Capitalist crisis in Dubai

This video says about itself:

Most people know Dubai for its massive skyscrapers and luxurious hotels, but few know that the city was built by modern-day slaves.

Sometimes, workers are on strike in Dubai.

By Simon Assaf:

Dubai: free market monument wavers

by Simon Assaf

It was dubbed the sparkling jewel of the Persian Gulf – and held up as proof of the wonders of the free market.

When the credit crisis broke in September, Dubai’s rulers, leading economists and the financial press gloated about how the Gulf kingdom would buck the trend.

A £13 million mega-party was held to celebrate the completion of £1 billion Atlantis resort complex – with a fireworks display that “could be seen from space”.

Celebrities, the global rich and investors flocked to see this oasis of calm under the rule of “visionary” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

British investors, in particular, were sold the idea that they could buy into the “Dubai dream” – and young prostitutes, mainly from Iran, Iraq and Eastern Europe, were shipped in to tend to their needs.

Anything and everything was possible, if you had the money – until the real world came crashing in. Two days after the party, Dubai admitted it was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Oil-rich Abu Dhabi, one of the seven kingdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), lent the kingdom $80 billion – more than the value of Dubai’s entire economy in 2006 – to see off a potential financial meltdown.

It was a rude awakening to the Gulf state that sought to make itself the playground of the rich – with skyscrapers, luxury villas dotted on man-made island oases, and £42,000 a night hotel suites (breakfast excluded).

The financial news agency Bloomberg reported that the classified ads section of local newspapers “read like an obituary for a real-estate market”. …

Oil wealth, speculators’ dollars and dirty money fuelled this boom, but jobs are now disappearing. Construction companies are laying off workers and slashing wages.

These cuts are set to have a dramatic impact on the region – the Lebanese government, for example, fears that some 30,000 Lebanese families will be heading home as work dries up.

Similar stories are emerging from Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

The Dubai dream created nightmares for many. The region is rich in oil yet the vast majority of people live in searing poverty and deprivation.

This monument to free market capitalism always came at a price.

Over one million workers, the majority drawn from South Asia, toiled in the cruel summer heat to complete the construction projects.

The average monthly salary in the UAE is £1,340, but these migrant workers earned just £63 – half of which was deducted for food and the cost of a work visa.

See also here.

A refrigerated swimming pool and an artificially cooled beach – Dubai’s latest excesses are enough to make conservationists weep: here.

The dark side of Dubai: here.

15 thoughts on “Capitalist crisis in Dubai

  1. At least there’s some good news. The fall of the evil paradise of Dubai would gladden my heart. Just the thought of all those luxury hotels and office towers standing, abandoned, in the desert makes me happy. I’d feel great if those sixty three pound a month contract workers would do some looting on their way out of town.
    Jon, the olde nihilist.


  2. Well, I’m not much of a nihilist really. Yes, I’d like to see Dubai in the grip of a general sit-in strike. However, if the whole thing is going to collapse, I want the workers to at least grab something on their way out. The American Southwest is full of small scale Dubais. Some investor’s scheme that failed, leaving an abandoned building or subdivision sitting in the middle of nowhere. That’s what I thought of when I pictured the collapse of Dubai.


  3. Dubai cancels New Year celebrations

    Wednesday, 31 December 2008
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    Tourist hot spot Dubai has had all New Year celebrations cancelled by ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum over the attacks in Gaza.

    Hotels were today trying to rearrange their plans amid confusion over the extent of the order.

    It calls for Dubai to mark the New Year “with a sombre tone as a token of solidarity” with the Palestinian people and with the Gaza Strip in particular.

    The manager of the four-star Arabian Courtyard said there would be no music or dancing to ring in the New Year, although the hotel’s restaurants and bars will stay open.

    It was unclear if other hotels would follow suit. Most say they cannot yet comment on whether the ban will affect the city’s champagne dinners and raucous bar bashes.

    Organisers also said they did not know if a concert by pop star Shakira in Abu Dhabi will go ahead.

    Some celebrations have also been cancelled in Jordan and Egypt in solidarity with Gaza.


  4. Dubai’s economy is causing hardship to lot of people. As developers we are also having trouble with our investors. We have had a lot of cancellations which has caused us serious trouble with financial institutions like banks and other private equity investors.

    Our companies like Emirates Neon Group better known an ENG Media has recently filed for first bankruptcy protection in the middle east. Our Ruwaad Holding (owners of the Amazulu project) has gone into a definite tail-spin as investors money has been removed totally.

    A lot of investor related fraud has also caused us some serious financial hardships.

    Hanif Merchant
    Ex-Chairman and Ex-CEO of Emirates Neon Group
    Ex-Chairman of Ruwaad Holdings


  5. Apr 13, 12:56 PM EDT

    Rights group criticizes UAE media restrictions

    Associated Press Writer

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A rights group criticized a proposed media law in the United Arab Emirates, saying the pending legislation continues to stifle the press, restricts free speech and strengthens self-censorship among journalists.

    Human Rights Watch said in a new report released Monday in Dubai that the Emirates’ draft media law is plagued with problems such as “draconian fines” and “harsh registration requirements,” and will tighten the government’s control of the media.

    The proposed law has sent a chill through the local media. It has also left foreign news organization in Dubai wondering about the legislation’s impact on their operations.

    Journalist groups in the Emirates have previously accused officials of trying to muzzle the press with the new law. Some said it was an attempt to force news outlets to become part of the country’s image-building machine in challenging economic times and after years of basking in coverage of hyper-growth.

    As in the rest of the Middle East, local media in the UAE have typically avoided stories that could anger ruling officials. But when inviting foreign media to set up offices here, the authorities promised to allow more press freedoms than in other countries of the region.

    “We were hoping for a model media law (in the UAE) for others in the region to follow,” Samer Muscati, a researcher with the Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press Monday.

    The draft media law can impose fines up to about $136,000 for “carrying misleading news that harms the national economy.” It also includes fines of a staggering $1,350,000 for “insulting” members of the government and the ruling family, the New York-based watchdog said in the report.

    The National Media Council, a governmental body overseeing the media, rejected the group’s criticism of the draft that was passed by the Emirates legislature in January and is awaiting the final approval of the country’s president.

    The Council emphasized the law’s improvements – lack of criminal penalties for journalist and protection for reporters against revealing their sources – and said the group’s report shows “real lack of understanding of the situation in the Emirates.”

    Some of the watchdog’s remarks were an “attempt to promote concepts … that are not compatible with the laws of the UAE and its value system,” the Council said in a statement, carried by the UAE’s official WAM news agency Monday.

    © 2009 The Associated Press.


  6. Migrant staff rally for wage boost

    Dubai: Hundreds of migrant workers hit the streets yesterday to demand decent wages and overtime pay from Al Habtoor Engineering Enterprises, the company which built the emirate’s landmark Gulf shore hotel.

    The rally is the first public display of labour discontent since the former boomtown was hit by the market meltdown last year.

    The predominantly Asian workers, who have built Dubai’s skyscrapers and artificial islands, have long complained that their wages are not enough to survive on and support their families.


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