Friday, February 26, 2010

Dubai Consumer price fall in 2009 will have positive implications in 2010

Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry analysis revealed that in 2009, Dubai's consumer prices fell precipitously as the falling housing and food costs meant that the emirate witnessed its lowest inflation rate in five years. According to the Dubai Statistics Center, Dubai's inflation rate stood at 4.1% in 2009 as compared with 11.3% in 2008 (table 1).

Housing, water, electricity and gas price growth, accounting for the largest share of the CPI weight, stood at 2.4% in 2009 as the combination of falling rental and property prices meant that individuals and businesses were left with more disposable income in their pockets last year (see figures 1 and 2).

In general, Dubai recorded its highest inflation rate in over 20 years at 11.3% in 2008 on the back of a surge in local rents and food prices due to higher global commodity prices and a sharp increase in its import bill due to the weakening US dollar. This trend has clearly reversed in 2009 due to the resurgence in the US dollar, falling commodity prices, a correction in the real estate sector and weakening domestic demand.

This strong drop in rental accommodation, commercial real estate and warehousing, will certainly have further positive implications for doing business in Dubai in 2010. Looking ahead, from a business perspective, a drop of inflation will increase the competitiveness of the UAE and attract more business start ups.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

HCL Technologies Sets Up Mideast Headquarters in Dubai; Targets Creation of 5,000 Jobs

DUBAI -- India's information technology giant HCL Technologies Ltd on Wednesday said its fast-expanding Middle East operation based in Dubai was on track to create 5,000 jobs and over $300 million in revenues in
 five years.

A relative latecomer to the region's burgeoning IT sector, the $5 billion HCL said its new regional headquarters in Dubai would be a springboard for penetrating into other markets across the Middle East.

"Dubai is an entrepot not only for the GCC but for the whole Middle East and North Africa region, and we believe the opening of the regional office a milestone in our corporate history," said Shiv Nadar, founder chairman & chief strategy officer of HCL.

Nadar, who transformed HCL from an original IT garage start-up company of 1976 to a global giant employing 62,000 people, said he was looking for an anchor customer to add momentum to the regional growth.

Already, HCL services more than 25 large organisations in Middle East, offering services across a wide range of service lines. HCL Technologies has been delivering IT solutions across a cross-section of industries since its foray in the Middle East in 2007. "In a very short span of time, we have been able to structure strategic relationships with marquee customers and partners in the region," said Nadar. "From our regional office in Dubai Internet CityDubai Internet CityLoading... and other offices in the GCC, we will offer product engineering and R&D, custom applications, enterprise application services, infrastructure management services, and BPO," he said.

"India and the Middle East have historically had strong ties and HCL is happy to take that relationship one step forward by extending this partnership to the technology realm," he said at media briefing to announce the regional 
office opening. Nadar argued that HC is a pioneer of modern computing. From designing the world's first micro computer at the same time as global IT peers in 1978, it has grown to work on the Boeing Dreamliner's airborne systems today, he said. "We are happy to bring to our partners in the Middle East, HCL's globally acknowledged transformational technology, which I believe will add great business value to the region. The Middle East, for us is a very interesting and high growth potential market and we continue to concentrate on it with a great deal of strategic intent and focus."

Malek Sultan Al Malek, Executive Director, Dubai Internet City (DIC)Dubai Internet City (DIC)Loading..., said HCL's decision to expand their business operations in Middle East would have a positive impact on the IT services industry in the region. "We are confident that HCL's expanded facilities at DIC will further enable them to leverage market opportunities through initiatives and programmes available at the technology business park."

Virender Aggarwal, senior vice president of Technologies said the opening of the Dubai office reflected the strategic importance of the Middle East market in HCL's growth strategy. "We are confident that this new office will go a long way in helping us extend our globally benchmarked transformational IT services to corporations in Middle East. We are committed to a long term investment in this region."


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Special Report: UAE - Dubai downturn forces strategy rethink

Dubai may not have much oil, but its economy still relies heavily on oil revenues, albeit those of neighbouring Abu Dhabi.

In light of Dubai’s very public financial difficulties, there was little surprise last month when the emirate unveiled spending cuts for its 2010 budget. Government spending is projected to total $9.6bn this year, some 6 per cent lower than the $10.3bn in 2009.

Some economists had expected an even larger reduction, given that the emirate has had to seek $20bn in bailouts from Abu Dhabi since the global financial crisis took hold.

But in drawing up this budget, the Dubai government has sought to find a balance that allows it reign in its spending, while at the same time preventing the economy from stagnating. It has done so by allocating $4.7bn – just under half the budget total – to infrastructure and transportation projects.

Continued investment in infrastructure is considered crucial for the future of Dubai’s economy. If the emirate is to retain its position as the commercial hub for the Gulf region, an integrated transport system is vital.

But perhaps more importantly, by continuing to push ahead with its infrastructure projects, Dubai will be keeping several thousand expatriate workers in employment. As consumers who make an important contribution to the economy, their continued presence in the emirate is another key element that will decide the future of the city state.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sharp decline in labourer recruitment in Dubai

The number of construction workers arriving in Dubai has practically ground to a halt in the last few months, a Dubai-based company which specialises in recruiting workers from India and Pakistan has told Arabian Business.

A spokesperson from the Dhoria International Job Centre said the company was recruiting between 200 and 400 workers a month last year, but in the last four months it had only recruited a total of four workers.

“It has gone from 50 to 100 a week to one a month,” the spokesperson said.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dubai's woes displace migrant wokers

Kai Ryssdal: There was good news today for one slice of the American labor market. The Department of Labor announced new rules to protect temporary farm workers, mostly in the areas of wages and safety. Those two topics are of concern to low-income workers everywhere. And in South Asia, another group of migrant workers is feeling the pinch as once-booming Dubai sends a lot of its foreigners home.

Raymond Thibodeaux reports from the southern Indian state of Kerala.

RAYMOND THIBODEAUX: Abdul Wahab sits in his home in Kochi. His wife Neeza pours glasses of orange drink for him and their two children. This is the first time in 24 years that he's returned from Dubai for more than just a few weeks home leave. Abdul and about 1,700 other dockworkers at the Dubai Ports Authority were recently laid off from their jobs. No warning. No efforts to get them alternative employment. It all happened in one day.

ABDUL WAHAB: All of the sudden after the shift they came and gave them the paper that your job is finished. You can go back to your country. There is no time to think. All the camp is surrounded by the military, and there is no way to struggle or agitate. So they simply came back.

Abdul's homecoming is bittersweet. He says tough times lie ahead in India. But his wife Neeza couldn't be happier.

NEEZA: We only hope that he is back for good. Without him, it is sometimes a struggle to raise our two children, especially since I also must work.

Abdul, like many South Asian migrant workers, had looked on the Gulf countries as a gravy train. The oil boom of the 1970's made them rich. The kinds of places that could finance huge construction projects.

BINOD KHADRIA: That triggered massive demand for overseas workers.

Binod Khadria, an economics professor, directs the international migration and diaspora studies project at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

KHADRIA: That was a golden opportunity for low-skilled and mid-level-skilled people to find highly paid jobs.

He says most of those workers came from India, and most of the Indians come from the southern state of Kerala, where one in six workers is employed overseas. But now that Dubai's economy has been hit by the global downturn and construction projects are being abandoned or reconsidered, migrant workers are being shipped home by the planeloads.

KHADRIA: The psychology is on now that it's coming to an end. They have that sense, but they also are hopeful that the gravy train can find other routes. Europe is opening up. East Asia is opening up.

Kerala's economy is counting on it. Keralans working abroad sent home about $5 billion a year, boosting Kerala's economy by nearly 25 percent.

Rafeek Ravuther is host of "Migrants' World." It's a TV show about Indians working overseas. He says returning Indians complain that even in a rising India, the salaries are way too low. Some have had to take their children out of private schools. But Rafeek has noticed something else.

RAFEEK RAVUTHER: If they are coming back to Kerala, they will not do those kinds of jobs they did in Dubai, they will not do it in Kerala.

Not at Keralan rates at least. Rafeek says it's also a pride thing. Any job in Dubai was seen as so prestigious that bachelors advertising for a wife would often add "works in Dubai." But in the present climate, with jobs in the Desert Kingdom evaporating like mirages, potential brides may not be so impressed.

In Kochi, India, I'm Raymond Thibodeaux for Marketplace.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Businesswoman's Boomtown In Dubai

Even though they are shrouded in abayas, a conference in the Middle East reveals just how many women are ready to move up to the top.

This was no Wall Street or City of London crowd. That was my first thought as I looked around the audience at the second Arab Women's Leadership Forum, held in Dubai last month. Instead of the Armani-clad executives that you would find at a women's leadership event in New York or London, these women were shrouded in black abayas, many with their heads covered with shailas (head scarves). Instead of the in-your-face confidence I had grown to expect at high-powered women's conventions, these participants clustered together, shy and silent, like graceful but elusive shadows. Products of a different culture, I reckoned they probably had different values and different goals.

I could not have been more wrong. Three days and dozens of conversations later, I was chastened and deeply impressed.

Far from being trapped in tradition, the Forum--spearheaded by the Dubai Women's Establishment, a government agency, and sponsored by a broad range of private companies--sought to accelerate the pace of Arab women's inclusion in the workplace. Keynote speakers included Selma Aliye Kavaf, Turkey's Minister for Women and Family Affairs, and Aseel Al-Awadhi, member of Parliament for Kuwait. The sessions centered on how to update antiquated and inflexible work structures to better integrate women and allow them to progress to top jobs.

As for the turnout, it was an eye-opening 600 women drawn from the senior ranks of governments, NGOs and private firms not just in the United Arab Emirates but all across the Middle East.

For me, it was a heady experience with some unexpected takeaways.

First off, I learned that an unofficial goal of the conference was to re-position female Emirati and other Gulf-state women as serious players in the world of work. In the words of May Al Dabbagh, director of the Gender and Public Policy Program at the Dubai School of Government, many work environments are fraught with stereotypes about Arab women, both in Dubai and elsewhere. "Women are incorrectly perceived as not serious about building their careers," she told me. "The work they do is viewed as an interim step before leaving to get married or have children. This shortchanges the commitment and clout of this group."

Second, I picked up rumblings of discontent about the kick-off session, which was centered on childcare/daycare initiatives. The nursery was the least of the concerns of many participants. Those who had children leaned on extended family or had easy access to low-cost domestic help. A surprisingly large segment of the audience seemed not to have children at all. Both camps felt somewhat excluded by the choice of topic. They wanted more immediate emphasis on negotiation skills and cultural barriers.

In fact, once the group had warmed up, the energy and buzz at the conference could not have been more familiar. The conversations revolved around access to mentors, plum assignments, global experience and advice on how to get it.

I really shouldn't have been so surprised. Close to 70% of college graduates in Dubai are now female and many of these women are committed professionals. A major new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy--to be released in June of this year--on Women in Emerging Markets, including BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies and the United Arab Emirates, finds that women constitute a pool of highly qualified talent just waiting to be tapped:

--UAE women love their jobs and display enviable levels of dedication to their work, with 90% willing to go the extra mile for their companies.

--92% of UAE women aspire to hold a top job.

--Their level of ambition is nearly 2.5 times that of their American counterparts and on par with their male peers.

As their goals and aspirations began to emerge, so too did glimpses of individuality and aesthetic flair. Now that I began to look beyond the anonymous black robes, I noticed sleeves and hems edged with vivid embroidery or snakes illuminated by Swarovski crystals. I particularly enjoyed the interplay of ethnic pride with high fashion. An abaya with an open slit in front could just as well reveal a glimpse of heels Carrie Bradshaw would swoon over as a pair of bejeweled sandals straight out of Scheherazade's closet.

Beneath our very different outer coverings, we were much more alike than I had thought. And that, perhaps, was the most important takeaway of all.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy, a nonprofit think tank, where she leads the "Hidden Brain Drain" Task Force. She is the author of nine nonfiction books--including Off-Ramps and On-Ramps and Top Talent: Keeping Performance Up When Business Is Down.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Better Work and Housing for Civic Workers Soon

DUBAI - Blue collar workers with Dubai Municipality are likely to have better interactions with their superiors, new kitchens at their labour accommodations, and probably new playgrounds for taking their stress out, thanks to the results of a job satisfaction survey.

In what is dubbed an unprecedented initiative by any government department, the civic body has conducted a survey to study the level of job satisfaction among a sample of more than 1,200 workers in six labour accommodations under the Municipality.

The study also assessed their satisfaction with regards to their living standards in the housing facilities, the rapport and interaction they have with their supervisors and other seniors, the cooperation from their coworkers, and their general requirements.

Head of Policy Studies Section at the Municipality Qamar Fadhlani told Khaleej Times that most of the workers had expressed high level of satisfaction related to their jobs. He said a set of recommendations was being prepared to address the grievances and requirements pointed out by the workers.

“More than 90 per cent of them are happy with regards to the eight-hour job, proper place to stay, enough security, mosques and other facilities in their accommodations. But, many of them have said that they cannot afford the food delivered by catering services,” said Fadhlani.

As a solution, Fadhlani said, a proposal to establish new cooking facilities at workers’ accommodation will be submitted to the higher authorities. “It’s dangerous if they start cooking in their rooms. So, we would like to propose for separate kitchens in their camps. We will put new safety regulations in place and organise training programmes for them,” he said.

Another concern that workers expressed was that they had little interaction and direct guidance from their high level officials. “We are going to ask heads of sections and directors of departments to make more field visits and interact more with these workers so that both the parties can benefit out of it,” said Fadhlani.

Not having proper playgrounds to exercise and unwind was another 
complaint aired by many workers. “Some labour accommodations have enough areas for the workers to play games. Since the lack of space is an issue in others, we are thinking of arranging buses to take them (the workers) to nearby playgrounds on a daily basis,” Fadhlani added.

Director of Human Resources Department Abdullah Abdul Rahman said collecting workers’ feedback was in line with the Municipality’s efforts to take care of its human resources. Questionnaires in English and Arabic were sent out to labour accommodations where the workers were helped by translators in five other languages to answer them.