Category Archives: Administrative matters

167. Problems II

I have had a lot of my time on my hands recently. Curiously, I have not spent it conjuring up nonsensical prose and throwing it against the graffiti-ridden, decaying brick wall that is UAE Uncut. No, instead I have split my time across three key areas: job hunting, moping, and visa acquisition.

My first complaint is about the former. How hard can it be to get a job? I have trawled and trawled online and fired off so many CV’s that I am now fairly certain that there are more copies of it on the world’s wide web then there are pictures of Kim Kardashian. Events Management, writing jobs, and project coordination are my three areas, and have I received so much as one reply? No. It seems that I am more likely to receive an email from Elvis. Still, I remain positive that one day the phone shall ring, and that on that one occasion it won’t be my bank offering me finger nail insurance.

Things have a tendency to move quite slowly over here, and for that reason I am not going for the whisky and the revolver just yet. On a completely unrelated note, should any potential employer be reading this then I love you and think that you are very handsome/pretty and your taste in music is wonderful. And may I also compliment you on your suit/frock/child/children/haircut/car/office. Good job; and I hope to hear from you soon.

Of course when I haven’t been riding around the Emirates in an open-top bus throwing CV’s from the top deck down to the scrabbling masses, I have spent some quality time moping around the apartment and wondering what must be done with this and that. I have, as of yet, been unable to come to any conclusion about anything, and that in turn has made me nothing whatsoever.

Then we come to the party piece of my time-spending escapades: trying to sort a visa. Since I am now out of work I am authorised to be under the sponsorship of my dear wife. On the face of it that doesn’t sound like such a hard to thing to achieve, but believe me, it has been a disaster.

Without wishing to name or shame any specific individual, I was given incorrect information and subsequently had to pay a hefty fine. This did not go down very well in the Fullard residence. Once the fine was dealt with, shall we say, the process of obtaining residency status could finally continue. And by “continue” I mean stop dead several times due to myriad misfortunes, such as the “system being down”, “finishing in two hours so I cannot be bothered to deal with you now”, and of course “actually, Sir, there is one problem…”

The whole thing has been infuriating and needless to say that I am only one more obstacle short of a brain haemorrhage. You can’t just do it all in one place, you have to go all over the city getting this typed here and that stamped there, and it all has to be done in the most absurd of sequences. Get one thing wrong and you land on a snake and have to move all the way back down the board to the start again.

"It was Colonel Fullard, in the Waiting Room, with the victims own leg..."

“It was Colonel Fullard, in the Waiting Room, with the victims own leg…”

It’s getting to the stage that my metaphors for visa acquisition will soon shift from Snakes & Ladders to Cluedo

I’m not kidding when I say that I have not endured one stage where there hasn’t been at least one “problem” of some kind. Why can’t there just be a list, a detailed list of what you need, how long it takes, how much it costs (so far I’ve spent somewhere in the region of AED 70 million) and most importantly where you actually have to bloody well go? I have traced my route on a map of Abu Dhabi and thus far I have covered 60,421 miles. And yet have only made about six feet of progress.

Still, no matter, at least I have my health. Yes, that was verified by the Disease Prevention Centre only today, I am “Fit” apparently. I don’t know how reliable that information is because all that happened was a doctor asked me to lift my shirt for 1.5 seconds so that he could see my back, I was drained of my blood, and had my upper torso x-rayed. All that was confirmed was that I have a spine, that I’m not Vulcan, and that I have some gooey things under my skin. I went to play football in Dubai last week and let me tell you, I am anything but fit.

Still, all my problems and grievances of late pale into insignificance when compared to the events of the recent devastation in the Philippines. All my fist thumping and harrumphing melted away when I saw the images of the wretchedness. I can’t even imagine what horror and hell the people of the Philippines are going through. With over 10,000 reported dead and the survivors totally cut off from the world, I refuse to accept that anyone else has a problem.

Thinking about it just isn’t enough, but I don’t know what else I can do. Hope.

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153. Dubai GDP

The question on everyone’s mind right now is: is Dubai back? What a lovely question. The question is a simple one, and if you were to replace the noun with, say, David, then it would be far easier to answer. David is either here or not. Dubai, on the other hand, never really went away. Its Star Trek skyline has been there all the while, peppered with cranes and heras fencing. Of course, when the Lehman Brothers jumped out of their 100th floor office window, they left Dubai with a nasty scar, a wound that will never really heal.

But that was in 2008 and in my experience if you just go ahead and pretend that the problem has gone away then, really, nothing can go wrong. It seems that I am not the only one with this idea. Dubai has left the troubles behind them and is now powering into the next decade with its big guns out.

But I have noticed something a little bit worrying. It would seem that over the course of time, Dubai’s prosperity has mirrored that of regional events. Whenever there has been an episode, all of a sudden the coffers start to fill up. Take the first Gulf War, the one when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Bang, straight away the Dubai spin-doctors were advertising it as a logistics hub for the assisting parties.

Then there was the second Gulf War. Dubai instantly became recognised as the base for Iraq-focussed companies. The same is true of the war in Afghanistan and the daily conflicts that plague Pakistan and Lebanon. And what of the Iranian lot over the water? Dubai, more so than Abu Dhabi, likes to be thought of as the regional go-to-guy, the big kid in the playground who will look after you in exchange for protection money.

After Dubai’s economy went south at the end of 2008, the treasury was all but closed down and the money stayed firmly under lock and key. Growth was slow and at times it looked as if Dubai was dead in the water. Then, in early 2011, a Tunisian market trader set himself on fire and the Arab Spring began.

Civil unrest swept across the Middle East, felling dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Colonel “definitely not mental” Gaddaffi. Forgive me if it sounds crass – as the movement is still in action and tens of thousands have lost their lives – but the instability of the region has allowed Dubai’s growth to accelerate. Business that once was headed for Egypt, for example, is now here.

Egypt has long been the preferred tourist destination in the Arab World, with its tolerance of all things western in the tourism hotspots and such mind-blowing attractions like the pyramids. But the uprisings have all but obliterated one of the world’s most desirable destinations. Airport traffic has increased 16% year on year. Dubai, really, has been one lucky son of a gun.

Trading off the maxim of being the “safe haven of the Middle East”, however, does leave Dubai in a bit of a pickle. How long can it rely on the conflicts elsewhere in the region to effectively bail it out? Had it not made millions from selling use of its ports in the Gulf Wars or lucked into diverted tourism and international commerce from the recent uprisings, where would it be?

Dubai doesn’t have oil; that was all finished years ago. Abu Dhabi takes care of selling the black gold. How will Dubai stand on its own two feet when world peace happens? It is no secret that the Emirate has been looking to diversify from natural resources for some time. Primarily it has looked to develop tourism and international finance. But without a sizable export portfolio that will only get them so far. Beyond petroleum and natural gas, Dubai’s primary exports are fish and dates. Err…we may need to think of a few more.

Thankfully, Dubai has a new ally in the shape of UAE Uncut and today I have come up with an idea. In order to boost export revenue, why not start selling sand? No, really. Sand has many uses and is in more or less infinite supply. Bricks, aquariums, mortar, concrete, paint, kitchen counters, low quality glass; the list is endless. Ultimately the desert is a barren waste land, so scooping up a few bucket loads and selling them to Autoglass is a winner; surely? The infrastructure already exists; the old oil tankers can be used to transport sand to Europe, and there are plenty of diggers and dumpers knocking around.

Now, Mr. Willy Wonka, I want exclusive rights to your sand...

Now, Mr. Willy Wonka, I want exclusive rights to your sand…

Nature will be on Dubai’s side, too. When the shamal (wind) picks up and half of Saudi Arabia is blown across the UAE then the sand coffers will be replenished and they can continue to sell it on to men in Ford Transits. Think of the fortune they could make. This “deal in the desert” will be far better than the one Blair did…

Well, I’m no trade envoy, but surely my half-cock idea of selling sand to manufacturing industries all over the world is better than relying on international finance, investment and regional unrest. Conversely, if you can put it in a box and sell it, you can trust it; its existence cannot be denied. If you can only see it as a long number on an accountant’s computer then trust it in the same way that you would trust your genitals in the hands of a lunatic with a pair of scissors.

So, is Dubai back? Yes. And watch out.

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139. Bills

Think back to when you were born, if you can. Can you remember how much you knew about trigonometry, or Latin? I’d wager that you knew very little. In fact, I am fairly sure you knew nothing at all. What about running? Could you do that straight out of the blocks? Again, I’d guess not. I bet you walked before you ran, and crawled even before that. Think back to your first swimming lesson; were you as good as Mark Spitz when trying to get your Frog Club 10 metre badge or did you look more like a struggling ox? What about driving? What about working? What about this, what about that? So that you could develop properly, you had to start with the basics and move up.

You can’t just do something straight away; you have to work towards it. You have to toil and trouble, try, fail, try again and so on. It is a right of passage. On an industrial scale, countries have to learn to develop in the right way, too. You can’t just build massive skyscrapers, wild theme parks and malls with the same air conditioning properties of an Antarctic gale and forget to install a basic address system or an ample sewage network. No, you put your pants on first, then your trousers.

Or do you?

Human civilisation wasted its time for 1000’s of years. But over the last 200 years or so we have made monumental strides. The Victorian era in particular presented the world with pretty much everything, chiefly the safe and successful harnessing of electricity. Once electricity had been harnessed there was no stopping us. It wasn’t until the late 20th Century, just about the time when we stopped using monarchs as era classifications, that the internet was born. And that was a real game changer.

I remember being a young boy and accompanying my beloved grandmother to the post office to pay her TV rental bill. After that we would go to visit another office and pay a water bill, and then go somewhere else to pay a phone bill. All we had at our disposal was a number 93 Route Master, an umbrella and the promise of some chips from that famous place in Wimbledon that I cannot remember the name of. An entire day was dedicated to paying the bills. It wasn’t an inconvenience, it was the norm. This was only 1989, and such practices continued up to the late 1990’s.

Of course these days everything is done online; literally everything. Bills are something that can be arranged at the click of a mouse, and my god, how magnificent is that? Gone are the days when you would sit there in your study, prying open the brown envelopes with your brass letter opener, stroking your chin sagely and cross referencing all your receipts with an abacus before catching the tram to town to pay them all. No, now you log onto the website, reset your password because you’ve forgotten it again, type in the magic numbers, click “ok” and complain that because you now have some spare time you don’t know what to do with it.

It is common knowledge, now, that the typical British High Street is in trouble. People are doing everything online; food shopping, clothes shopping, gift shopping, banking and bill payments. Because people no longer need to go and run errands, it means they won’t pop into the WH Smith in the High Street on a whim. They are sitting in front of a lap top with all they need at their finger tips. The local economies are suffering as a result. But things change, the internet cannot be turned off and it isn’t just the future, it’s the now. Those who don’t embrace it will be left behind with their stone knives and bear skins.

Since the UAE harps a chord of modernisation, how can the seventh richest country in the world still have within its borders companies and organisations that have not joined the online super information highway thing? Why is it that everything is a chore? I have only recently updated my phone account so that I can pay online, and I still can’t do it. I have registered both my debit and credit card to help but every time I am told there is problem and that I need to go to the shop. I do, I see the queue, I kick an innocent bystander and pay my bill manually instead.

My bank, which is very good, really, is let down only by the fact that I cannot pay my credit card bill online. I can see it, but I can’t pay it. I need to go to the branch. Then I have to wait, then if I don’t have the exact correct money I am taken downstairs to the cellar and flogged. What are the odds that my credit card bill will be a round figure to the nearest hundred? What do they expect? 17 fil coins don’t exist.

Water and electricity, can that be done online or by direct debit? My foot it can. Once again you have go to the mall, park, study the map, find the distribution centre kiosk, wait behind the plump woman who doesn’t understand that you cannot be rude to the locals, and then kill yourself to make the headache go away.

Then, the biggest joke of them all: the internet bill. Our provider, and yours too, has a tendency to a) never, ever, ever send a bill, b) cut you off unexpectedly and c) actually refuse to tell you how much you owe. I am not making this up, you call the facetiously named “help centre” and you are told to log in online…how the ****ing hell can I do that when you have disconnected my service? They can recall all your details over the phone, your name, address, inside leg measurement and what grade you got for a piece of maths homework you did in 1992, but not how much money you owe them.

The whole process is exhausting, and I think I have worked out why. The UAE’s economy is driven by oil revenue first, and tourism commerce second. You force people to drive so that they use more petrol. Then, as an act of “convenience” you build kiosks for the water place and phone place in the mall. So, you go and shout at the man behind the counter, pay for someone else’s bill because no one else knows what’s going on and then decide that you want a quick coffee, or a sports bra, or a ghastly three piece suite. You may have only spent an extra 100 Dirhams but that all adds up…Is it a coincidence that they cut your internet before you can log on to pay? My suspicions are aroused…

The UAE is trying to avoid the log-on era. It has spent billions of dollars building malls with Alps in them and they don’t want them to become white elephants, gone the way of Wimbledon Park High Street. The internet is a ruthless, business killing machine and will stop at nothing until it has a grasp on everything. It’s a bit like Lex Luthor. The UAE clearly fancies itself as a bit of a Superman. It thinks it can save the day by resisting the internet, but the reality is that it has put its pants on after its trousers and looks very, very out of date.

Yes, this looks like what really goes on in the 21st Century.

Yes, this looks like what really goes on in the 21st Century.

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129. Real Estate

What do you mean I only bought a JPEG?! Are you telling me that the my new house won't even be built!??!?

What do you mean I only bought a JPEG?! Are you telling me that my new house won’t even be built!??!?

Over the last year or so, UAE Uncut has touched on every conceivable aspect of the UAE. We have plumbed the bottom of the barrel as far as subject matter is concerned and thrashed out some in depth thoughts from tourism to live bands, from school runs to indicating and from plumbers to the emergence of Chinese industrial supremacy. But through all the gabbling, misguided opinions  and highly questionable facts there is one major talking point that has gone unmentioned. It is the subject that must not be mentioned, the Voldemort of the UAE; real estate.

There are several reasons why I have yet to write about real estate in the UAE, chiefly because I would have more luck understanding the schematic diagrams of the Saturn V rocket. The whole property question in the UAE is mind boggling, except of course, it isn’t. Effectively it all boils down to money and who can make the most. You want it? You buy it for the stated price. You sell it for profit. Easy. Just make sure it is built.

Now, my father is a property expert, it has been his job for the best part of 30 years so I have been brought up to understand the basics about how a property price is defined. Things like the age of the building are important and of course its classification by era, i.e. Victorian, Edwardian, 1930’s or Blair. Then there is the house itself and its condition. Then of course location is the big one, so too is proximity of the nearest shops. Is it on a main road? That can change a house price by thousands. Is it within walking distance of a railway station, where is the nearest bus stop? Does it have a driveway or garage? Was it recently owned by a 1970’s BBC presenter? Are there any celebrities living nearby? There are so many factors that determine a house price in the UK that to understand the full criteria is remarkably difficult.

In the UAE, however, things are far more black and white, as you would expect. Is it on Palm Jumeriah? Yes. Right, that will be one million Dirhams. Is it in Dubai Marina? Yes. Right, that will be one million Dirhams. Is it near the Abu Dhabi Corniche? Yes, right, that will be one million Dirhams. Does it have windows? Yes. Right, that will be one million Dirhams. The property developers and land lords just look at what the guy next to them is charging and charge the same. That is why you will find swanky apartments complete with personal Jacuzzi and poolside bar for the same price as you will find a refrigerator box under an intersection.

It does not matter if your new one million Dirham wonder-apartment sits next to Sheikh Zayed Road, the busiest 14 lane road in the Gulf, all the traffic noise and pollution is what you are paying for. Besides, it is a small price to pay for the pool that you have to share with the other 130 families. You would sooner die than catch a bus and you are banned from riding the Metro because you were caught eating a Snickers last year. The age of the apartment is irrelevant since the builders are still working on it and apart from the highly suspicious grocery downstairs the nearest shops are a 15 minute drive away, through the Dubai traffic. You could walk, but it is too hot outside.

The problem with real estate in the UAE is that it does not seem to conform to any rules and every day in the papers we are told different things. One day we hear the prices are coming down and things have never been cheaper. Then the next day it is the other way around, with all the line graphs going up. Is it just lies? Is there a property market at all? Who is in charge?

I will never buy a property in the UAE for two main reasons. Firstly, I cannot afford it, not even close. Secondly, I am afraid. If in a hypothetical world, however, I did buy a property, then at the very least I would only buy one that had been built. Well, that is an obvious clause I hear you murmur. But you would be surprised. Before the collapse of Lehman brothers in 2008 Dubai was having a massive property boom. People were buying up all these swanky new places as investments at the property fairs and selling the investment on to those behind them in the queue with a 10% mark up. Not a bad way to make money, is it?

There was, however, one small flaw in the plan: the swanky abodes hadn’t been built. The “investors” had merely – and knowingly – only bought pictures. The lucky ones had bought pictures of buildings that had got as far as uninhabitable skeletal structures, but the unlucky ones had been left with nothing, not even the earth had been turned. In some cases, the developers hadn’t even received planning permission.

I would like to feel sorry for the people who bought the pretty pictures, but I don’t. If you trade your cow for a bag of magic beans with a man wearing a jaunty fedora and gold tooth then more fool you. The whole property boom from 2002, when foreigners were legally allowed to buy, to the collapse six years later wasn’t so much a boom, it was a scam. Selling pictures of things that might be built for millions? I’m surprised we didn’t see Matt Allwright and Dan Penteado from Rogue Traders turn up. Hell, because Dubai lost so much money back then I am even more surprised that we didn’t get a visit from Bob Geldof and Lenny Henry.

Property prices, in all their lunacy, were diminished by over 60% after the Lehman brothers killed themselves. But apparently, depending on what day of the week it is and what paper you read, they are climbing back up. In fact, property prices of existing buildings are returning to the height of the boom in 2008.

The last time they were this high it all went belly-up and collapsed and things became cheap. Hmmm…if I wait a few months maybe I will be able to afford a place after all?

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119. Fines

Ten days ago I broke into your computer and pinned up some thoughts about the swiftness and no-nonsense attitude justice system here in the UAE. Presumably you, my loyal readers, dropped what you were doing, organised some friends in a circle and thrashed out some in-depth discussion pertaining to the matter. Well, I have some good news, there’s more debating material for you today.

In the UK, we’re forever seeing signs that say things like “no dog fouling, £50 fine”, “no smoking, £50 fine” and of course “emergency brake, penalty for improper use, £1,000,000.” These threats are everywhere and you just can’t help but feel a bit bullied at times. The first issue we have is that in most cases these things are totally unenforceable. Tony Blair and his Legion of Doom were notoriously naive and strongly believed that people would follow the rules all the time and that we would all turn ourselves in if we left so much as a light on by accident.

A common example of unenforceable fining is obviously the case of canine stool. You and I both know that you must bend down after poochies morning moment, pick it up and fling it at the door of the nearest hate preacher, or bin it. But what if you didn’t hurl it and instead just left it there for some kid to launch at Abu Qatada instead? To solve the crime, someone would need to go to the trouble of picking it up, taking it to the lab for DNA testing and then acquire samples from all dogs within a 12 mile radius just so the offender could be fined a paltry £50. It just wouldn’t happen, unless the government commissioned a special workforce.

Before I stray too far from the point, it’s worth pointing out that, regardless of what they’re for, the fines are ergonomic; they are tailored to be affordable for a normal person. If you see a sign that says “no loitering, fine £50” then you will be fined by the loitering police the sum of £50 if indeed you are caught loitering. If you wish to appeal you are within your rights to take the case to a tribunal, but this could cost £1000’s or, if you subscribe to a daytime-TV solicitors, nothing at all. But even if you just opted to pay the £50 to the government-commissioned loitering police, you have to admit that £50 is affordable.

Now, this is where the UAE comes a bit unstuck. The fines don’t make sense, what is AED 600 (£100)? Think about what AED 600 will buy you; you could have a night out, buy a decent suit, or get a nice hotel room for the night. Now, what do you think that Johnny Richboy and his Ferrari will think when they look at a pathetic AED 600 in readies? Toilet paper. It’s just pocket money used to wipe the caviar from ones lips. Then we come to the poorer classes, for a lot of them, AED 600 could be their entire monthly salary.

Failed government: £50 fine

Failed government: £50 fine

So it can be argued that fines in the UAE are unfair. If you are caught speeding then the typical fine for an offence that is not greater than 20kph over the limit is AED 600. I could swallow that, but it would sting a little and I’d be sure to be careful next time. Johnny Richboy wouldn’t give a damn if it was 10 times that amount or that his car were to be impounded for 30 days, because he would just go home and get one of his other cars. But what about our poor Patan friend? If he has to fork out 600 sods then his family back home in northern Pakistan will stave.

In Europe, we love a bit of communism “equality” and so things like fines have to be the same for everyone. Those of a Polly Toynbee persuasion will forever croak a cry of egalitarianism, even when they contradict themselves and curiously say that the rich must pay more. Europe has to be seen to be a fair democracy and that everyone must always be treated equally. But it is forgotten that some people are richer than others, and that fining a Lord of the Realm £50 for not picking up dog poo will not hurt him as much as it would a penniless student.

Here in the UAE the problem is similar but far more noticeable. Because there is such a gulf between social classes it is simply not fair for everyone to be charged the same fine for the same offences. I know that Polly Toynbee, despite all her parity-preaching, would agree with me that different bands of people should be categorised so that the fine bites accordingly. To avoid getting drawn into a racism battle, the UAE Uncut team had a quick brainstorming session in the boardroom and came up with a solution: a percentage based penalty system.

When you are called to the stand to pay AED 600 for allowing your dog to make stool in the park, you must bring with you a complete copy of your accounts: bank statements, wage slips, whatever. These are investigated by the board of officials and you are charged a pre-determined percentage in line with your offence.

If things stay the way they are, then those who would rather spend hundreds and thousands of Dirham’s on V8 sports cars instead of genital-enhancement surgery will never learn the cost of speeding or rogue dog fouling. Fining the working classes 80% of their monthly salary will very likely condemn their families to starvation. The penalty must fit the crime but be affordable to the accused. Otherwise the less fortunate who are unable to pay are sent to prison and therefore become state-funded, making the whole thing completely pointless.

The same approach should be taken in Europe, but I fear that the communists in Brussels won’t hear of it. It would be nice though, wouldn’t it, for the highly-paid bureaucrats in Espace Léopold to be fined a far, far greater amount for their fiscal crimes than the European taxpayers?

Maybe that would be the perfect deterrent to stop them robbing everyone?

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106. Mistake

What are the odds that it will burn me twice?

Do you remember that time when you were about 6 years old when you wondered just how hot the iron was?  Do you remember touching it and experiencing a pain of such magnitude that disembowelling seemed like a preferential option?  After the blister had gone down do you remember telling yourself that, under no circumstances, would you ever touch the 7 trillion degrees iron ever again?  I bet you do.

Touching the iron was a mistake, and it’s a good thing I did it too otherwise I’d be sitting here, aged 28 and a bit, wondering just how hot it is really was.   Oh how the doctors would laugh at me as I pathetically explained that I was curious.  We all make mistakes and they really are the best things in the world.  Without having made an error then we would have no reference, no experience and no right to pass on knowledge.  I warned someone the other day not to change a lightbulb that was still hot, why?  Because I made that mistake myself once.  It is a right of passage.

Of course what separates the wise from the… err…not so wise…is the ability to learn from ones mistakes.  If you make a mistake you learn from it and don’t repeat it.  If you keep making the same mistake over and over again then frankly you’re not really showcasing yourself very well.

I want to make it absolutely plain that I am no economist, nor am I business man.  In fact, I’m a narrow-minded idiot who kids himself that he knows far more than he actually does.  But I have some questions about a recent announcement that was made.

In light of a recent decree by a top official from a certain country that shall remain nameless I am sitting here in fear that the Apache helicopters are going to start circling and a SWAT team are going to burst through the door and take me downtown.  As a result I cannot afford to be too open about who I’m talking about in the following paragraphs.

Do you remember a few years ago when Fred and Bob Lehman collapsed?  It was all over the news.  Anyway, there was a city called…Mubai…that was hit pretty hard.  In a nutshell they were royally f…screwed.  Such was the economic devastation that thousands of skilled workers lost their jobs, big companies folded and the city remains a half-done building site to this day.  It was only thanks to a $44 billion bail out from neighbouring Babu Crabby that stopped it going completely bankrupt.  You see, Mubai was built on credit.  It never had the starting capital to build tall skyscrapers and things; it was relying on future investment and tourism.  Oh how it learnt the hard way.

It came as a complete surprise to me this week that a raft of projects worth billions of Wirhams was commissioned in Mubai.  The projects include the expansion of something called the Wadinat Pumeirah and the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Mubai Creek, which is really a river.  Also, a multi million Wirham residential complex is planned for public sector law enforcers and of course the widening of a canal.

It all sounds great and there are no problems with the projects, but they are all jolly expensive and I can’t help but worry that Mubai hasn’t learnt from its past mistakes.  We’re in 2012 and the global financial meltdown was only in 2008, 2009 before it really took its toll.  That is still very recent.  There is no way that the $44 billion loan has been repaid to its neighbours so really, what’s going on?

The old saying of you have to spend money to make money is lovely, but it’s meant in context.  You can’t afford to spend beyond your means.  Mubai already has enough attractions and gimmicks to raise its profile.  Yes, more fancy hotels and bridges would be lovely in the future, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Don’t forget that the Wirham is pegged to the Dollar and the USA has trillions worth of debt.  If the unthinkable happens and the Dollar goes for a burton then Mubai, like a house of cards in a force 9 hurricane, will we wiped off the map completely.  Then the bailiffs will be around with their vans…who the bailiffs will be remains to be seen.

Just remember the parable of the Martin and the iron.  Burn yourself once out of curiosity, burn yourself twice out of stupidity.

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97. Healthcare

I, like many similar to me, have a saying: “see, told you so.”  We think we know it all, we think we have worked it all out before the authorities and we think we know who Roy Hodgson should have played behind Rooney in Euro 2012.  The truth is that we’re right more often than not.  As I have a deluded sense of grandeur about this website, I think that the authorities treat UAE Uncut as a source of reliable data, and that they use my opinions as a base for gauging public opinion.  I like to think that.  There have been many blog subjects that I have written about that within weeks have also appeared in the national media.  I sometimes think that it’s 1984 and that the Thought Police slip into my head each night to pick through my ideas…  Normally, I get there first.  But today, I’m beaten.

I’ve been wanting to write about hospitals for a while but something else always comes up instead, but today I have been forced into it.  I read today that excessive hospital visits are straining the UAE healthcare system. I fell back into my chair and said “see, told you so!”

In the UK we have something called the National Health Service.  It gets a bad press almost daily and that is a shame.  The NHS is a fantastic thing to have, it is free healthcare.  Free healthcare is the want and dream of billions world over and us grumpy Brits are up in arms every time we spot a Twix wrapper on the floor or an MSRA bug in the bin.  The NHS is strained and struggling for beds not because it’s evil and finds it funny, but because there are too many hypochondriacs rushing in because they have a splinter or because they’re 16 and have just necked a bottle of Jaegermeister.

My God man! Don’t scream just because you were asked to sweep up! Ok ok, have a day off work…

The same is true of the UAE.  Despite the fact that healthcare isn’t free, it is paid for by employers so as far as regular employees are concerned it is like the NHS; free healthcare.  There are a lot of hypochondriacs here in the UAE who think that having a bit of grit behind a finger nail means that you should get a week off work.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say “my allergy”.  What allergy, an allergy of hard work?

So what happens is Johnny Hardworker heads to the Hospital, comes up with a story about being allergic to oxygen or work uniform, screams in agony for a few seconds and then winks at the attending physician.  They then agree that Johnny gets a day off work, and to be safe is prescribed some placebo just so the farce looks authentic.

I rarely go to the hospital, I will only go if I am violently ill and I don’t know what it is.  In one such case a few years ago I was vomiting all day, unable to stop.  Surprisingly it had nothing to do with alcohol.  When I saw the doctor and before I was asked any questions about my ailment at all, I was asked how many days I wanted off work.  I abruptly stated that I didn’t want any days off work and that I was here for a cure.  She looked surprised and proceeded to state the obvious.

It would appear that hospitals have a very poor screening process.  All they are, then, is a government building where you go to get an official letter dictating that you can have a day off work.  But this, as far as the overcrowding situation is concerned, is only half the problem.

Patients do not trust their healthcare professionals.  If the doctor tells them that they are suffering from scurvy or indeed that there is nothing wrong with them then they do not accept the analysis.  They then go and see another 3 or 4 doctors until they get an illness that they like.  I’m sorry, but if you go to a mainstream hospital, and there are plenty in the UAE, then I would be inclined to trust a doctor’s diagnosis.  They would have completed 7-8 years of med school and are bound to know a hell of a lot more than you.  Hell, I’d be inclined to say I would know more than you.

Such antics are putting an enormous strain on the healthcare system.  Every time a lazy employee with a work allergy walks into A&E looking like he’s been marinated in sulphuric acid he takes up to 2 hours of hospital time that could have been used to treat the poor person with cancer who has been made to wait on the floor.  Likewise when some ignorant cretin demands to see 64 doctors to hear the word “Flu” when all they have is a cold then they are putting genuine sick-cases at risk.

I have been racking my brains to try and find a solution and I’ll be honest, some of them are a bit over the top.  I thought about starting a fire in the hospital, so all of those fakers quickly show who they are and get out, but that leaves the real patients in a spot of bother.  Again, what about docking a day’s wages to those who take a day off work?  Well no, that’s not fair for those days when a decent employee is actually ill.  What about if the doctors are actually honest and thorough?  If someone says that they are having an allergic reaction to something and that you, after 8 years of medical school cannot see anything wrong, how about sending them for rabies cure?  You know the one where they put the massive needle into your stomach that hurts more than being eaten by a bear?  Again, it would waste precious hospital time.

Sadly you cannot change the human condition.  There are some who lie and some who just don’t get it, it has always been and will always be that way.  Maybe one day when they are genuinely really ill but cannot be seen by a doctor because he’s writing a phoney sick note they will realise the errors of their ways.  But by then it will be too late.

See, told you so.

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92. Opportunity

Pa, it sure was swell the government givin’ us this place ‘n all, but d’ya think we could turn the AC on, its like 150 in here!

Ever since Britain established 13 new colonies on the eastern coastline of a trans-Atlantic continent, America has been known colloquially as “the Land of Opportunity”.  America’s key selling point was to entice the masses away from the oppressing tyranny that ruled so vigorously in their home countries.  As such millions of British, Italian, Irish, German and Dutch and just about everyone else floated across the Atlantic to start over.  Of course when they got there they realised that they had to build their own houses out of trees and had to make sure they weren’t killed by the natives, but otherwise things were rosy.

The USA did indeed become the land of opportunity; he with only a buck to his name could leave the house potless in the morning and return in the evening a wealthy king.  Much like the British thinking that their empire would last forever and ever and ever, America believed that it would always remain the land of opportunity and as such would build such a powerful economy that it too thought it would reign forever and ever and ever.

That was until an accounting firm called PricewaterhouseCoopers stepped in with a survey…  Abu Dhabi is on the USA’s tail.

Well, sort of.

The first thing to mention is that PwC has opted to work out the top 27 cities, isn’t that a peculiar number?  Aren’t things normally listed in 10’s?  UAE Uncut is in the top 20 blogs in the UAE.  Sorry, had to get that in there.  Anyway, spurious numbers aside, Abu Dhabi is doing jolly well.

I must say I take all surveys with a pinch of salt.  It’s no good going out in the middle of the week to get the views of students and the unemployed; the working tax-payer is the person with the answers.  But there is something even more inane about a survey conducted by an accounting firm.  I know several accountants and they are all nice people; good at their jobs, friendly, and as you would expect, good with money.  But accountants share a common catchphrase: “don’t ask me, I’m just the accountant.”  They look at the data and not the human factor.  And that’s good, leave the moralising to the rest of us.

Remarkably, out of the seemingly random 27 cities investigated, Abu Dhabi is the only one from the Middle East.  I’m not so sure their neighbours, Dubai, are going to like that.  The UAE capital has been ranked 22nd in the fifth edition of the Cities of Opportunity…err…challenge.  It looks mainly at finance, culture and commerce and somehow is able to predict exactly what jobs will be the good ones in the year 2025, a year plucked at random, it would seem.

There’s a whole load of statistics, figures and percentages which, frankly, look completely meaningless.  There are also some quotes from people who you have never heard of, but this is all just filler text, all we really want to look at is the list.  Sadly, this being a survey conducted by accountants, there isn’t just one list telling us how good Abu Dhabi is, there are several lists about different things.  Here we are then, are you sitting down?

Abu Dhabi finished in 6th place in the “cost of business occupancy” competition.  Abu Dhabi came home in 9th place in the “consumer index” race.  Abu Dhabi scored a remarkable second place podium finish in the “lowest cost in public transport” challenge.  Abu Dhabi, and this is my favourite, finished in 15th position in the “iPod Nano index”, which measures the number of working hours needed to afford an iPod Nano.  But of course the crowning jewel is a dominant victory in the “highest amount of hospitals per capita” category.  It seems that Abu Dhabi may be short on occupied villas but certainly isn’t short on hospitals.

Add all this together and when pitted against the likes of San Francisco, New York, London, Shanghai and Tokyo, Abu Dhabi is in 22nd place.  Wahoo.  Go get ‘em.

But, the survey exposes a darker side to Abu Dhabi.  It ranked last in the sustainability and the natural environments indicator.  The reason for this, apparently, is because it does not have enough public park space (even if it did, no sod would be allowed to use it anyway) and is – pardon the pun – rubbish at recycling.  The final blow, and quite unfairly in my opinion, is that Abu Dhabi has poor thermal control and air pollution problems.

This is why we can’t rely on an accountant’s survey.  The physical environment has not been accounted for.  Abu Dhabi is a great city, but because it sits on the Tropic of Cancer in the Arabian Desert, which is one of the hottest places on Earth, it cannot progress up the ladder.  No matter how rich it is it simply cannot do anything about the sun and heat.  The main cause of pollution is not cars; there are only 1.5 million in the capital compared to 5 million in London, but from the energy needed to power the air conditioning units.  The sun isn’t going to go away and air-con is here to stay.  Without it we’d all be expatriates working in Hong Kong instead.

So, ditch your rain-sodden jobs and escape the oppressing tyranny of the European Union and set sail for Abu Dhabi, the Land of Opportunity.  You’ll love it; apart from the heat and the pollution of course…

Oh, you won’t need to worry about building your own house, the economy is screwed so they’re just giving them away; until 2025…

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87. Survey

How has the world changed?  I mean there was a time when we lived in caves and fought sabre tooth tigers for a living, but since we invented the wheel and the iPhone things have got a bit muddied.  Now we have days off work, public liability insurance, Kim Kardashian and of course; statistics.  Ah yes, statistics.  The easy-way-out, proof in black and white opinion former.  So we don’t look silly and uneducated in front of our friends we must absorb such statistics so to be able to sound smart and informed when engaged in conversation.  But really, how reliable are they and can they be trusted?

Take British politics as a good example.  George Osbourne comes out and says that he is not going to tax the rich any more than what is fair.  Ed Milliband then turns around and uses a famous Tory slogan in a bizarre attempt to win back the support of the Trade Unions.  They bat their proposals around and more often than not people disagree.  “No you can’t tax the rich more, otherwise where’s the incentive to work hard to achieve success?!” some say.  Others chant “Bastard Tories and their silver spoons, how about more money for the unions?”  Round and round in circles we go.  Britain, like everywhere else in the world, is torn down the middle.  So the only way to gauge a clear idea of what the nation really thinks is to get the old clipboard and anorak out and hit the high street.

The endless stream of surveys that are continually referenced in justifying ones point and used to sway public opinion are totally useless.  A recent survey says that the Trade Unions are actually the most rational people in the world; another one says that the Tories have never been more popular.  One survey will tell us what people think of Crossrail, and another survey will tell us what a different bunch of people think about Crossrail.  I have nearly 550 friends on Facebook and as far as I know not one of them has ever been asked any question from a government, or indeed any, survey used in either national media or a political party manifesto.

93.2% of Tories asked in our recent survey believe Alex Salmond should be the next Conservative Prime Minister

I admit I have seen young people with clipboards in Kingston-upon-Thames many times before, but all they try to do is coerce me into signing over my dad’s house to save an animal I have never heard of.  Otherwise, the surveyors of such things are as mythical as the Minator as far as I’m concerned.   But when we’re told that 94% of Britain loves Alex Salmond, is that really 94% of the United Kingdom or just 94% of the 12 people you asked in a Glasgow working mans club?

Now then, the UAE loves nothing more than a good old fashioned survey.  Every day you open the paper there is guaranteed to be another set of meaningless statistics and percentages proving to you that someone has been wasting their time.  Only yesterday did I report that 71% of people were worried that Facebook was going to expose their hedonism to their parents.  Other recent surveys include that young people are all feeling unprepared for the workplace and that wearing a seatbelt will not make you as cool as someone who drives with an iPad on their lap.

Interestingly, the common denominator with all of the surveys published in the UAE is that they are all, without question, carried out by undergraduate students who have only surveyed other undergraduate students.  I mean this in the nicest possible way, which is a tall order for me, but really a student’s perception on the real world is irrelevant to the rest of us.  No, really.  Students have no experience of the real world, they’re not bad people and certainly not all stupid, but even the smartest ones haven’t got a clue how the world works.  If you are going to ask people what they think of the Iranian nuclear crisis their eyes are going to gloss over and they will retort with some vague response that translates roughly into them wanting peace.  Yes we all want peace with Iran but we didn’t ask you what you wanted, we wanted to know how you think the UN should deal with it and what we should do if Israel presses the big red button first?

How can we take any survey seriously if the collected results are all from a bunch of students from the same university?  That’s like asking all of Barack Obama’s aides in the oval office who they would vote for, their Democrat paymaster or that would-be Bond villain Mitt Romney?  You’re only going to get a partisan response.  Such practice is ok if you are just doing it for your homework but in the real world we need real data.  We need to know what the masses really want and think, the taxpayers…well ok over here not taxpayers, but you know, grown ups, tax exiles if you will…

You cannot mislead an entire population by quoting stats and figures accrued from a playground.  You need to get out there to catch the man on the street, well, the man in the mall, but in the evenings because he works during the day.  What do you mean you don’t work evenings and weekends?  How are you supposed to collate the data accurately if you’re not asking the right audience?  Huh?  You’re an idiot, surely not?  Is that why you just asked the students, because they’re around in the daytime and you didn’t have to leave campus?  So you think it’s ok to provide national media with meaningless statistics about how many students prefer chocolate milkshake to strawberry?

I bet you get paid well too…

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48. Economics

The other day after meeting a blog reader in a local bar I was accused of being an academic.  “You’re so smart” she said.  It was very touching but I spoke up and told her that my educational background was actually quite embarrassing.  I never went to University and had an up and down time at sixth-form college.  Seemingly shocked she asked how I knew so much.  Again I told her that I don’t know very much at all, I just talk a good talk when I need to and give the impression that I may just have half a clue what I’m talking about.

I enjoy talking and I enjoy talking about things that matter.  When I meet people I like to talk about the world, its problems, its good points (yes, there are some) and sport and so on.  I don’t like to talk about Kim Kardashian and her made up world (whose life, as it transpires, some believe to be real) or some stupid TV program where everyone lives in a house and shows off their genitals for attention.  These are the hallmarks of an idiot.  However there is one topic of conversation that I have to be weary of, one that I never thought I would be interested in nor know anything about: global economics.

Global economics does not go a day without making headline news.  Ever since the collapse of Lehman Brothers the world – including the

Hammer-time! It was an early warning sign that was callously overlooked…

UAE – has been thrown into fiscal turmoil.  I understand the principles; I know the Euro is in dire peril, the UK economy is in tatters, the US dollar is mathematically certain to fail and so on.  The IMF is running around trying to plug leaks with their fingers whilst all the while Greek civilians are in tears wondering how they are going to feed their families for the next decade.

These are scary times, and no matter where you go in the world the troubles with the economy will find you.  The world’s largest economies are starting to sweat. China are worried that their biggest customer for raw materials, Europe, are going to stop buying from them.  This in turn is making Australia sweat as they are the ones who are selling all the raw materials to China in the first place. Brazil is also in a tiff because 20% of their export and import market is with Europe.  The Eurozone is South Africa’s biggest trading partner and over the last year or so their economy has fallen 20% against the dollar.

Then we have the UAE who have time and time again stated that they will not be affected by any Euro crisis nor will they provide any money to help with a bailout.  Hmm…I’m not sure they have that right.  First of all the UAE has $130 billion worth of debt financed by European and British banks.  A collapse would cause huge damage to the UAE’s economy.  In fact it would be one stop short of bringing it into complete financial ruin.  Secondly business development and tourism largely comes from Europe.  Any issues over there and there will be fewer businesses to develop and less tourists boarding the plane…the results will be plain to see.

If things do go belly up in Europe – or gulp, the USA – then you will notice and you will be affected.  For those of you that were not here in 2008 when Lehman brothers collapsed, over $100 billion was wiped off the value of the UAE stock markets pretty much overnight.  When it happened the cranes stopped moving, the builders hung up their hard-hats and nearly 5000 cars were abandoned at Dubai Airport, a result of the poor American, British, Canadian, French, Italian, South African, Australian, Irish architects and contractors who all lost their jobs, houses and money.

Look around now, especially in Dubai, how many half-built or half-started buildings have you seen lay dormant for the past few years?  Burj Khalifa was going to be called Burj Dubai, but takes its name from His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan after Abu Dhabi bailed Dubai out to the tune of over $40 billion.  The remnants are there to serve as a reminder that nowhere is safe.

So here’s me worried about not knowing enough about it.  But then you take a step back and think that the banks, the governments, the economists, the IMF couldn’t see this coming nor have they even got an answer.  There are still governments out there that still don’t have a clue what is going on now.  What chance do I have of grasping the details?

All it took to know the above was little bit of reading and I still don’t fully understand…I suggest the powers that be get down the library.

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