Monday, November 30, 2009

Dubai Debt Shocker: Will Iskandar be affected?

Dubai's government TV channel's news today had a segment about the world's confusion between Dubai government and commercial companies' debt.
Al Saleh said the media has mixed up the relationship between Dubai World and the Government of Dubai. “(Dubai World) is a company set up with commercial basis and its transactions with creditors and investors were based on that respect.”

He added that the group used to get financing based on its commercial status and feasibility of its projects. “The gross mistake of the media is that they deem the company as part of the government. It is baseless,” he said.



Christian Science Monitor writes: some analysts say last week's stock market reaction was overblown. Dubai World's debts pale in comparison to the trillions of dollars American banks lost last year and these analysts argue that Dubai's problems are unlikely to spread to other highly indebted countries such as Greece or Spain.

For now the economic fallout from Dubai World may be exacerbated by the emirate's continued lack of transparency about its financial health. Investors have expressed frustration that Dubai hid its debt problems – even from Abu Dhabi, which was caught off guard by last week's announcement. It refused to reveal its total debt, estimates for which range from $80 billion to $150 billion.

Officials continued to suppress information over the weekend, blocking distribution of the Sunday Times, a British paper, which offered a two-page spread about Dubai's debts.

With Dubai's saga continues to attract major attention, it is expected that most investors will have to think more careful, or revise their plans and strategies on similar property development projects all over the world.

Iskandar will not be immune to the crisis and perhaps the total investment $13 billion mentioned by Johor Chief Minister is real figure to be translated into real development.....

Iskandar zone not affected by Dubai crisis
KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian state of Johor said its economic zone, which has the nation’s largest number of Middle Eastern investors, should be unscathed by the Dubai debt crisis, reports said Sunday.
Dubai World, the city state’s flagship conglomerate announced Wednesday that it was seeking a six-month reprieve from its $59 billion debt payments, sending global stocks into a nosedive on fears of a default.
The chief minister of southern Johor state, Abdul Ghani Othman, told the Star daily only one Dubai company, Damac Properties, had invested in the Iskandar special economic zone.
“Since only one company from Dubai is involved in Iskandar, we don’t think the Dubai financial crisis would have an effect on the regional growth area,” he told the paper.
“Most of the investors in the growth area are from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi,” he added.
He did not say how much Damac had invested in Iskandar, where the company is involved in a project on an eight hectare (20 acre) site.
An aide to Abdul Ghani confirmed his comments to AFP on condition of anonymity, saying the Dubai company had yet to begin operations in the area. He said total investment for Iskandar, which was launched in 2006, had hit $13 billion so far, with about 15 percent coming from Middle Eastern investors. Almost three times bigger than neighboring Singapore, the Iskandar region will be Malaysia’s largest economic zone upon completion in 2025, by which time the government hopes to have created 800,000 jobs and attracted around $100 billion in investment. - AFP
It wa mostly construction companies that have been affected by the downturn in Dubai. Construction giant Murray & Roberts, which benefited handsomely from the boom in the region recent years, announced earlier this year that a big contract for Dubai International Airport had been withdrawn, along with another for the Trump Towers Dubai.
The company was confident it would receive money owed for work already carried out on the airport. – Agencies



Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dubai Debt Shocker: It's Iran vs. The United States

During the current situation, there are a lot of stories abound to keep us in gossiping and speculative mood. Analysis and comments from the streets can be profound and entertaining at the same time.

Iran is now linked into another spin of conspiracy theory. We'd never know. The next few days will be more interesting as more announcements from the relevant authorities and financial institutions.

We can spend all day to speculate until the cow comes home, but of course we cannot solve anything within our limitations.

The Geopolitics Of The Dubai Debt Crisis: It's Iran vs. The United States

By John Carney

The role of Iran may be the most overlooked in the Dubai debt crisis.

Of all the states of the United Arab Emirates federation, Dubai has maintained the closest ties to Iran. Indeed, as international pressure has built on Iran over the past decade, Dubai has prospered from those ties. It provides critical banking and trade links for Iran, often serving as the go-between for European or Asian companies and financial firms that want to do business with Iran without violating international sanctions.

Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest member of the UAE and a close ally of the US, may be pressuring Dubai to limit its links to Iran. Indeed, this pressure may be behind statements coming from Abu Dhabi about offering “selective” support for Dubai. Companies or creditors thought to be too linked to Iran could find themselves shut out of any bailout.

The United States government, which has remained somewhat taciturn throughout this crisis, is no doubt encouraging Abu Dhabi to apply this pressure. In part because of Dubai’s connections to Iran, US financial institutions are not among the biggest creditors to Dubai World.

It’s not all Iran, of course. The problems in Dubai, the member of the United Arab Emirates that has found itself in a dire financial crisis, closely mirror those behind the global financial crisis.

Over the past decade, the country attempted to diversify its economy away from dependence on its declining oil reserves—and largely succeeded. But, like a Wall Street investment bank attempting to overcome the decline of its traditional businesses by becoming heavily invested in leveraged real estate products, Dubai accumulated huge debt obligations—estimated to amount to some $80 billion. Much of Dubai’s assets were dependent on tourism, shipping, construction and real estate—which have been in trouble during the global economic downturn.

Like its fellow members of the UAE, Dubai is ruled by an expansive royal family. In this case, they are called Al Maktoum family. Exactly what counts as the personal property of ruling family and what is government owned in Dubai is more than a bit fuzzy. The Dubai government owns three companies: the Investment Corporation of Dubai; Dubai Holding, which is run by Mohammed Al Gergawi; and Dubai World, which is run by Sultan bin Sulayem.

Abu Dhabi has been trying to put pressure on Dubai to cut ties to Iran. The split between Abu Dhabi and Iran is in part rooted in an older territorial dispute, fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, religious differences between Shiites and Sunnis, and—importantly—Abu Dhabi’s close ties to Washington, DC.

The UAE is close to reaching a nuclear power cooperation deal with Washington, a move that many regional experts say would challenge the traditional Saudi hegemony in the Gulf. One sticking point in the negotiations with Washington has been concerns that Dubai could share US nuclear technology with Iran.

This power struggle between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia is also playing a role. In May, the UAE May pulled out of a proposed Gulf monetary union over Saudi insistence that it would host the regional central bank.

Dubai, which is a very open and tolerant place compared to Iran, is viewed by many Iranians as a place to let their hair down. It has a thriving Iranian ex-pat community. Iran is Dubai airport's top destination, with more than 300 flights per week.

More importantly, Dubai is a major exporter to Iran and a major re-exporter of Iranian goods. The trade between Iran and Dubai is one of the principal sources of Tehran's confidence that it can survive US-led sanctions. Iranian investment in Dubai amounts to about US $14 billion each year. US intelligence officials have long suspected that the Iranian government uses Dubai based front companies to get around sanctions.

Some of the banks said to have the largest exposure to Dubai debt have in the past been linked to Iran. Notably, HSBC, BNP Paribas and Standard Chartered came under investigation and pressure from US authorities in recent years to cut ties to Iran. Some US officials have quietly protested that these banks just shifted to doing business with Iran through Dubai. The US may want to see these creditors take losses from their Dubai exposure.

Make no mistake: the US government does not want to see the financial ruin of Dubai. Apart from its ties to Iran, Dubai is widely viewed as a model Islamic country. It has a relatively clean government, and there is a remarkable level of religious tolerance and progressive attitudes toward women for the region. American diplomats have held up Dubai as their model for a new Baghdad—progressive, tolerant, and capitalist.

What is most likely happening is more nuanced. The US and Abu Dhabi are hoping to use Dubai’s financial troubles as a way of finally severing the close ties to Iran. For years, Dubai has enjoyed the benefits of walking the line between its military and economic alliance with the US and economic benefits from banking and trade ties to Iran. The price of a bailout from Abu Dhabi may be having to finally choose to give up the Iran connection.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fallout of Dubai's 'Desert Storm' Credit Disaster

The impact has been massive like a tsunami to world's bourses. All news channels have something to tell on Dubai's debt shocker. CNN has been airing analysis and comments.

I remember one of my formers bosses (Harvard grad) mentioned that he had thrown away his Harvard business books as they were no longer applied or relevant for Dubai's development model at that particular pace.

He was one of the fast rising executives whom was speedily promoted to head a big conglomerate and later, somehow, never heard of again. I have some fond memories working under him for his Malaysian connection and his brash style as well as empowerment to the subordinates.

It is the bottom line that always relevant to any commercial developments and business ventures. The moment of truth is here, now and for the future to re-assess Dubai phenomenon.

As it is now, enjoy the massive publicity all over the world for a place called Dubai.

Assessing fallout of Dubai’s credit disaster
John Sfakianakis

RIYADH: Concerns about Dubai’s potentially crippling default on enormous debts to global creditors have rattled investor confidence across the oil-exporting Gulf region, prompting corporate issuers in the region to postpone or cancel bond issuances (e.g. Gulf Investment Bank) in the wake of the news.

We estimate Dubai’s debt upward of $80 billion. At the heart of the issue is whether state-run Dubai World, which holds more than $50 billion in liabilities, will be able to pay back its creditors. The conglomerate that runs flagship Dubai companies such as DP World, asked banks this week for a “standstill” agreement as it negotiates to extend maturities of debt, including the $3.52 billion in Islamic bonds due next month from Nakheel, the famed palm tree island developer. The bond at the center of Dubai’s restructuring efforts, the December 2009 Islamic bond from Nakheel, has lost a third of its value since the announcement, the price having collapsed to 72 points from 111 beforehand.

Dubai’s announcement, which happened on Wednesday, sent shockwaves through European equity markets on fears that many banks could face massive writedowns on Dubai debt. Currency and bond markets across the globe were also exposed to developments that have become the source of the biggest destruction of confidence in Dubai’s history. To make matters more interesting the ports operator, DP World announced that it will be excluded from the debt standstill and restructuring of Dubai World and its subsidiaries. The company, the world’s fourth-largest ports operator, is 77 percent owned by Dubai World. DP World is considered the best asset within Dubai World. We think this move is clearly to differentiate the good assets of Dubai from the bad ones, and DP World is a good asset.

Credit default swaps across the region rose, including in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Abu Dhabi which, unlike Dubai, hold rich hydrocarbon reserves. Dubai’s five-year CDS spreads are at three-month highs and there is further upside risk. Dubai, with sparse oil reserves, built its fortunes on real estate and financial services in recent years, borrowing heavily to finance mega projects including three man-made islands shaped as palm fronds.

Regional bond sales have been impacted as spreads have widened. Gulf Investment Bank which owned by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia have decided to postpone the dollar bond sale. Other corporates in the region were also preparing to tap the international bond market. We think that there will be a temporary lull but renewed activity will begin in the first quarter of 2010 as risk is readjusted for the entire region.

Credit quality deterioration simply is not an issue in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar and we expect that in the short term, investors will calm down and begin to differentiate between “good” and “bad” bets in the Gulf region. The Dubai debt debacle comes shortly after Qatar, the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas, sold $7 billion in bonds this month, subscribed mainly by investors in the United States and the United Kingdom. Orders for the bond issue, described as the largest by an emerging-market government, topped $28 billion — underpinning the genuine faith many international investors have in the region.

We think that in the future, global investors will need to differentiate between those Gulf economies that are debt-burdened and those whose leverage levels are incredibly low by global standards. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has among the lowest levels of public debt in the G20, with domestic debt levels at 13.4 percent of GDP last year, compared with 81 percent in India and 50 percent in the United States. It alsowww held enormous foreign assets of SR1.46 trillion at the end of October, most of which is invested in low-risk, liquid investments.

In view of these nuances, the region is often wrongly sold to the world as uniform when in fact the six states comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) followed very different development models.

Even within the UAE, Dubai and capital Abu Dhabi — holder of the majority of the state’s crude oil reserves — had followed two extremely different development paths this decade. Dubai built its economy using high leverage, with revenue streams that were tenuous. Dubai’s volatile real estate and services sectors did well during the boom years but fell victim to the global financial crisis, which triggered a slump in asset values, especially real estate. It should not be ignored that Dubai was above all an interesting real estate play which benefited the early entrants which turned out to be bubble that burst. This approach differs heavily from Abu Dhabi, which was bringing in hundreds of billions of dollars in surpluses during this decade’s oil boom, but investing it in a more calculated, moderate pace that has mainly avoided the creation of asset bubbles. Despite the real estate development story in Abu Dhabi the authorities did not permit the development of a bubble. Dubai is now in a bind as its debt is more than nine time its 2008 revenues. That pattern is unsustainable.

Once the dust settles, we believe that there will be a flight to quality, with foreign funds favoring Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is bound to suffer from the contagion from Dubai for the short term, but we expect the UAE capital will be in a position to overcome any risk profile pressure. Abu Dhabi controls 90 percent of the UAE’s oil reserves which are the fourth largest in the world. Despite the global financial crisis, the Abu Dhabi Investment Fund is one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. Clearly, we think Abu Dhabi’s investment program and low key leadership offers reasonable reassurances about the country’s direction to avoid far fewer excesses.

The fate and handling of Dubai’s sovereign risk is impacting the way international markets perceive GCC sovereign risk. The Saad-Algosaibi debt default saga in Saudi Arabia, while shaking the credibility of regional borrowers, did not bring lending to Saudi entities in general to a halt. Rather, the situation forced creditors to reassess the risks involved with lending to different entities and categorize them accordingly. Corporates that are showing signs of transparency will begin to reap the benefits of finance from within the region and outside. However, state entities will continue to receive the bulk of trust from international lenders. In a similar way, Dubai’s debt problems will compel creditors to re-categorize sovereign risk. Dubai entities will have to work hard to convince to bring back confidence on the state-enterprise model of Dubai which was based on high leverage and constraint income.

If there is anything we have learned so far from the global financial crisis is that leverage and debt without a strong revenue base cannot sustain an economy. We find Saudi Arabia to be leading the pack in terms of sovereign strength despite the corporate saga that lingers. Moreover, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi never witnessed the real estate excesses that have punished Dubai in the past year.

There was never a real estate bubble in Saudi Arabia and if anything the property market is severely undersupplied. The government has made sure to pay down government debt during the boom years and budgetary spending has been counter-cyclical — careful during periods of high oil prices and aggressive during cycles of depressed oil prices.

We view Qatar as being equally strong as a sovereign, with a solid revenue base to back up its expansion. The excesses witnessed in the property sector were far more contained and used far less leverage, with most, if not all was locally generated. Hence we see very little risk that Qatar can generate going forward.

After the dust settles: What’s next for Dubai

Dubai’s reputation has been impacted in a major way and it will be difficult for the emirate to recover from the negative backlash in the medium to long term. The lack of transparency surrounding how the emirate plans to pay back debts reaching maturity has compounded investors’ perception of risk. Until the Dubai World announcement, investors had expected Abu Dhabi would provide Dubai with adequate funds to pay back its creditors. Just an hour before the debt restructuring news, Dubai announced it had sold $5 billion in bonds to two banks in Abu Dhabi in which the government holds substantial stakes. But the government quickly clarified these funds had nothing to do with the Dubai World debt restructuring.

Earlier this year, the UAE central bank, based in the UAE capital, subscribed for $10 billion in Dubai sovereign bonds, a portion of which went toward enabling state-linked developers pay outstanding dues to contractors. That move eased investor worries about a potential default by Dubai, but also raised questions about what Abu Dhabi would demand in return. The two emirates, although being part of the same federation, are run by separate ruling families.

The entire debt repayment scenario has now been thrown into question. The Nakheel bond is, after all, the most high-profile of Dubai’s debts and was regarded by many as a litmus test for how effectively Dubai — and Abu Dhabi — would treat maturing debts. Markets, puzzled about why the $5 billion raised by Dubai this week was not going to Nakheel bond creditors, will be watching for news on how the debt restructuring develops and what conditions Abu Dhabi could set for providing funds to pay outstanding loans.

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, also prime minister of the UAE, removed this month key executives who helped shape modern Dubai, including replacing the governor of the Dubai International Financial Centre, Omar bin Sulaiman, and removing the chairmen of Emaar Properties, Dubai World and Dubai Holding from the board of the Investment Corporate of Dubai, a body charged with managing the emirate’s wealth. At the newly reshuffled board of ICD, two of the ruler’s sons were brought in as directors. The change of guard will have to be tested and the results and management style would be watched closely by the international investor community. Moreover, the larger question of succession would be kept at the back of the international investors’ minds.

There has been little public announcement about the conditions attached to Abu Dhabi aid to Dubai and what level of autonomy the emirate would have to forego in exchange for the financial bailout. We believe that in the end, Abu Dhabi will be willing and able to provide adequate funds to enable Dubai to meet its debt obligations. We are not of the view that Abu Dhabi wants to have a “sick cousin” that would jeopardize the well-being of the Federation. Abu Dhabi wants to see Dubai’s economy return to a healthier state as many Abu-Dhabi based businessmen have invested in the property sector and the economy of Dubai at large. Abu Dhabi will have three avenues to pursue: Pay, buy and bail out. This funding, however, will come at a cost not measured in money. Politics in this region is more powerful that simple monetary transactions. But in the end, Dubai will not be able to cover its debts on its own and the de-leveraging process could last not a few months but a few years.

Bailing out Dubai could be good for the Federation but nothing is for free. Will Abu Dhabi ask for additional control over Dubai, will this make Dubai less autonomous? As there is no free lunch and all services have to be paid back the price that Dubai might have to pay back to Abu Dhabi is some of its autonomy. Dubai would have to yield to the conditions of its rich neighbor in order to save face among global creditors. It is very difficult for Dubai not to prevent Abu Dhabi from gaining additional influence, both at the level of the federation as well as bilaterally. And the Dubai leadership’s language has changed and become more supportive of the federation. The most vivid of all was the comments of Dubai’s ruler who said in earlier in November that people who speculated about relations between Dubai and Abu Dhabi should “shut up,” at an investors’ conference in Dubai. The ruling lines of both emirates are “the same family, not only that but the same tribe, the Bani Yas tribe,” he said. They “ruled many many tribes in the Arabian Peninsula for hundreds and hundreds of years.”

It is important to note that it was only in 1996 that Dubai integrated its armed forces into the UAE’s military command. The sense of Dubai’s autonomy was also evidenced after the UAE’s establishment in 1971 where there were border check points, for many years, between Abu Dhabi and Dubai even if both were part of the federation.

Dubai’s economy, meanwhile, is poised to face another backlash from the debt troubles, which are likely to shake investor confidence in its real estate sector once again and send prices that have already halved in the last year down further. Although Dubai’s property developers, controlled by the state, are trying to control real estate prices by holding back the release of additional apartment units onto the market it could be that prices could very well depreciate further. The emirate could also be forced to introduce further delays to infrastructure projects currently in the pipeline.

We think that Abu Dhabi plays a key role in supporting debt-ridden Dubai. Dubai’s leveraged property play has come to abrupt and crashing end. Going forward Dubai needs to show resolve but also willingness to admit to greater transparency. Dubai also needed to better time the announcement of its the debt restructuring. Dubai is in dire straits and Abu Dhabi will come to the rescue but like all rescues it would have a price. As for the international investor base, it should become apparent to them that Dubai is not core of the GCC and there is far greater depth to the region than remains untapped.

(John Sfakianakis is chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi — Credit Agricole Group)

Dubai World's never ending story

It is interesting indeed to live in Dubai nowadays. When I came over in 2000, Dubai was still in the early days to be the world class city before tumultuous crisis reveals more about Dubai and its massive debts.

In 2002, I was part of a conglomerate which is later known as Dubai World until last October. I was there when things were fast and furious as well as there during everything seemed standstill.

I still have faith in Dubai for some personal reasons. The recent news on debt deferment is shocking for those who are used to Dubai's glitters and frantic development during last few years. Lot of rumors and stories, lot more to come and bear with them!

You can believe the rumors and stories....and you can see the opportunities beyond the news.

The facts behind the Dubai World story

  • Last Updated: November 27. 2009 11:22PM UAE / November 27. 2009 7:22PM GMT

The Government of Dubai took the global financial markets by surprise on Wednesday by saying it would ask all creditors of Dubai World and Nakheel to “standstill” and extend their loan agreements by six months.

The Government, acting through the Dubai Financial Support Fund, has appointed Aidan Birkett, a veteran of Deloitte, as the chief restructuring officer of the company. The news was unexpected because Dubai World said on October 15 that it had completed a restructuring that would eliminate 12,000 jobs and save $800 million over three years, and because members of the Government had previously said the emirate would meet its obligations.

An Islamic bond, known as sukuk, with a face value of $3.52 billion (Dhbn12.92) is coming due on December 14, but it is only the beginning. Dubai World is obliged to repay a total of $9bn of debt over the next four months.

Below we try to answer questions about the drama, which has rattled global markets.


What is Dubai World?

Dubai World is a large Government-owned conglomerate with interests in everything from ports to property and diamonds. Dubai World has $59bn worth of debt and obligations, according to financial statements. Its most well-known companies are DP World, one of the largest owners of ports in the world, and Nakheel, a property developer that created The Palm islands, The World and The Waterfront.


How much does Dubai World owe?

Dubai World has $8.75bn in direct debt. When this is added to the loans and debts of its subsidiaries, it owes $24.27bn, according to estimates by Deutsche Bank. But when all its unpaid invoices and other non-debt obligations such as land grants are included, the group has roughly $60bn in total consolidated liabilities, according to the company in August.

Why does Dubai World have problems repaying its debt?

Dubai World has run short of cash because of the fall in property prices, losses on investments and a drying-up of credit markets. Its ports operation, DP World, is still profitable and is exempt from the restructuring.

Where does the Dubai Government stand?

In a statement on Friday it pointed to the “need to take decisive action to address its particular debt burden”. Analysts expect Dubai World to probably sell some assets and reduce costs in line with its forecasts for future revenues. The Dubai Financial Support Fund (DFSF) administers funds from its $20b bond programme. The Government has said the funds will be allocated to “Dubai’s strategic revenue-generating projects”. The fund is expected to use stringent conditions designed to ensure that it can repay the money it has borrowed, plus the 4 per cent interest due annually.

What will creditors do?

The most immediate question for creditors is what Dubai World will do about Nakheel’s $3.52bn Islamic bond that comes due on December 14. The DFSF and Dubai World have not elaborated on plans for the sukuk. Nakheel may be able to persuade bondholders to change the terms of the bond by the end of next month, avoiding a technical breach of its payment obligations, its prospectus says. Otherwise, Nakheel will have a two-week window after December 14 to make a payment before bondholders would be entitled to begin legal proceedings to recover their funds. In the case of nonpayment after December 28, the transaction administrator, Deutsche Bank in London, would be obliged to notify bondholders.

Deutsche Bank would then call a meeting for certificate holders to vote on how to handle the situation, the prospectus says. To meet a quorum, there would need to be enough certificate holders to represent more than half of the aggregate amount of the bond. A 75 per cent vote would be needed to pass an extraordinary resolution to either begin enforcement proceedings against Nakheel and Dubai World, or restructure the bond.

There are few precedents for non-payment of sukuks and it could be very complex and time-consuming. For each impending debt repayment, the restructuring team would have to negotiate and persuade lenders to agree to new terms, and the company also has a number of contractors and suppliers who are waiting to be paid.

Are there historical precedents?

There are no exact matches in history to give an indication of how things will go. Dubai World is a government-related enterprise owned by the Emirate of Dubai, but with some of the attributes of a normal commercial company, like a stockmarket listing (DP World) and a credit rating (Jafza). So it is hard to compare with previous cases of financial hardship. Two analogies have been used in recent days: Argentina went through a sovereign default in 2001 when currency instability led to a run on the banks, ending only when the peso was allowed to float on global markets. The effects were severe, but the Argentinian economy eventually recovered.

Eurotunnel, the Anglo-French infrastructure project, also went through a series of financial convulsions in the late 1990s and early 2000s, mainly due to excessive borrowings to build the Channel Tunnel. The crisis passed when creditors sought and were granted equity control of Eurotunnel. Another possible precedent is General Motors of America, which went into bankruptcy protection during the credit crisis, took large amounts of government aid, and eventually emerged smaller but financially viable.

business@thenational.ae

To raise a child can cost 1 Million

In material world, it is a high risk investment to raise a child in this century. Being parents in the modern world can cost a lot more than the previous generations and certain elements of uncertainties can have some affects on the 'investment'.

Basically on equal term, the costs of raising children are the same for all of us. Children have needs and while we might think of the obvious ones, we need to factor in absolutely everything a child will require until it's independent.

A research breaks down costs into ten groups, whereby the Housing and childcare are the two most expensive, then food. Living in the UAE, the education is another expensive expenditure.

The ten groups include:

  • housing
  • childcare
  • food
  • energy
  • clothing and footwear
  • household goods and services (including education)
  • leisure
  • personal care
  • transport
  • health
I have three good boys, millions or not to raise them, at the end of the day, they are part of responsibilities and amanah (trust) from Allah. Been telling them, they can be Canadians, British, Americans, Australians, New Zealanders or Malaysians, as long as they are good Muslims first, I do not mind.

Below article is based on a research in Australia, it is good to know the cost of raising kids in Malaysia.

It costs a million to raise a child

Generation Z doesn't leave home at 18, but stay with the parents until mid-20s

  • Reuters

  • Image Credit: Supplied

Sydney: Think your children are costing you a lot? You're right, with an Australian study finding that the average child now costs A$1 million (Dh3.33 million) to raise, taking into account toys, holidays and other activities.

A study on Generation Z and the cost of parenting by social analyst Mark McCrindle found a government estimate that it cost $384,543 to raise a child to 18 was way off as this did not include private education, holidays or "non-essential" items.

It also assumed that children would leave home at 18 but this was no longer the case with Generation Z, those born after 1995, as the costs of accommodation and bills were a deterrent to moving out.

"In today's Australian families the majority of young people stay in the parental home and rely on their parents for some of their expenses until their mid-20s. Therefore the cost per household to raise children to age 24 is $834,000," McCrindle from McCrindle Research said in his report.

He said then you had to add the "non-essential" yet "usual" child rearing expenses such as toys, holidays and travel, dining and entertainment, private tutoring and education, sport and activities, furniture and household equipment dedicated to the children's use.

This boosted costs by another $3,000 per child per year.

The A$1 million pricetag was broken down into food costing $206,000, housing and utilities $165,000, recreation and entertainment $157,000, health and other services $153,000, clothing and equipment $129,000, transport $123,000, and education and child care $95,000.

Dubai Debt Shocker

Confidence about the world economy was hit hard by the news that Dubai World, a government investment company with around $60 billion worth of debt, has asked creditors if it can postpone forthcoming payments until May. Investors are wondering whether the current uncertainty surrounding the emirate has brought the eight-month equities bull run to an end.

Analysts said more clarity about the long-term impact of Dubai's troubles would likely emerge next week, when Wall Street is back to normal trading hours following the Thanksgiving Day holiday. U.S. markets are only open for half the day Friday.

"It is likely to take at least a few days before the implications of the impact of a possible default from Dubai are properly digested but for the present it seems that the market is seeing this negative news as a blow to the global recovery but not one that will push it off course," said Jane Foley, research director at Forex.com.

Investors were also keeping a close eye on associated developments in the currency markets after the dollar slid to a new 14-year low of 84.81 yen.



Dubai debt: news latest

BANK SHARES: European and Asian markets plunged on concern about potential exposure to debt problems in Dubai. (Getty Images)

Dubai will remain an attractive regional business hub, despite the government having to asked for a standstill agreement regarding the debts of its flagship companies Dubai World and Nakheel, a senior figure has said in a statement.

The government's intervention in the debt restructuring at Dubai World, was aimed to ensure the holding company’s "long term commercial success", said Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Dubai Government's Supreme Fiscal Committee in comments published by news agency WAM.

“We want to ensure resources are deployed in the full knowledge that they are used to enhance the businesses of the Dubai World Group, build on the restructuring that has already been taking place and ensure long term commercial success," said Sheikh Ahmed, who is also chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Corporation, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

VIP services for wealthy pilgrims

I went for haj in year 2000 by bus from Riyadh. It was an awesome experience with several buses loaded with Indonesian workers in Riyadh.

The first time haj journey through the main highways amidst the heavy traffic and so many police road-blocks to Makkah was memorable indeed as I was on 'illegal' basis. Illegal due to the permission by Haj Ministry was only stamped on a piece of paper, not on my passport. I was on business visa under a company sponsorship and the official in charge at the ministry could not turn me away, as 'a guest of Allah', as my application was one week after the deadline.

After considering my appeal, he smiled and stamped the approval on a piece of paper, inserted into my passport and told me, "Ya lah, go to haj and tawakkal, you are the guest of Allah my brother!"

I could get caught by not having official permit, however, as a guest of Allah, I made it through passages of doubts and insecurity.

The haj experience with Indonesian pilgrims, mostly young men and women working as drivers and maids, somehow blessed. I enjoyed their companions and friendship especially I knew them only after boarding the bus. Indonesian pilgrims are big in numbers, more than 200,000 this year.

We had slept on the hostel roof top, shared a same bath room with women (to save time), slept on the road sides if not in Haram, daily shortage of water in the hostel, walked for kms and was in the awkward, strange, crazy situation when some women was hysteria in Arafah.....

The statistics reported that at average RM11 billion spent by the pilgrims in Makkah during haj alone. By breakdown, RM7 billion to the hotels, RM2 billion each to food/restaurant and transportation, shopping sprees.

Then there is a service for wealthy pilgrims whereby charge for providing tent in arafah alone is SR800,000 ($213,000) for five days only including five-star transportation and meals.

I guess, haj is a lucrative business after all for Saudi and haj operators all over the world!

Wealthy pilgrims offered VIP services
Anwar Al-Sayed | Arab News


Some affluent pilgrims choose to perform the Haj in the comfort of luxurious tents offered to them in Mina and Arafat. (AN photo)

MAKKAH: Pilgrims looking for distinguished service can find what they want in luxurious tents in Mina and Arafat. A number of local and foreign companies have introduced the VIP service to lure wealthy pilgrims.

“The VIP service is primarily based on ensuring the pilgrim the privacy he is looking for amid an atmosphere of calm and serenity that will enable him or her concentrate on worship,” said Zaki Kamal Hussein, a mutawif (a Haj tour guide).

He said the domestic and foreign Haj companies and tourist offices usually target this category of people because they represent a good source of income.

“Though they are few in number, yet we must give them much emphasis because they can add to our gains,” Hussein said. He did not specify how much a VIP Haj would cost.

Asked about the difference between the ordinary and the VIP service, the mutawif explained that the later is a professional service that is characterized by distinction and privacy.

“It means transporting them in luxurious buses, providing them with hotel services, giving them special meals that are suitable to their tastes and health condition and accommodating them in spacious tents with luxurious furniture,” he said.

Hussein said the VIP pilgrims would have clean toilets that are both cozy and hygienic in addition to medical doctors and nurses to look after their health. “There are special playgrounds for children with amusement games and educational programs conducted by specialized female educationalists to keep them busy while their rich parents perform their duties,” he added.

Thamir Abdul Rahman Muallim, who is heading an office providing VIP services, said he and his team were keen to provide the atmosphere for the pilgrims to spend their time in spirituality and serenity away from the incessant occupations of daily life.

“We provide them with top hotel service and ensure their families with the privacy they are looking for,” he said.

Mustapha Rajab, an Egyptian investor living in Britain, said he chose the VIP pilgrimage to ensure himself with the comfort necessary for the performance of Haj and to have an atmosphere of privacy away from the noise and air pollution especially with the swine flu pandemic.

He said his mutawif has provided him with a velvet bag containing cleaned and sterilized stones with which to pebble the pillars symbolizing Satan.

“The mutawif has spared me the trouble of collecting these stones from Muzdalifah,” he added.

Sheikh Muhammad Owais, an imam of a mosque in Kent and the chairman of a welfare organization in Britain, said he has chosen the VIP service because it allows him to concentrate on the performance of the Haj and keep him away from the crowds in addition to the hotel service in food, accommodation and transport.

“The VIP service enables me to feel more the sanctity of the place and protects me against anything that might violate my pilgrimage,” he said.

Some critics of luxury Haj services say renting special accommodations by wealthier pilgrims is antithetical to the spirit of the pilgrimage.

One of the purposes of wearing the ihram, for example, is to eliminate distinctions among the pilgrims.

Zunar as Top Malaysia's Political Cartoonist

One day in 1988 or so when I walked into Creative Enterprise office, the publisher of Gila-Gila magazine in Jalan Pantai Baharu that I met a young nervous and shy guy. I was new in the scene as a part time writer, directly working under the then chief Editor, Adi Al Hadi.

I was, well, jobless after returning from New Zealand as a computer science graduate. The economy was still in crisis and I had to work in several places in KL on part-time basis to support my young & restless life.

My 'humorous & satirical' writing talent was spotted by Adi Al Hadi and I started as a part-time writer for editorial, 'Serkop', Cerita-Ceriti'. I went (sometimes by walking to save some 50 sen) to Balai Berita (NST) in the morning for some assignments and Gila-Gila in the afternoon before 'lecturing' on 'English for communication' at Chow Kit.

Looking back, it was indeed good experience that shaped up certain outlooks and perspectives in life.

That young and nervous guy befriended me and we somehow clicked. Over the years, he became one of the most popular cartoonists in Malaysia and even more popular with his political stand which reflected in his cartoons that have crossed the racial boundary (like master Lat).

And then came, Gedung Kartun, a magazine that 'sold out' (or seized or confiscated) before even getting distributed. A huge publicity for Zunar.

As we speak, he is already a legacy as a political cartoonist. Every cartoon he sketches, Zunar stressed, comes from the heart. We are thankful for having Zunar for his sketches as we laugh (at our leaders and ourselves) and think, with his subtle and sometimes, provocative messages.

Long live ZUNAR!!!



Don’t blame cartoonist; we only transform it onto paper.
By: Zunar


CARTOONING in Malaysia started back in 1940s. Cartoonist like Peng started to draw editorial cartoons for local newspapers. In the 60’s, Lat, Mishar, Rejabhad and Nan started the new era in cartooning and were considered as the pioneers in the Malaysian cartoon landscape.

But only in the late 70’s did the cartoon industry in Malaysia started to blossom when a humor magazine, Gila-Gila, a local version of the ‘Mad Magazine’, was formed in 1978. That created a space for great cartoonists like Jaafar Taib, Zainal Buang Hussien, Tazidi, Don, Kerengge, Ujang, Reggie Lee, Fatah, Rossem, CW Kee, to name a few.

Their cartoons became hits, not only because they were funny, but they also reflected Malaysian life.
Their works covered topics such as kampung life, school time, market scene, youths & childhood life, love, etc, etc. Since then, Malaysian cartoons continue to develop and bloom till this day.

I estimate, currently there are more than 200 active professional cartoonists in this country -- a good number for a relatively small country like Malaysia.

But, strangely from this number you can say almost all of them steer clear of being political cartoonists.
Since 1998 until now, Malaysia has been facing a never-ending political crisis that leads to the erosion of public confidence of the ruling government.

Writers such as Shahnon Ahmad, A Samad Said, Hishamuddin Rais, Lutfi, Steven Gan, poet and theater activist Dinsman, film director Nasir Jani, singers Ito and Meor, express the injustice of the authority through their works.

But where are the cartoonists? May be they are still doctrinated by the popular saying:
“In Malaysia we may have freedom of speech; what we do not have is freedom after speech.”

The fact is, some of the cartoonists are fettered by the culture of fear and some of them prefer to play safe and maintain neutrality. This is absurd! To this I would always say, "How can I be neutral, even my pen has a stand!"

Cuban revolutionist icon, Ernesto Che Guevara said in his popular quote, "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty". Modern journalism figure, Joseph Pulitzer had outlined clear ethics in his declaration on journalism.

He, among others, stressed that: "Always fight for reform and never tolerate injustice or corruption".

Dante Alighieri, an Italian poet in his famous poem, “Inferno” in the 14th century said “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a time of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality”.

I totally agree with Dante and personally think that Malaysian political cartoonists somehow fail to carry their duty to relay the voices of people and to convey strong messages to the authority where it matters most.

Very few senior cartoonists really touch fundamental issues such as human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of media, independence of judiciary and professionalism of the police force in their works.

I believe cartoonists have important roles, not only to make people laugh but also to highlight important issues. Cartoonists should criticize, educate, and open up readers’ minds in their own ways.

In September this year, I with several young emerging cartoonists namely Jonos, Ronasina, Enot, Haili and a few others started a new satirical humor magazine, “Gedung Kartun”. This is the first and only humor magazine which tackles current issues -- political, economic, human rights, judiciary, corruption and the misuse of power in the police force.

Immediately after the magazine hit the street, my office in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur was raided by eight officers from the Home Ministry [Kementerian Dalam Negeri or KDN] and 408 copies of “Gedung Kartun” were seized. On the next day, the printing factory was also raided and printing plates of the magazine were confiscated. The ground?

They claimed the magazine does not have a publication license.They are going to charge me soon under Section 5(2)(b) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984. According to the Act, those found guilty can be jailed up to three years and fined up to RM20,000, or both.

But for me, government's action was politically motivated to block alternative views and critical voices. It is also a form of intimidation against me and my team of cartoonists.

The “Gedung Kartun” cover shows top Malaysian leader holding a Mongolian flag. That was what cartoonists think of the hottest issue in Malaysia now. So, why does that irate the authority?

What is so wrong for the cartoonists to highlight this kind of issue? As mentioned above, Malaysia is facing political crisis and every political episode is cartoon material. Don’t blame us cartoonist; we only transform it onto paper.

Despite the hurdles, I can confirm that Gedung Kartun will continue to meet the readers, and I will continue to draw alternative political cartoons and train young cartoonists. The government should encourage this kind of cartoons to grow for the betterment of Malaysian cartooning industry.

ASIAPAC Conference, UIAM Kuala Lumpur
23-Nov-2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Singapore as the world’s most efficiently managed company

Whichever way you look to Singapore, that tiny dot in the middle of vast Malay archipelagos, there is something proven about the way it is being managed. Efficiently and successfully since the little nation broke its rank from Malaysia.

Forget about the claim that it has less democratic space whereby opposition is almost, non-existant. The autocratic style of the leaders may have done wonder as the majority of its population is Chinese. Historically, Chinese had been ruled thousands of years under the same harsh rules of emperors and communist leaders.

Some claims that the first premier whose son is the 3rd and current PM is still running the show under the pretext of Mentor Minister. Other claims that the 'bumiputeras' of Singapore are second class citizens. Of course for known reasons, Singapore is very close to Israel and USA for strategic defense matters. Almost everyone of its population is trained as military personnel.

Like I say, whatever those claims from its critics, this tiny island of Johore is a world class nation for all the right reasons. And we as the 'big brother' needs it more than ever for some economical reasons, even we have to bear or subsidize the cost of supplying cheap water to Singapore for another generation. Do not forget that we had lost an island in an international court, fair & square (or is because of the incompetency of our AG team?)

Yes, Iskandar Malaysia as some claim is just another extension of Singapore...well, Dubai proudly claims that its development modeled after Singapore after all.



Paradigm Shift in Singapore
Ramzy Baroud

25 November 2009
Like scores of journalists, I attentively listened as Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivering his closing remarks, and for the last time answering journalists’ questions. It was the conclusion of 17th APEC Economies Leaders’ Meeting in Singapore, on November 15, and Prime Minister Lee was clearly tired, although unruffled.

Lee is an impressive man. He has a commanding presence and is very articulate, despite his soft poise and humble demeanor. He speaks with the confidence of a leader of a great nation, not an island city-state, the smallest nation in Southeast Asia.

In fact, Lee’s confidence is well earned, and greatly deserved, and, by any reasonable standards Singapore is indeed a great nation. His country, once a site of a small fishing village, which saw a most tumultuous history of hardship, occupation and war, is now a prosperous nation, economically notwithstanding; its GDP per capital makes it the fifth wealthiest country in the world. Singapore’s official reserve is estimated at more than US $170 billion. For a country of 4-5 million people, it isn’t too bad.

In some way, Singapore is the world’s most efficiently managed company. Every facet of society contributes to the prowess of the corporate machinery that never takes a break. Its people are the employees in a hierarchy that has little room or patience for favoritism or corruption. But, despite the callous and, at times dehumanisation nature of business, the nation is immensely proud, its people are most helpful, self-assertive, resourceful, expressive and confident.

That explains Lee’s coolness as well. From his opening remarks at the APEC Summit to his last comments, he showed a particularly different breed of leadership. His was neither the reactionary nor the submissive language that is associated with leaderships in countries that are regarded as “small”, thus not so consequential.

Hosting an event of such magnitude as one that brings together presidents, prime ministers, foreign, finance and trade ministers of 21 countries — representing more than 40 per cent of total world population, nearly 55 per cent of its total GDP and about 44 per cent of world trade — should be a bit intimidating, daunting even. But not for Singapore, as everything fell into place, in such an impeccable and seemingly effortless manner. The APEC Summit, including its ministerial meetings, adjoining CEO summit, and the APEC leaders’ meetings, in addition to a consignment of other significant events on the side, all progressed with very few problems. Life in Singapore, outside the immediate grounds of the summit venues, carried on as usual.

I had prepared several questions to ask Lee. My first pertained to the APEC leaders’ faltering on their commitment to the environment, ahead of the Copenhagen summit on climate change.

In their initial draft, according to the Dow Jones Newswires, the leaders had committed to a specific agenda. That, however, abruptly changed. “Global emissions will need…to be reduced to 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050,” the draft read. The final statement however, reneged on that promise, delving instead to good sounding, yet hollow avowals: “Global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will need to be accompanied by measures, including financial assistance and technology transfer to developing economies for their adaptation to the adverse impact of climate change.”

It was strange how such summits tend to resort to specifics when such issues as tariffs, protectionism, investment, trade, currencies, and so on are referenced. But when human development, the environment and other subjects that have no formidable champions to back them up are mentioned, then its all about clich├ęs and truisms.

Luckily, or unfortunately for me, other journalists had similar concerns. Here goes my first question.

Then I wished to ask about free trade: how can the less powerful members of APEC survive a free trade agreement with giant economies, which demand everyone but themselves, to drop tariffs and abandon protectionism?

Currently APEC member economies, as they wish to be called, don’t have a binding free trade agreement, but a de-facto one, since most APEC members are bound by various regional and bi-lateral agreements. But US President Barack Obama is now leading a campaign to cap the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum with one single agreement. It’s, more or less, an attempt at recapturing the lost markets of Asia, where China has in recent years emerged as a powerful, albeit affable partner.

President Obama spent eight days on his first trip to Asia touring Japan, then Singapore where he attended the APEC Summit — then China and finally South Korea. His visit was a watershed moment in this history between the US and Asia, the former being more modest, the latter more assertive. “Equality”, as in “more equal” relationship, whether in trade or politics, was the buzzword that accompanied Obama throughout his trip, especially in Japan and China. In Singapore, Obama was a star, not exactly because of the country he represents, but because of him as an individual who promised earthshaking changes. The fact that he is yet to deliver on any of his promises seemed unimportant. But even a bigger star, was Chinese President Hu Jintao, not because of him as an individual, but because of the great country he represents.

What a strange turn of fortunes.

Thousands in Singapore, a country with a Chinese majority, many of whom are the descendants of poor immigrants from South China, came out to meet President Hu. Many tears were shed as he spoke, with force, command but also benevolence. Singapore’s APEC 2009 was the forum where the new balances of power were at full display: China was making its move to the front of the line and the US, hesitantly but willingly was making room, accepting the unavoidable ordains of power. What could follow is either a natural economic, thus political transition and repositioning, or a new cold war, in which other Asia-Pacific countries — and others — are likely to be embroiled; for how can countries, such as Chile, Mexico, Brunei Darussalam, Peru and even Singapore itself, for example, benefit from such gatherings without being trampled in the long run by the march forward or hasty retreat of the economic giants? That was the last question I wished to ask Lee. The questions and answers period, however, was cut short despite the palpable agitation of many journalists.

The APEC Summit, although answering a few questions, certainly delineated the new paradigm shift. It was a chance for Asia to assert itself, and for others to listen. But it also presented a new set of priorities, an agenda even, one in which the environment didn’t seem to top the list. A most unfortunate conclusion, indeed.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is a distinguished Arab American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His forthcoming book, My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story, is now available for pre-orders on Amazon.com

Thailand, Bahrain better than Malaysia for expats to live

I read about the growing number of expatriates from African continent in Malaysia. We have growing problems and increasing crime rate. There are certain areas populated by these expats who had entered the country legally but prolong their stay illegally with illegal activities which are normally condoned by the authorities for some reasons, which I think I know. It could be CORRUPTION.

It is surprising though that Malaysia is not in the top 10 list. We have millions of expatriates from Indonesia, Philippine, China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan etc however these expatriates could not be part of the survey. Malaysia is heaven for illegal expatriates as so many levels of back door arrangements. Please correct me if I am wrong here, our country is the best place for expatriates to live as some legal matters can bes solved through some means of win win situation.

Wonder why Australia, Canada and Thailand have topped a survey on the best countries for expatriates to live? And Bahrain is in the list, not sure why UAE is not as last year's list.

The second annual Expat Experience survey, which was commissioned by HSBC Bank International, revealed the top 10 countries that give the best quality of life to expats, the easiest to integrate into and the best value for money.

The survey questioned 3,146 people working in 30 industries across 50 countries on the quality of life, accommodation and entertainment that each of the countries offered. Thailand claimed 3rd spot in the survey despite being one of the worst affected areas for expats during the global downturn.

Singapore, Bahrain, South Africa, France, USA, Spain and Hong Kong completed the top 10 of most desirable countries for expats. Last year’s survey found Germany, Canada and Spain being ranked in the top three.

The UK was ranked one of the lowest locations for expats after being named as one of the most expensive places for expats. In addition, 44% of expats in the UK are considering returning home, compared with only 15% overall. However, from those questioned, 62% said that employment prospects were what was keeping them in the region.

Results from a different section of the survey showed that Russia was home to the highest number of expats earning more than $250,000 with 30% taking away that amount a year. Hong Kong followed in a close second.



Canada, Australia ranked best places for expats
(Reuters)

25 November 2009
Looking to work overseas? Head to Canada, Australia or Thailand, according to an annual global survey which found recession-hit Britain was one of the worst locations to live for expatriates.

The second annual Expat Experience survey, commissioned by HSBC Bank International, revealed that expats in Canada have the best quality of life and found it among the easiest places in the world to integrate with the local population.

Australia and Thailand also came in the top three in the survey of 3,146 people working in 30 different industries and 50 countries, even though Thailand was one of the countries worst-hit by the recession for expats.

“We have seen that there is a distinct trade-off between income and overall quality of life, as many of the top performers ... scored towards the bottom of this report’s league table (of the best places to make and save money),” said Betony Taylor, spokeswoman for HSBC Bank International.

“What is clear is that the locations where salaries may not be as high, such as Canada and Australia, are where expats are really enjoying not only an increased quality of life but are also finding it easy to fit in to their new communities.”

Last year Germany, Canada and Spain were the top three countries deemed to have the best lifestyle for expats.

This year Britain was one of the lowest ranked locations when it came to lifestyle after being named as one of the most expensive places for expats with the recession taking its toll.

About 44 percent of expats in Britain are considering returning home, compared with only 15 percent of expats overall.

About 41 percent of expats in Britain find it difficult to find somewhere to live, most find the quality of their accommodation drops after moving to Britain, and a third claim their health has deteriorated since moving there.

“Despite this, the UK does hold the crown for being expat entertainment capital of the world, with over half (58 percent) of expats in the UK saying that the quality of entertainment had increased,” said Taylor.

She added that 62 percent of expats also said that employment prospects were the main reason keeping them in the region.

Results from a different section of the survey, which was conducted by research company FreshMinds, released earlier found Russia was home to the highest proportion of expats earning more than $250,000 with 30 percent of international workers there banking that amount, followed by Hong Kong and Japan.

The lowest-paid expats live in Australia and Belgium with the majority — 63 percent and 61 percent respectively — earning less than $100,000.

Making Sense of Putrajaya (and other similar capital city developments)

I am not an architect or urban planner by profession but have involved directly, professionally with several urban mega city developments in Dubai. It is something that I cherish for being able to expand my horizon and enrich my own experience in areas that used to be my childhood dream.

At one time I was given the role as 'Development Manager' for a city project A long way from my 'IT or computer science' academic background.

Currently, I am currently involved with certain mixed development projects in two distinctive up-and-coming 'cities' in new Dubai. One billed as 'The new business capital .' There was one time another mega project that claimed to be the new Dubai capital, it was aborted due to the global financial crisis. Abu Dhabi has a new capital city as well, which will span an area of 4,900 hectares and be located about 15km from Abu Dhabi city and would be able to accommodate three million people by 2028...that's a long way to go.



The word capital reminds me the used-to-be-called new capital of Malaysia, which is now coined as the administrative capital, Putrajaya. Does it mean the business capital is still Kuala Lumpur?

However, I do not really like Putrajaya for some personal reasons. It is nice city, awesome (aloof) architecture but for common people to deal with government departments and agencies, it would be very much desired to have better transportation links to other parts of old cities. Parking in certain areas of Putrajaya is also a problem. I could be wrong as there could be some improvements.

Building democracy

Architecture Inside Out
By PROF DR MOHD TAJUDDIN

WHEN I first laid eyes on the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya, and when I first looked over the country’s new administrative capital, I said to myself that this building and the city it is in will be emulated in other states, even in local municipalities, if on a lesser scale.

Needless to say, I was right: Penang announced its own version of Putrajaya a while back; and the word “Putrajaya” itself now seems synonymous with the ideal architecture of statehood, domes and all.

The Skudai municipality (in Johor) where I live has embellished its streets with ornamented roadways, Art Nouveau lampposts and expensive sculptural landscaping. Everyone seems to be competing to see who can be the biggest, the most lavish and the most grandiose in following in the footsteps of the shiny new city of Putrajaya.

Meanwhile, there is little effort to lay pedestrian-friendly pavements in the streets, make proper crossings for school children, and provide enough libraries, temples, community centres and useable public furniture. The first lesson of democratic architecture has been lost when what is discernable is architecture for the few and not for the many.

This building speaks of aloof imperialism

Single ethnic references

For an example of what I mean by architecture for the many, one has only to look at the building in which Parliament sits, in Kuala Lumpur. The Parliament building makes no specific ethnic reference, which is one aspect of democratic architecture. Such architecture either uses all ethnic references or none at all.

To emphasise one particular ethnic reference is quite out of sync with a Constitution that guarantees equal rights to all. Granted that Malaysia is, historically, a country of the Malays, but need one shout that message so loudly that one risks breaking eardrums?

The PM’s office in Putrajaya attempts to claim a Muslim heritage with its domes and emphasises its Malay ethnic origins. The Parliament building, on the other hand, sports an international style that makes no ethnic references; instead, it uses this country’s tropical heritage as its dominating theme.

And the ribbed prism on its podium speaks universally of a traditional roof heritage common to most ethnic groups in this region.

Though some architects may frown at my idea of a multi-ethnic, eclectic approach, the fathers of architectural semantics say that such an approach is viable. Of course, to subscribe to this approach, architects have to stretch their minds a little to do some thinking rather than sticking to their usual modus operandi of “typological copying”.

Regionalism and accountability

The Parliment building is more democratic.
Next, let us venture into the realm of architectural regionalism. Regionalism as an approach found favour among architects looking to conserve energy.

In Malaysia, experiments with regionalism produced some marvellous buildings, such as the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur with its use of generous serambi (veranda) areas, air wells and light courts with ventilated wall assembly.

The Parliament building did not go as far as the National Mosque but it does display the famous “pineapple skin” that some say functions as a sun shading device.

It matters not whether there is a great saving of energy in relation to the tower’s cooling load; what matters is that the message of democracy is clear: elected leaders simply cannot mess around with public money held in trust. The money belongs to the people who are the true “bosses” in a democracy.

What does Putrajaya show in reference to minding public funds? There is no discernable attempt to create any kind of shading device or serambi that would act not only to cool the building but also to welcome the people. Its palatial French architecture is clearly an out and out imitation since palaces in temperate climes don’t need shading devices.

Undemocratic language

The architectural language used in Putrajaya is very “imperial” as opposed to the “business as usual” architecture of the Parliament building.

In his writings and speeches, renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) always criticised “palatial” architecture (as exemplified by the federal buildings in Washington DC). He was, in fact, imprisoned for a day when he refused to retract his cutting comments.

Wright felt that by emulating the architecture of aristocratic or autocratic regimes of the past, Washington’s architects did not attempt to portray the new ideals of democracy, which lays the reins of governance in the people’s hands.

Wright’s architecture always chose asymmetrical massing over symmetry, the use of the horizontal expression as a symbol of humility to the “Earth as the Nurturer”, and the celebration of local materials as economic products of weathered quality.

Palace-like architectural characteristics of strong hierarchical symmetry and expensive materials and ornamentation amidst deep setbacks of lavishly landscaped gardens is truly in stark contrast to, say, Parliament House in London.

I feel a sense of a sure and strong nation when I look at this building in London because of its easy accessibility to the public. The building is a stone’s throw from where people walk every day and that speaks volumes about the idea of a democratic nation.

To those who expound the virtues of security in the palatial French format, I wish to say that, in a democracy, the best security is not walls, setbacks and electronic surveillance but simply the idea that if one leader dies, there are many others who can easily take over – unlike in a monarchy, whose very survival depends entirely on the survival of offspring.

Democratic architecture should not hide behind thick walls and setbacks. It should be on the street where the people walk. This would be a true testament to the fact that this is a government of the people for the people and by those very same people. Though the location of Malaysia’s Parliament building is somewhat elitist, set as it is in the midst of much landscaping, the building clearly does not pretend to be a palace behind high walls.

The designers of state architecture would do well to keep this in mind and create buildings that “meet” the people rather than hide behind grand landscaping or walls.

The National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur is a fine example of energy-saving modernist architecture.

The spirit has been lost

There are so many more issues surrounding the idea of democratic architecture in Malaysia.

In our book, Konsep Perbandaran Islam: Suatu Gagasan Alternatif, Rosdan Abdul Manan and I toy with the idea of a public square in the middle of the country’s capital that is completely accessible to the public – the medan, or public square, is a powerful symbol of a true democracy.

State and federal buildings and mosques are relegated to the perimeter in an asymmetrical layout. We also suggest placing a cemetery adjacent to the square within view of the executive structures. This is to remind the leaders of their mortality and, hence, that the power vested in their persons is but fleeting.

Malaysia’s Parliament was built during the heyday of modernism when metaphorical references were frowned upon. It could not help but be what it is. So, in the absence of a serious study on what influenced its design, I would attribute its democratic architecture to an accident.

Putrajaya, however, was a deliberate act. In one sense, the imperial message it broadcasts does indeed exemplify the nature of “democracy” in Malaysia where many citizens are completely apathetic about the idea of “power to the people”. Yet, as a Malay, a Muslim and as a Malaysian, I cannot bring myself to accept this language as the ideal embodiment of the original spirit of the Malaysian Constitution.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia lecturer Prof Dr Mohamad Tajuddin passionately believes that architectural design that respects cultural values, religious sensitivities and the ideals of democracy is vital to nation-building and harmony. Share your thoughts about his monthly column at starmag@thestar.com.my.

‘Konsep Perbandaran Islam: Suatu Gagasan Alternatif’ (2001, ISBN: 9-835-20235-4) is available from the publisher’s website, www.penerbit.utm.my.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vacancies in Roads & Transport Authority, Dubai, UAE

Go to here too.

pdf

Roads & Transport Authority - the place to work for all those who are keen to join one of the leading local Government organisations. Join us if you are interested in providing the best possible levels of service to the citizens, businesses and residents of Dubai.

To apply send your CV to hrd@rta.ae

Vacancies:


Position
(Reference #)
Degree Years of Exp
1 QHSE Director

RTA\HRD\2009\024

Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, Masters degree from a recognized university preferred. Minimum 12 years
2 Quality Manager

RTA\HRD\2009\025

Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering,Masters degree from a recognized university preferred. Minimum 7 years
3 Health & Safety Manager

RTA\HRD\2009\026

Bachelor – Civil engineering and preferable master in same major Minimum 7 years
4 Parking Director

RTA\HRD\2009\027

Bachelor’s degree in Electronic or Electrical Engineering. Related field Master’s degree in from a recognized university is preferred. 8 to 10 years of experience in parking engineering
5 Roads Maintenance

RTA\HRD\2009\028

Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Masters degree from a recognized university preferred. 5 to 7 years of broad roads maintenance experience
6 Roads Structure & facilities Maintenance Manager

RTA\HRD\2009\029

Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Masters degree from a recognized university preferred. 5 to 7 years of broad road structures and building facilities maintenance experience
7 Private Road & Structure Maintenance Manager

RTA\HRD\2009\030

Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Masters degree from a recognized university preferred. 5 to 7 years of broad road structures and building facilities maintenance experience
8 Control Centers Manager

RTA\HRD\2009\031

Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. Masters degree from a recognized university preferred. 5 to 7 years in mainframe, mini or micro computer applications
9 Toll System Manager

RTA\HRD\2009\032

Bachelor Electronic or Electrical Engineering Masters degree from a recognized university preferred 5 to 7 years broad fees management experience
10 Treasury Manager Manager

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Bachelor in Finance or Accounting 9 to 10 years of experience in Finance and treasury
11 Environment Sustainability Manager

RTA\HRD\2009\034

Bachelor's degree from a recognized University. Minimum 7 years of related experience
12 Infrastructure Maintenance Manager

RTA\HRD\2009\035

Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Masters degree from a recognized university preferred. 5 to 7 years of broad maintenance experience, familiarity with the inspection procedures
13 Reception & Accidents Management Manager

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Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. Masters degree from a recognized university preferred. 5 to 7 years experience in same field
14 Vehicle inspection Manager

RTA\HRD\2009\037

Bachelors degree (industrial/mechanical/automotive) engineering 5 to 7 years experience in inspection
15 Audit & Reporting Manager

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Bachelor's degree in Engineering from a recognized and accredited university required Minimum 7-11 years of work safety experience gained in the transport sector
2. Vacancies at Dubai Metro:
Serco is conducting a campaign to recruit UAE employees to work for Dubai Metro,
and for this purpose they launched a web site to receive candidate's CVs at http://www.joindubaimetro.ae

TECHNICAL EXPERT

Salary not found

Location: UAE

Industry: Engineering & Technical

Company: ROADS & TRANSPORT AUTH

Published 23rd November 2009

Source: GN Appointments Print Edition

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TRAFFIC TARIFF SYSTEMS MANAGER

Salary not found

Location: UAE

Industry: Managerial & Supervisory

Company: ROADS & TRANSPORT AUTH

Published 23rd November 2009

Source: GN Appointments Print Edition

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3. Job Opportunities for Fresh Graduates
It’s time to build your professional career!!
freshgraduate@rta.ae

To assist young UAE cadres thrive in an ideal career environment, RTA Human Resources & Development Department is pleased to announce a wide range of career opportunities in various RTA agencies for fresh graduates 2007/2008 among UAE nationals, as detailed below:

Degrees: Higher Diploma / Bachelor
Majors: All engineering lines, Business Administration, HR, Media, Accounting, Statistics and Computer Science.

Avail this opportunity to build your professional career & nation with the RTA. Send your C.V. only through:freshgraduate@rta.ae or Call 8009090