Saturday, January 31, 2009
From the National
As people across the globe continue to endure the slog of what appears to be a long recession in the making, plenty of expatriate professionals in the UAE are feeling the pinch, too. It’s hard to gauge the human toll of the crisis exactly because few official figures are available, but so far at least a thousand people have been laid off in companies in the property sector alone, and expatriates in other industries – recruitment, construction, consulting and advertising among them – are said to be facing cutbacks as well.
Khaled – he declined to give his real name – saw the shift in fortunes firsthand. He moved to the UAE five months ago to work at a trading company in Dubai, and quickly started to notice the deepening effects of the global economic crisis on the spend-it-and-forget-it consumer culture of the Middle East’s star city. An auto enthusiast, Khaled first noticed that new models stopped appearing at a Mercedes-Benz dealership on his way to work, a stark contrast to the rapid turnaround he’d seen mere weeks before. Then, he says, his friends started losing their jobs or having to take massive pay cuts.
“I have a group of American friends here and some English guys, and they all live in the same building in the Marina,” he said. “Three people have a job out of 22. If you really want to know how bad it is, you need to go speak to people in these buildings.”
While that assessment may appear bleak, Khaled and many other expats in the UAE still see a silver-tinted lining on these dark clouds. The UAE has been in the throes of an unprecedented boom for the past few years, they say, and a return to a more sane rate of growth was inevitable – and in the end, healthy.
As companies and expatriate residents of the UAE formulate plans to cope with the new realities forced upon them by the economic slowdown, the hope is that tighter times will engender a culture of higher efficiency and less waste. More meat and less fat, in other words.
This mix of optimism and pessimism showed up starkly in a recent survey conducted by the Pan Arab Research Center for Zurich International Life, an insurer with offices in Dubai. In the survey, 500 white-collar expatriates in the UAE were asked a series of questions about their stances towards their finances and perceptions about the economy and job security in the wake of the financial crisis.
“We are all feeling a bit of pain, there is more uncertainty around, and people have seen job redundancies and are worried about their job security,” said Carlos Sabugueiro, Zurich’s CEO in the Middle East. “But despite people feeling insecure, people felt this was the best place to be going forward because they were more confident about its long-term prospects. Short term it’s painful, however medium- to long-term this is a place that people are confident will recover better than most.”
Indeed, roughly 3 in 4 expatriates said they sensed serious worry among their colleagues about job losses. Yet an almost equal fraction said they planned to “sit tight” in the Gulf during the financial crisis because of the region’s long-term potential.
“I have a job that is quite good,” said Sharon Luis, one expatriate who plans to wait out the financial crisis in Abu Dhabi, where she works in human resources. “I don’t see leaving the Gulf for the next 10 or 20 years.”
All the talk at the outset of the global downturn focused on the notion that the Emirates were positioned to weather the storm better than the West, where the trouble originated. With today’s tightly interconnected markets for credit and investments, though, that initial optimism gradually morphed into a casual acceptance that what happens in the West can and does affect the economies of the Middle East – and the scores of expatriates who have come here during the past few decades to help build these developing nations into economic behemoths.
About 80 per cent of the population of the UAE is comprised of expatriate workers, though only a small percentage of those are the highly paid, skilled expats that were the subjects of the Zurich survey.
Naturally, most of those expatriate workers appear at least somewhat perturbed by the financial crisis and are making a variety of adjustments to cope with it. Many of them are tightening belts and saving more money in the expectation that things could get worse. As the Zurich survey found, 69 per cent of expatriates are either somewhat worried or extremely worried about not being able to save enough, and an even greater percentage expressed worry about the rising cost of living.
In addition to concentrating on saving, expatriates have reported cancelling holidays, delaying plans to buy cars and thinking twice about investing in property. They have even cutting back on relatively cheap rituals like the morning trip to the local coffee shop in an effort to save money wherever possible.
“I’m spending less nowadays because I don’t know what’s going to happen in one week or two weeks or a few months,” Daryll Rosales said, a document controller in Abu Dhabi. “Right now the economy is not stable, so I have to save for the future or anything that will happen. I have to be ready.”
That falls mostly in line with what the Zurich survey uncovered: while only 38 per cent of expats said they were reining in spending because of the current economic climate, 59 per cent said the financial maelstrom was having a detrimental impact on their lifestyles. Mr Rosales said he has dialled back spending on restaurants and nights out and postponed plans to take scuba diving lessons. He has even started taking Abu Dhabi’s free buses to work to save himself the Dh8 or Dh9 cost of a taxi.
“I’ve been cost-cutting, and my allowance for food and for extra-curricular activities has changed a lot,” he said. “Before I always took the taxi, but now there’s a free bus, and I take the bus.”
Other expatriates remain convinced that Government actions to reinvigorate the economy and the nation’s substantial oil reserves stand to buoy the country in times of crisis – especially Abu Dhabi, which holds the vast majority of the country’s oil reserves.
“Right now I don’t see any expatriates it’s affected,” Jagan Nathan said, a finance manager in Abu Dhabi. “The main reason is Government funding and it’s an oil-rich sector in this part of the world. The way things are going in Abu Dhabi, I expect the boom to continue for another 2 to 3 years, by the time the world recession will subside.
”But while he said the crisis was hardly driving expatriates to the brink – at least in Abu Dhabi – thanks to the emirate’s strong position, Mr Nathan added that he was personally thinking about reducing spending on luxury items and focusing on essentials simply as a measure of prudence as retirement drew nearer.
“There are two criteria in this,” he said. “Number one is that when the world economy is in recession, any prudent person will curtail spending, especially for luxury items they will be [buying] for the family. The second is the age factor. After a certain age, you feel like the value of money is more important and curtail your spending on unnecessary things.”
Other expatriates have been affected by the crisis principally because they are paid in currencies that have depreciated in value against the US dollar, to which the dirham is pegged. The British pound has lost over 30 per cent of its value against the dirham since last year: a pound used to cost Dh7.5; now a pound can be had for Dh5.2. That’s a boon for expatriates from the UK who earn their salaries in dirhams, but for employees of multinationals who make money in pounds, salaries don’t go as far as they used to in the UAE.
“It has affected me because I get paid in Australian dollars, and the Australian dollar has dropped 30 per cent [against the dirham],” said Andrew Oldfield, who works for an Australian tourist company based in Dubai. “So obviously it has affected the way I approach my spending and my saving... I’m not buying as many coffees. So simple things like that. And also travel, when I look at my summer holiday and what I will be doing. I will definitely be travelling to Australia for my holiday.”
Tales abound in Dubai and Abu Dhabi about how expatriates are feeling the effects of a global economic outlook that appears far bleaker than it did just a few months ago. Some have abandoned their cars at airports and returned home; others have defaulted on loans, taken pay cuts or even been shown the door at work. Yet it’s clear that a good portion are steadfastly convinced that things will get better.
In the Zurich survey, 57 per cent said they felt either reasonably confident or extremely confident that global financial markets would improve in the coming year. Another 53 per cent said they were confident about their own finances.“I think the next year will be a crucial point,” Jo Howarth, a secretary from the UK, said. “It may get a little bit worse, then it’s definitely going to start getting better.”
Is she optimistic in the long term?“Very,” she said. “You have to be.”
At the end of January each year, the world’s business and political elite gather in the Swiss resort town of Davos to discuss the economic and political challenges facing the world. The forum’s primary objective has been to promote a global policy agenda fostering innovation, free trade and deregulated markets as a panacea for economic growth.
There are three questions that have dominated this year’s summit: how did we get ourselves into an economic crisis of such unimaginable proportions? What will reignite the engine of global growth? Lastly, what is the best reform prescription for future economic governance?
As controversial as it sounds, Dubai may provide the answers.
In the eyes of some observers, Dubai is the archetypal example of an asset bubble. According to its critics, dramatic construction projects represent a self-inflicted plight to keep the momentum going – often beyond real demand.
The “build and they will come” ethos has been the foundation of Dubai’s success ever since the deepening of the Creek’s shallow waters allowed the city to emerge as one of the world’s leading port operators competing head-to-head with Rotterdam and Singapore.
But the global credit shock has exposed Dubai’s dependency on outside finance, non-oil economic diversification and an influx of expatriate talent. Indeed, during the past 10 years, Dubai has become the spiritual home for a rootless can-do generation.
The title of my book, Generation Dubai: Exit, Voice and Loyalty, captures how Dubai has set the template for an emerging generation, one concerned with economic emancipation. It is a generation indifferent to location, religion or, to some degree, government. This generation has opted to migrate from overtaxed and over-regulated western market democracies to a city promising a more prosperous future.
The entrepreneurs of Dubai have an uncompromised pragmatism which has little loyalty to any economic system, place or ideology. Their mission is to conquer and move beyond conventional boundaries.
The view from Dubai notes that the mature democratic system of the West has been allowed to rust by lobbyists and politicians who group around single causes. Instead of placing an imperative on private wealth creation, personal self-fulfilment and competitive public services, the western business model has been found lacking in countries like the United Kingdom and America.
A country’s long-term economic prosperity is dependent on openness, low taxation and long-term growth based on public-private partnership. Bureaucratic reflexes, however, suffocate all these elements of economic competitiveness. One consequence of the credit crisis will see the imposition of more legislation on the business world. But more regulation alone cannot be the answer. There is also the added danger that the biggest casualty of the credit crisis will be the retrenchment of the private sector.
At a time when the world appears to be in search for substance and certainty, it may seem counterintuitive to look towards Dubai for a blueprint to reignite growth. But Dubai’s rapid economic development can shed some light on the subject. Low taxation and free-trade zones have been critical to Dubai’s economic success since the 19th century, when discontented Persians left their home country to pursue their trade in the non-invasive business environment that Dubai had to offer.
Western democracies must neutralise offshore tax havens through competitiveness. This should allow the reallocation of resources that are currently spent on tax mitigation and law enforcement. Resistance will be overwhelming and few politicians are prepared to risk their career. But tax reductions alone as a measure to stimulate the economy are futile in the long-term. Interest rates and taxes will have to rise eventually to finance a growing budget deficit.
Dubai’s success is based on the understanding that long-term investments will pay off as they provide the basis for sustainable economic growth.
In the absence of large oil reserves, the city has engaged the private sector for financing by way of providing an adequate regulatory framework securing financial returns. Competitive public transport, health and education systems require enormous amounts of capital that governments cannot finance on their own.
As Dubai has shown, the private sector must play a pivotal role in this; it not only improves resource allocation but will allow the lowering of taxes. Today’s global economy is at the heart of Dubai’s success. Elsewhere, though, there is a real risk that a global economic slowdown will revive protectionism. The Doha round of trade talks appears to have failed. World leaders should commit to a more open economy which is likely to generate sustainable growth.
Political leadership has to be prepared to dare the improbable – as Dubai once did to survive.The frustrations of those who live in the West – the number is likely to increase as a result of the evolving economic crisis – is directed against capitalism’s modern bête noire: globalisation and high finance.
The true culprit, however, is a political system that has belittled the individual to a level where self-confidence and faith in the future have been compromised by the politics of fear. Generation Dubai is counter-reactionary.
As millions across the world turn against the financial services sector, there is a danger of a serious mental setback in our approach to business. What is challenged is our collective readiness to question, to dare and to risk in unchartered territories. In modern times few places other than Dubai have demonstrated this so memorably; the city aspires to the improbable.
Whether Dubai will eventually fall victim to an asset bubble will be a topical question for some time. The city is well positioned to navigate a path through the stormy economic challenges ahead of us, in particular with Abu Dhabi’s strong financial backing.
As the financial centres of London and New York struggle to overcome their problems, Dubai can take the initiative. Islamic finance is set to take an increasing share of the global banking market. And the world’s economic epicentre has shifted eastward. While capital flow from the West to countries such as India, Pakistan and Russia will slow over the next one or two years, Dubai will emerge stronger. Dubai has substance in its own right – the credit crisis will be a good opportunity to prove it.
The world is about to radically change. Generation Dubai is redefining all notions of aspiration. We will not overcome the challenges we face today unless we are prepared to question our blind faith in the market democracy as it currently stands.
Bijan Khezri is a corporate financier and author of Generation Dubai: Exit, Voice and Loyalty, published by Khezri Collection.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Mereka menyerahkan memorandum bantahan terhadap tindakan SPRM, yang didakwa keterlaluan dan kasar semasa menyoal siasat 39 orang berhubung politik wang di Pahang baru-baru ini.
Jurucakap kumpulan berkenaan, Zuraidi Abdul Rahim iaitu perwakilan dari Baling berkata, tindakan SPRM itu telah mencemarkan imej mereka.
Beliau mendakwa mewakili kira-kira 2,500 anggota Pemuda.
"Dua atau tiga orang daripada mereka telah membuat laporan polis," kata beliau kepada wartawan di sini malam ini.
Kumpulan itu berhimpun di pekarangan Menara Dato Onn di sini dengan membawa sepanduk tertera mesej "Lembaga disiplin sudah nyanyuk", "Jangan ambil hak ahli Umno" dan "Kami menolak SPRM, boleh blah".
KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has lodged a report to counter allegations that an Umno division leader was assaulted by MACC officers during detention.
Earlier, the 46-year-old division leader from Maran, Pahang, reported that he was punched in the head, shoulder and stomach during his four-day remand in Kuantan.
He also claimed that he was forced to strip naked, lie and roll on the floor besides being asked to do squats and sing the national anthem repeatedly.
In his report, he also claimed an officer pressed him against the wall and threatened to arrest his wife and ask her to strip if he refused to confess that he had handed money to Umno members.
He lodged his report at the Damansara police station Thursday.
MACC deputy commissioner Datuk Abu Kassim Mohammad said the MACC had lodged a report against the Umno leader for allegedly lodging a false report.
“Before being released, he told us that he will lodge a report and smear MACC’s image, so we waited for him to lodge a report before we ourselves lodged a report.
“We want the police to thoroughly investigate the man’s allegations against our officer and if there is any evidence that the MACC officers had abused or assaulted him, then the police must take action.
“However if there is no such thing, the police must take action against him for lodging a false report,” he said.
Abu Kassim also said that the MACC investigation into money politics involving the Umno leader would continue without fear or favour.
Related story:Umno members protest MACC, disciplinary board actions
The Edge Financial Daily says
Can Umno save itself from corruption?
CAN Umno save itself from corruption? It is telling that Umno disciplinary board chairman Tan Sri Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Tengku Ismail has called for all the party's wings - Wanita, Youth, Putera and Puteri - to be abolished in order to reduce corruption in the system.
Such a radical message - from a party elder and custodian of its integrity - means that the rot has gone so deep that only the most drastic action can save the organisation from an ignoble fate.
Indeed, it is relevant to ask today whether Umno can salvage its reputation, or whether it is too late for that already.
Harsh as that may sound, the question now reverberates through the public space, since all efforts to rid the party of corruption for over two decades have failed to cure it of the malaise.
What has brought Umno, once the most formidable political force in the country, to its current crisis of credibility?
The answer is simple - the system of checks and balances that can prevent people in power from abusing their positions to reward their supporters is not working.
For Umno to stop corruption from spreading, it must open itself to scrutiny, so that people who are not able to benefit from their proximity to the seat of power can object when favours are granted by the powerful to their family members and friends.
If Umno can rise to the challenge, perhaps there is hope for its political renaissance.
If it cannot, it must live with the taint of money politics, as the scourge of corruption in its ranks has been euphemistically called, and deal with the consequences of its inertia.
Today, the odour of corruption that envelops Umno cannot be masked by the failure of those who make such accusations to provide concrete evidence of the practice. It is well reported that Umno leaders themselves have been loudly complaining about vote-buying for the longest time.
This has become standard fare whenever an Umno election looms, and reports of money politics on a mind-boggling scale have become an inseparable part of the political scenario. Who cannot recall the episode of a candidate for a division chief's post who spent RM6 million in 1995 on his campaign?
In such a milieu, is it possible that Umno leaders at all levels are free of money politics?
Further, with Umno's standing at such a low ebb, how can it hope to renew the Barisan Nasional after the mauling that the coalition received in the last election?
Indeed, the current generation of Umno leaders deserve to apologise to the likes of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Dr Ismail and Tun Hussein Onn, who laid the foundations of the nation's progress, for bringing the political situation to its current abyss.
What for you was the indelible image from the week that America got itself a new President? Was it the benediction — when millions of people bowed their heads in grace and whispered amen?
Was it when a firm hand placed itself on a Bible that had as much history as the moment itself? Was it when the new President called for hope over fear? Or was it the moment of private tenderness between Michelle Obama and her husband as they huddled together on the dance floor? For me, frankly, it wasn’t any of these moments — unforgettable and powerful as they were.
The image that sticks in my mind is far less flamboyant and much more simple. In fact, it’s the day before Barack Obama was sworn in. It’s the memory of him singing along to the strains of American Pie. That single sight epitomised the essence of his presidency. It wasn’t only about youth or change or ousting George Bush. It was also about being one of us — about being a ‘regular guy.’ The cynics may dismiss it as ‘branding’ — but whether it’s the Chili Hot dogs, the basketball dunks or the Blackberry addiction — from the very start Obama has focused on blending a determined ordinariness into his unique political mix.
He has broken down the barriers of formality and hierarchy that separate a people from their politicians.
And it is precisely this, which we most miss in Malaysia. Think about it. Can you ever imagine any of our political leaders being comfortable enough to hum along to the strains of an old Malay film song, if they knew the cameras could catch them? (I add - some of them yes, they love hindi songs and patron karaoke/dangdut clubs)
The couple of them who may — P. Ramlee maybe or Sudirman perhaps — get affectionately stereotyped as ‘entertainers’.
You may wonder why I’m making so much of this singing business. But it’s really music as a metaphor for comfort, ease and accessibility. Even our younger politicians are so ill at ease when it comes to being themselves in public. It’s almost as if an unspoken code of stiff protocol and remote politeness defines the Malaysian neta’s public persona.
Ironic, because as individuals, many of them are among the warmest people I know, happy to engage in the warmth of conversation and the spontaneity of debate. But when they don their politico hat, it’s as if they have been hardwired for primness and the most archaic interpretation of propriety. Some of it has to do with how our political culture has evolved.
Don’t you feel just a little envious when you see Nicholas Sarkozy going for his morning jog through the streets of Paris and not feel any less presidential for it? Or when ordinary Americans can shake hands with their President at street corner rallies?
In Malaysia, even when ‘at homes’ are hosted by let’s say, the sleeping prime minister, to mark big national functions like Hari Kebangsaan, a security cordon separates the really important guests from the less-important ones. Mingling is out of the question unless you line up in a long queue for a brief handshake or namaste. (I add - even in Dubai, our PM had so many UTKs to guard him from the rakyat)
And, while it may sound horribly politically incorrect, here’s the truth: Malaysia’s poor and Malaysia's mega-powerful are the only two categories of people with any chance at direct contact with the political class. Influence peddlers within the business community or the media are of course lucky enough to know their politicians well. And, ironically, the men and women who remain committed voters despite the grinding poverty of their lives may be able to sometimes engage with politicians in a way that is less officious. It’s Malaysia’s middle class that remains outside the circle of contact.
Perhaps they have only themselves to blame. Apolitical mindsets and a knee-jerk and unintelligent antipathy to all politicians in general means they aren’t really entitled to much in the political process. But equally, could their disengagement be turned around by someone who was identifiable; someone they could relate to; someone who was willing to sometimes be one of them?
And no, these new rules of engagement don’t have to be defined by an urbane, upper crust, English-speaking constituency. Accessibility and informality can be communicated in a million different ways that can happily vary from person to person. In the end, it’s all about politics (and politicians) being a little more enthusiastic and a lot friendlier.
That perhaps is Obama’s most charming dimension. Beyond his oratory and his freshness, it is his willingness to be human, even fallible. Through his campaign he did not hesitate in admitting to mistakes.
He wasn’t shy about saying sorry either. Unlike his predecessor’s famous ‘I didn’t inhale’ obfuscations, Obama even admitted to dabbling with marijuana in his younger years, describing it openly as the actions of a ‘confused kid’ who hadn’t grown up. And yet, despite this searing honesty — or maybe because of it — the world embraced him.
Perhaps, it is this that at least a younger generation of politicians needs to imbibe. Gravitas is not defined by how solemn and sedate your public presence is. Integrity will be indexed by your actions.
In any case, in a world where the Internet is swiftly eliminating gatekeepers (for better or for worse) and pushing even Malaysia’s biggest cine stars into direct messaging with their fans, the pressure on Gen-Next politicians to be more open and transparent is only going to increase.
So, you may as well let us get to know you better. And in the meantime, if you sing us a song, we promise you a chorus.
Friday morning is for Malaysian sport.
The 7DAYS letters page has recently been filled with comments from frustrated teens saying there is nothing for them to do in this city.
It’s true, the weather in this part of the world does prohibit a lot of outdoor activity for at least three months of the year, sports can be expensive, and transport to and from clubs, friend’s houses, events and malls is more than likely reliant on parents - how uncool!
But if you dig deep and look further than the usual mall outings and bowling alleys, there is in fact, plenty for teens to do in Dubai. All it takes is a little imagination.
Here are some suggestions to banish boredom:
If having nothing to do quite literally has you climbing the walls, then why not take advantage of this talent and head down to the E-Sports Climbing Academy or the Pharaoh’s Club at Wafi to perfect the art of scaling heights. Both venues have professional climbing walls and expert instructors to show you the ropes, and of course the foot-holes.
Become an eBay whizz kid
Parents are always complaining that they don’t understand computers yet the younger generation are internet experts.
So, get to grips with eBay; make a fortune for your parents and demand your own cut of the profits!
If you manage to make dhs100 for a pair of your mum’s old shoes or flog your dad’s old magazine collection (with permission of course) you’re bound to score points with the folks and collect a tidy sum.
Make the most of the nice weatherIt’s going to be too hot to enjoy outdoor activities soon, so why not get some air in your lungs now?
Ask your parents if they’ll be able to pay for you to go wakeboarding or horseriding. But if money is tight at the moment, get some friends together and play tennis or football on the beach. We live so close to beautiful beaches, but often take them for granted, so celebrate the cooler climate and make the most of the outdoor life.
Do some charity work
Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs takes on young people over the age of 16 to assist and help the children at the centre. The volunteers work from 8am to 1pm so maybe you could put a day off school to good use by signing up for a few hours on a Friday.
Older teens should also note that listing volunteer work on your CV gives you an added advantage when future employees are looking to recruit.
If you and your friends are really bored, why not set up a business doing odd jobs? From washing cars to babysitting or maybe even just doing some dusting (essential in Dubai), if you work out a rate for each job it could be a nice little earner. If you’re a real entrepreneur you could design flyers or set up your own web site to advertise your service.
Get on the ball
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
There are other restrictions of being singles in Dubai. Certain residential areas are not for singles to live even by sharing. Some public parks do not allow singles to enter. Some times, these single males are nuisance with their kind of flirting around.
It is not uncommon to see single males walking by holding hands...well, I guess that's their culture.
The report below is about western single people in Dubai....please read with open mind.
Mingle in the City
Although Dubai is a multicultural melting pot made up of hundreds of different of nationalities, one thing the majority of us have in common is that we’re expats.
And while living in the UAE offers us fantastic opportunities to experience other cultures, learn new languages and customs, it can also mean that close friends and family are thousands of miles away. So just how easy is it to make new friends?
Unfortunately, one of the biggest complaints heard among expats is that it can be difficult to meet new people and establish friendships. This city, which needs to be navigated by car, doesn’t allow for easy interaction; many work long hours and barely see the outside of their office, nevermind mingle with mates, while others grumble that friends have married or moved away in this typically transient society.
After living for two-years in Dubai, Lara Young from the UK, decided that she was going to offer Dubaians an easier way to network and socialise. She set up ‘Single in the City’ (SITC) - Dubai’s first networking and events company that gives the unattached in the city the opportunity to try out new hobbies, meet like-minded friends and get together at weekly organised events, including karaoke nights, salsa dance lessons, art classes, sports and more.
“In the last two years of living in Dubai, I always went out to the same places with the same people,” says Lara. “I found it really hard to meet new people and was sick of going to the same hotels and bars. So I thought I’d create something like a Facebook, where you can meet people but also have the end result of bringing them together.
“I saw a real need for SITC here. Many of us are in the same boat: expatriate, away from friends and family, and working hard,” says Lara. “SITC is a way of trying to bring this community of people together at interesting events and enabling them to network and make like-minded friends.”
There are things to do in Dubai, but Lara says as a single person it’s never as much fun, so the idea behind SITC is to give people the opportunity to do things together as a group, which is more interesting.
“Single in the City is for people who are looking to broaden their social circle - and there is nothing wrong with that. But we are not a dating service - in no way, shape or form a dating service,” stresses Lara.
Dubai is reportedly one of the top cities in the world for the use of social network sites, so people here are obviously keen to interact. It’s no surprise then that in the six weeks since SITC launched, over 2,000 members have signed up.SITC member, Alexandre Sivirichi, 23, from New York, says that he finds it hard to make friends in Dubai because it’s a very isolated city.
“There are not many options apart from hotel restaurants, bars and clubs to have a drink at and socialise. I tend to go out with my co-workers. I think people stick to themselves more here than in New York.”
Elodie Calvet, 29, from Paris blames Dubai’s ‘superficiality’ for her difficulties making good friends. “It is not difficult to meet people in Dubai, but it is difficult to meet ‘good’ people. “It is a very superficial city and people play roles. You need to fit in the mould,” says Elodie. “Joining SITC means I can meet lots more new people. It is great to have fun activities organised; the last karaoke night was a lot of fun.”
For Max, 28, from London, the fact that many of his friends are now married, and settled, led him to check out SITC.
“I think if SITC can create a real fun single social community that would be great for me and many others like me in Dubai,” says Max. “I’d hope they can deliver on bringing us new and exciting places/things to do; things that get people out of their comfort zone and away from hotel bars,” he adds.
Mingle if you’re single
From fancy gala dinners, private parties, lively karaoke nights, wine tasting evenings, sports outings, book club debates or even a round of golf - each week Single in the City organises events for members to attend. It is free to sign up as a ‘silver’ member, however, ‘pearl’ and ‘diamond’ membership categories charge an annual fee.
For more information log on to www.singleinthecity.ae
A total of 2,763 individuals - 1,869 of them women - from 72 countries embraced Islam in 2008, an increase of 71 percent over 2007, according to figures released by the Islamic affairs and charitable activities department.
Announcing the data Dr Hamad bin Al Sheikh Al Shaibani, director general of the department, said: ''We are delivering our message properly by spreading Islamic culture and instilling national identity through giving greater attention to mosques, holy Quran sciences, Islamic heritage, research fatwa and charity works.”
The Islamic message was being delivered through a moderate school of Islam by highly qualified and conversant individuals using the most advanced methodologies, he added.
''We are lending special care to new Muslims, providing them with all they need from audio-visual materials, books, lectures and training programmes in all languages so as to become true Muslims,” Al Shaibani said.
See the interview in English on the Video Forum at http://evideo.alarabiya.net
“My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy,” Obama told Al Arabiya’s Hisham Melhem in an interview broadcast Tuesday morning.
During the presidential election campaign last year, Obama vowed to improve U.S. ties with the Muslim world and after he won promised to give a speech in a Muslim capital in his first 100 days in office. The President repeated this pledge in the interview but did not give a time or specify the venue.
Following terrorist threats, Yemeni security personnel stop a car in a street nearby the US embassy in Sana'a on Tuesday. Mohammed al Qadhi / The National
Mohammed al Qadhi, Foreign Correspondent
SANA’A // An announcement that Saudi and Yemeni militants have joined forces has sparked concern that al Qa’eda has regrouped and is gearing up for a new wave of attacks.
“I expect that this year will be the year of al Qa’eda. The militants started strongly by releasing a videotape and merging Saudi and Yemeni cells into one group,” said Abdulellah Haidar, a Yemeni journalist who specialises in al Qa’eda and Islamic movements.
“I do, therefore, expect this year will witness a series of attacks for al Qa’eda against key installations, mainly oil and foreign interests. This has been very clear in their new videotape.”
In the videotape, posted last Friday on the internet, al Qa’eda announced that Said Ali al Shihri, a Saudi national recently released from Guantanamo Bay after spending nearly six years inside the US prison camp, is now the No 2 of al Qa’eda in the Arabian Peninsula, which groups militants in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
The announcement came as Barack Obama, the new US president, ordered the detention facility closed within a year. Haidar, who interviewed the group’s leader, Nasser al Wahishi, about 10 days ago at an undisclosed location, said the appearance of the leaders in the video without covering their faces demonstrated a challenge to both Yemeni and Saudi regimes.
“When such people wanted by the intelligence uncover their faces, it means they are strong and that nobody can reach them. I have met them and spoke to them. They were confident of their ability. I also saw [during the interview] a number of young militants in their twenties from different nationalities, including Saudis. The government announces every now and then new arrests, but what I have seen shows these people are recruiting more and more fighters,” Haidar said.
The involvement of Mr al Shihri in the group demonstrates they are no longer local but involving militants from different nationalities. The government announced last week it had shut down a new cell that was plotting an attack. One of those killed was a Saudi national, it said.
“A Saudi plot to launch attack in Sana’a means a lot. This indicates what is coming will be worse and that they will hit from Sana’a to Riyadh,” Haidar said. Haider’s interview with Mr al Wahishi was published in the weekly Annass newspaper on Monday.
During the interview, Mr al Wahishi said they would attack oil facilities and western interests, tourists and even soldiers protecting these installations. Naser al Bahri, a former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, said these threats should be taken seriously.
“These people will carry out painful attacks. They have announced that they will and they must carry them out or they will lose credibility with their funding agencies. They might carry out assassinations against foreigners and key security officials as well as oil installations,” said Mr al Bahri, who was imprisoned after the USS Cole attack in Aden in 2000 and was released after renouncing violence.
He said a group of former al Qa’eda militants plans to meet with the militants to convince them to renounce violence.
“Danger is looming as these people will use the loose security situation in Yemen, unlike in Saudi Arabia, to carry out attacks. We have a plan to conduct dialogue with them to calm down this tense situation,” Mr al Bahri said.Haidar said he believes the message in the videotape also hoped to exploit the conflict in Gaza in an attempt to win support.
“Many people went to the streets across the region, demanding jihad against Israel. This group offers the option as it recruits new militants under the pretext of fighting infidels. In this way, they will be able to recruit more militants,” he said. He also said al Qa’eda is able to make use of the instability in Yemen, where the government is facing unrest in the north and south, a political storm and increasing economic hardship.
Four days after the release of the tape, the US Embassy in Sana’a said it had received terrorist threats. Streets leading to the embassy were closed and security around other embassies and key installations was tightened. That night, shots were fired between Yemeni security forces and unknown gunmen, an embassy spokesman said.
The interior ministry said the shooting had nothing to do with the threat on the embassy. The government has not commented on the latest video. Yemen suffered a series of terrorist attacks in 2008 mostly targeting foreigners and embassies, including the Sept 17 attack on the US Embassy that killed 18 people.
Normally, in this part of the world, iqamah (start of prayer) has certain period after the azan, such as 30 mins after azan for fajr (subuh), 20 mins for zuhr, asr and isha', 5 min for maghrib.
Within 2 km radius from my house, there are 5 mosques and still sometimes....it is good to hear the iqamah before driving/running to the mosque..then again, Dubai still allows iqamah
Start of prayer broadcast cancelled
ABU DHABI // The loudspeaker announcements signalling the start of prayer have been cancelled by the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf). The call for iqamat-as-salat, which signals the beginning of the congregational prayers for Muslims, is no longer being relayed from speakers at mosques in the city of Abu Dhabi.
In a statement issued yesterday, Awqaf said the iqama call had been cancelled to stop worshippers running to the mosque at the last minute. The appropriate way to go to the mosque was to walk slowly and with purpose at the sounding of the azan, or call to prayer, it said.
“It is sufficient for the iqama to take place inside the mosque, without it being broadcast,” the statement read. “The iqama is for the benefit of those already present inside the mosque … and scholars agree that the iqama should be delivered at a softer, quieter voice than the call to prayer.”
The purpose for the iqama is to help the imam lead worshippers inside a mosque so that everyone’s prayer movements are synchronised. The azan, on the other hand, indicates that the time to pray has arrived and, technically, it is possible to pray at any point after this sounds.
However, in the Islamic tradition it is preferable for a Muslim to pray as part of a congregation in a mosque unless attendance causes hardship. Even when going to a mosque is not possible, many Muslims who share a space at work or in living quarters prefer to pray together, with one of them leading the prayer.
Although those already inside the mosque will still hear the iqama, many people feel the decision by Awqaf hinders their ability to pray in unison with those inside the mosques.
Ahmed Yousef, who works in IT, said he could not believe the news. “I noticed the iqama had stopped and I went to the Awqaf website to see if it was official, but I couldn’t find anything. “Now I have heard about this statement I am very sad. It will affect everyone. The iqama is as important as the azan [call to prayer] and I see no reason for it to stop.”
Awqaf said that by reducing the volume of the second announcement, people will be obliged to go the mosque as soon as they hear the azan, thus encouraging more worshippers to pray in congregation.
“When a Muslim hears the call to prayer, he or she ought to head to the mosque,” said the statement.
“The Muslim scholars have agreed that a call to prayer should be from a minaret high above ground. In our day and age, it is sufficient to broadcast the call to prayer through loudspeakers. As for the iqama, the Prophet and his contemporaries did not deliver it from the minaret.”
The decision has caused controversy in the capital, particularly among women, for whom it is not compulsory to pray at the mosque, and for those unable to leave their homes.
Karima, a mother of four, who asked that only her first name be used, said: “Five times a day I wait at home until I hear the iqama to begin my prayer. Now, as I won’t know when it is, I might delay my prayers unintentionally.”
Karima added that as there had been no official announcement, many missed the timing for their prayers before realising the iqama was not going to sound.
“For women praying at home, or even men who can’t make it to the mosque, we need the call as a reminder. If they had told us, then at least we would have known,” she said.
Hessa al Hirsi, a housewife from Abu Dhabi said: “This news really hurts me. We are in a Muslim country and to hear that they are imposing these rules is terrible. If it starts here then where will it stop? I’m afraid they will cancel the azan altogether and then my children will grow up without a reminder to pray.
“The prayer is the most important icon in our religion and anything preventing it is not acceptable.”
In the other emirates and in Al Ain, the iqama broadcasts continue. It is not known whether Awqaf will enforce the decision nationwide.
Mr Yousef said: “I think I speak for every Muslim when I say I hope the iqama returns soon.”
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
This joke still holds true for some fortunate people during the current downturn when job cuts, company bankcruptcies, countries into (technical) recessions are part of daily breaking news. They are still employed but nothing much to do except be in the office and pretending to work.
I know some friends who are physically in the office but their minds are somewhere else, mostly wandering in the cyberworld. They blog, facebook, email, SMS, youtube, picasaweb, Internet messenger and play games during working hours...
I have to admit that some times I do get bored in the office. I am a morning person, come early in the morning and will complete my tasks as soon as possible. I have some templates for certain tasks which can be recycled and reformatted into new 'products' which enable me to fast-track some assignments.
By the way, I love my current job and have fun with a lot of new challenges as well as new knowlegde and experience to enhance my professional career.
The below article By Marilyn Gardner, The Christian Science Monitor.
Nicole Haase would like to work harder than she does. But as a receptionist and payroll administrator for a manufacturing firm in Milwaukee, she finds limited opportunities to take on more duties.
“Work is slow. We’re a small company, so it’s not always easy to find other things to do,” Haase says.
To fill empty moments, she e-mails friends and works on freelance writing assignments. “The internet is my friend — anything to make the time pass,” she says, adding that the strain of having too little to do creates its own kind of burnout.
There’s a name for this kind of underemployment: boreout. In Boreout! Overcoming Workplace Demotivation, authors Philippe Rothlin and Peter Werder call it a pervasive problem.
Studies show that one third of workers in the United States do not have enough to do. Underchallenged employees spend more than two hours a day on personal matters.
Employers waste over $5,000 (Dh18,369) a year per worker on boreout.
The authors, business consultants in Europe, explain that boreout consists of three elements: being “understretched”, uncommitted and bored at the workplace.
Strategies to look busy
Many underutilised employees ask for more work after starting a new job, says Werder, of Zurich.
“But after one year, although they hate boreout, they stop asking because no one takes it seriously.” Aware that they cannot just sit at their desks and stare into space, many workers devise strategies to look busy.
That often involves technology. “Mobile phones, the internet and e-mail make it much easier to pretend to work,” Werder says.
For Haase, the road to boreout began after she graduated from college with degrees in journalism and Spanish. Saddled with student loans, she took her job two years ago.
“When I was hired, they saw my skill set and said they would use it,” she says.
“But I’m in my receptionist bubble and they’re not willing to let me try to do anything more.”
Megan Rothman, a marketing copywriter, describes herself as underchallenged.
“I took this position because I was told we would all wear many hats because we are a small, private company,” she says. But after she was hired, that never happened.
“I have asked to take on additional responsibilities or projects that may be outside the typical range of my job description. But my boss doesn’t seem to be willing to accommodate me,” Rothman says.
No work at the workplace
She divides her idle time between productive tasks, such as reading marketing blogs or doing writing exercises.
As unemployment rates soar, Haase, Rothman and others who feel underworked are quick to express appreciation for having a job.
At the same time, workplace specialists emphasise the importance of remaining committed and connected to their employer.
“These days, with the economy, it behooves people to notice their boredom and think about what they can add to their job,” says Daisy Swan, a career strategist in Los Angeles.
Werder advises employees struggling with boreout to ask: Is this really what I want to do? “Some people are in the wrong job, though not the wrong company,” he says.
A worker can also ask: Do my bosses know about my ability? Do they know I don’t have enough to do? Do I communicate what I want to do? Sometimes businesses have too many employees for the work available.
Swan offers another reason for underemployment. “A lot of people take shadow positions to what they would like,” she says.
“They love to play music but they work for a music distributor.” The task is to see if they can increase the music in another area of their life.
Other times, she adds, “maybe the boredom is a real message that you need to make a change”.
For those eager for greater challenges, Steve Bohler, director, Oxford Programme for Career Change in Cooperstown, New York, suggests a first step.
“Daydream,” he says. “Mentally get yourself out of your job. It’s a good chance to envision what your best possible solutions are.”
For employers concerned about boredom on the job, J.B. Bryant, a business consultant in Orrville, Ohio, offers this reminder: “People don’t want to be bored. Given the opportunity, they’ll be productive to their fullest ability.”
Speeding major cause of deaths on Dubai roads last year
Dubai Police statistics revealed that speeding remained the second biggest reason of road deaths in Dubai last year with 45 deaths out of the 294 from road accidents. Lack of consideration for road users was the top cause of road deaths.
According to police figures,
The number of people killed in road accidents reduced to 294 last year compared to 332 in 2007.
Indian expatriates topped the list of people killed in road accidents for the second consecutive year. Some 107 Indians were killed last year compared to 128 in 2007 followed by 56 Pakistanis killed last year compared to 57 the previous year. However, the number of Bangladeshis killed last year increased to 23 as compared to 16 in 2007.
On the Shaikh Zayed Road, the number of road accidents fell by almost 50 per cent and some 24 people were killed last year compared to 54 in 2007.
Commenting on the reduced number of accidents in 2008, an official at the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said that improved road network, more cameras and strict policing have paid off. "Strict measures, increased fines for traffic violation" and awareness drives in coordination with the police have helped reduce accidents, he said.
The heat is on nowadays with the current downturn with a lot of rumours flying through the roof. Speculations and gossips are part of daily chats and conversations. Is Dubai really financially troubled? You have to read between the lines when browsing those reports in the local papers.
It seems, Abu Dhabi is having the last laugh after all.
Story on Pak Lah's visit to Dubai HERE.
Abu Dhabi profits from Dubai's downturn
Mohammed Alabbar, the head of Emaar and a member of the emirate's ruling council, wanted to set the record straight in a speech at the Dubai International Financial Centre. It was not a happy occasion.
A day earlier, the government of the UAE announced it would help merge and finance two struggling mortgage lenders, Amlak and Tamweel, a sign that the global financial crisis was snapping at the heels of the emirate's credit-fuelled boom.
'I will not mince words,' Alabbar told his audience in late November. 'I am here to state facts.'
Dubai, he said, was going through a 'healthy' correction to property prices. Yes, the emirate did owe about $10bn in sovereign debt, with an extra $70bn owed by 'affiliated companies,' but Alabbar said its $350bn in estimated assets would be more than capable of meeting these obligations. As for the rescue of Amlak and Tamweel, Alabbar said it was an example of how Dubai's economic advisory council would act in a timely and transparent manner under his leadership.
But even Alabbar could not mask the growing importance of Abu Dhabi, seat of the United Arab Emirates' federal government, when it came to Dubai's future. He underlined Dubai's 'proud identity' as part of the seven-member UAE, and said that countrywide measures to bolster the federation's financial system were a reminder of economic unity. 'We stand by our guarantees, as one country,' he said.
These words were a major turning point, according to Christopher Davidson, a British academic and author of several works on the UAE. For most of 2008, he said, Dubai's technocrats would have been flying the flag of autonomy, backing the emirate's past tendency to resist the centralizing, federalist urges of neighbouring Abu Dhabi.
But with the financial crisis squeezing credit flows and pushing foreign investors to withdraw to less risky climes, the power balance was now shifting to Abu Dhabi's healthier balance sheet and political clout.
Abu Dhabi has built up a huge budget surplus over the years, thanks to its lucrative oil revenues, state-backed investment funds and its unwillingness to splash the kind of money that Dubai is prepared to spend.
Oil-starved Dubai relies more on international capital flows, leaving its balance sheet less able to withstand shocks to the financial system. The result is an expected deficit of $1.1bn this year, according to a Reuters interview with Dubai official Nasser al-Shaikh.
But this is not simply a rerun of the past year's credit crunch, with Abu Dhabi as the US Treasury bailing out Dubai's deregulated Wall Street. Don't expect part-nationalization of flagship firms any time soon.
The two emirates are more like rivals competing for global leadership on a number of different playing fields, from tourism to aerospace. That means Abu Dhabi's own growth plans could benefit from a slowdown in Dubai, while discreetly making sure that the fallout is contained.
'Abu Dhabi has been crowding into several spaces that Dubai is trying to command,' said Jim Krane, author of a forthcoming book on Dubai, The Story of the World's Fastest City. He described Abu Dhabi's launch of Etihad Airways in 2003 as a direct challenge to Dubai-based airline Emirates. 'Now, Abu Dhabi stands to gain if Dubai slips.'
And Dubai is slipping. Its double-digit economic growth is reportedly expected to fall by more than half to around 4%-6% this year, while Abu Dhabi is forecasting a more modest slowdown to around 7%.
Dubai's real estate sector, once the jewel in its crown, is unravelling at an alarming rate, with projects put on hold and companies cutting jobs.
Earlier this month, Britain's Casa Dubai, which specialized in selling Dubai property to British consumers, went into liquidation after admitting that it had made 'virtually nothing' in sales since August. In a statement on its website, the company even said a major developer had gone on the run from the police with GBP500,000 worth of clients' money.
Not everyone believes this spells doom for Dubai. HSBC economist Simon Williams told Forbes that the quality of the emirate's service sector was unequalled in the region, and that Abu Dhabi would not necessarily take its place as a result of the slump. 'Growth will be stronger in Abu Dhabi this year,' he said, 'but anyone doing business in the UAE has always recognized that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are very different places.'
Abu Dhabi's reliance on oil revenues is also a problem, with oil prices down more than 70% since their summer peak of $147.50 a barrel last year. But the emirate's wide-ranging development plan is paving the way for something more long-lasting, with investment in energy, technology and even intellectual capital, symbolized by the opening of satellite campuses for New York University and Paris' Sorbonne, quietly balancing out the more obvious big hotels and golf courses.
'The economy Abu Dhabi is building is recession-proof,' said Davidson. 'Yes, it does have tourism, yes, it does have real estate, but these are not central pillars of the new economy. These are icing on the cake.'