Horry County and Dubai

By Paul Gable 

Remember when then Horry County Council Chairman Liz Gilland used a portion of her county expense allowance to travel to Dubai, in March 2009?

According to Gilland, at the time, she spent $2,000 of public funds to join a S.C. Department of Commerce economic development trip to make sure Horry County got consideration in future investment by that small Arab state. Her justification was, “If I don’t play, we strike out.” Gilland played but Horry County, to this date, has not even gotten up to bat.

The following is a blog post provided to Grand Strand Daily from a U.S. citizen, who requested to remain anonymous, recently traveling in Dubai. It appears Horry County was fortunate to never get into the game.

Trouble in the Emirates

“I would like nothing better than to be able to say only good and positive things about the Emirates.  It is after all a wonderful place to be with many incredible sights and experiences and flavors.

“The people here are wonderful folks with an incredibly diverse population and culture. This is no doubt due to the fact that 85% of the population is imported from India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and the Philippines, to do 99% of the work.

“However, there are many things about the United Arab Emirates that strike me as serious problems with the most severe being the economy.

“When I was studying this country from the comfort of the United States, using resources that seemed authoritative, the UAE seemed like a golden apple when compared to the rotten fruit of other nations in such close proximity.

“The truth is the economy here is in dire trouble.  It started to turn bad as far back as 2006 when the building boom began to go bust. As a result, the most prominent feature of any vantage point in any of the Emirates is hundreds, seemingly thousands of buildings that are half finished, hulking concrete skeletons.  They mar the landscape in every direction you care to look.

“They seem to speak of great things to come for the Emirates, but after seeing so many of them and seeing how slowly the work progresses I find myself wondering more and more often if the vast majority of these construction sites will ever be completed. The UAE is running out of money and there are literally trillions of dollars of construction projects that are in the works.

“Dubai is rumored to already be out of oil reserves and the other Emirates (except Abu Dhabi) never had very much oil to begin with.  That means that Abu Dhabi is the only Emirate with any substantial wealth left to it and it is going to run out of oil wealth eventually too.

“The Emirates should have concentrated just as much on critical infrastructure and municipal services such as water purification and delivery systems, sewage and water reclamation, streets and sidewalks. For crying out loud, why aren’t there any crosswalks in this country? Crossing the street here is like playing Russian roulette with a semiautomatic pistol, inherently suicidal.

“There are laws, which when I studied them in the United States, seemed great.  Labor laws protected workers from overzealous employers and ensured that they would be compensated for bad treatment and or abusive bosses.

“Unfortunately those laws only apply for Emirate Nationals, not for the 85% of the people that actually do the work here. There is also a program here called Emiratization, whereby the government demands that for every 100 employees a company hires, at least 10 of them have to be Emirate citizens.

“What makes this such a bad idea for businesses is that the Emirate citizens are born wealthy, consider work to be beneath them,
are poorly trained and educated with no practical experience. Yet, they demand to have jobs where they are senior managers or executive officers with command and control authority, and they want twice the salary as expatriates.

“A little twist to this is that in 2006 a law was passed that states all HR managers in the country must be Emirate citizens.  This way they can ensure that the hiring authority at all businesses in the country is controlled by citizens who will give all the best positions to fellow citizens and provide them with the highest pay and benefits.

“Another issue with the Emirates is law enforcement.  Every single law enforcement officer in the Emirates is an Emirate National, and they are notorious for siding with other Nationals even in instances where it is blatantly obvious that they are prejudiced.

“For instance, were you to be hit from behind in traffic by an Emirate National, the police will come and they will document the scene and, inevitably, the foreigner will be found at fault and made to pay for damages to the Emirate National that hit your vehicle.

“Another problem is the way the imported labor force is treated.  It is a standard practice for companies here to seize passports, making you a prisoner in the country until the employer is satisfied that you have fulfilled contractual obligations.

“The Philippines seem to be the population most affected by this tactic and the companies here are making a fortune from their labors. The Philippine Consulate does absolutely nothing to fight against it or to help their citizens get better working conditions or better wages.

“Things seem to be getting worse here and the U.N. sanctions on Iran are being felt in the Emirates as well.  Dubai did 10 billion dollars in trade with Iran last year. This year, that trade is not happening.  Add to this talk in the international community of a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

“How such a strike, if it happens, will affect the economy here is not clear but the possibility of hostilities that could engulf the entire region would probably send a good many expats seeking the safety of their home countries and that would be very hard on an already weak economy.”

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