 per cent from the comparable period last year. More and more customers a month leaving the UAE to return to home sweet home even though they may face unemployment.
Many of them are keeping their belongings in storage as they wait, often in vain, for jobs to open up in their country of origin.

The landscape has changed, unlike before, there were people leaving, but it was a decision they had made. But over the last three or four weeks, those decisions are being made on people’s behalf, whether it is companies making redundancies or people not quite sure what is coming and downsizing. There are an awful lot of people that just never expected this to happen, and when the initial talk of the credit crunch emerged, people did not think it was going to affect them here. And, all of a sudden, it has – and quite dramatically.

People leaving have generally been middle-management employees of property and construction companies, as well as financial institutions. British expatriates have been the hardest hit, followed by Americans and Australians. Malaysians are also hit in growing number.

A lot of people are going back home because they are forced to. They don’t want to, there is nothing lined up, and the door has shut on them. Some are in debt for enjoying good life in Dubai and left before they were caught at the departure halls for not paying their dues.
People are also asking to leave their tenancy agreements early, which used to happen only rarely in Dubai.

Most lay-offs are from contracting companies, building companies, architects and so on. None of them has been here very long, maybe even less than a year. It is a big shock for these people unfortunately, but it is the only way to remedy the problem that besieging Dubai.

In addition to those leaving, leasing to new people has almost ground to a halt. People are waiting for prices to go down, and very, very few places are being leased at the moment.

I am also looking around for a new home in Dubai as my landlord refuses to renew the lease, but we may see each other in the court of Dubai rent committe soon!