Category Archives: Economics

The Power of Boycott: Business Facing a Dark Future in Bahrain ………

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Economic boycotts are becoming part of the Bahrain revolutionary scene. This is how they started:


  • Some regime
    partisans in Bahrain pushed many Sunnis to start the boycott frenzy by advertizing a boycott of some prominent Shi’a businesses that supported the protests (e.g. Jawad Enterprises). Naturally Sunnis have much more buying power per person, but their numbers are small. They may get others to join, like Pakistanis, Saudis, Syrians, Jordanians (basically some of the imported mercenaries). Some of the targeted businesses were also trashed. Yet that was a big mistake as my next paragraph explains.




  • Shi’as, taking a page form their Sunni neighbors, started thinking of boycotts. They have suddenly realized the true power they have: just like American blacks in Alabama did in the 1950s, and others did in India so long ago. They are now advertizing to boycott businesses that support the repression (usually Sunni or some foreign businesses). Many of these businesses went along with the regime and fired many of their Shi’a employees (there are reports that they are hiring in the Indian Subcontinent to replace the fired natives). The firings have added the effect of reduced purchasing power to the anger the Shi’as already felt toward them. Shi’as are a big majority in Bahrain: al-Wefaq, the main Shi’a opposition group won about 64% of the popular vote in the last election. That is not counting other parties and those who boycotted (like al-Haq). They can really harm some major businesses if they boycott them. It looks like they will. Many businesses and shopping malls are owned by al-Khalifa clan members, partnerships, and their retainers and henchmen.




  • Bahrain businesses, through the chamber of commerce, have now frozen relations with businesses organizations in, and now talk of boycotting: Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon (all three states have a majority or plurality of Shi’as, like Bahrain). Typical of the al-Khalifa clan to try to extend their own domestic policy of sectarian Apartheid and ethnic cleansing to the region in order to get out of the mess they created. They want everyone to join in their sectarian game, but that will not solve the serious problem many Bahraini businesses will now face because most of the people will boycott them.


The business outlook in Bahrain looks bleak, much bleaker than the al-Khalifa clan had anticipated.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Hariri Family Affairs: of Saudi Masters and Money Troubles………

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Al-akhbar daily (Lebanese secular and liberal) reports that the management of the Arab Bank have refused to confirm or deny reports that outgoing PM Sa’ad Hariri is selling part of his share in the bank to former PM, and Hariri aide, Fouad Saniora. The newspaper cites knowledgeable banking sources that this is true. It notes that Mr. Hariri, a billionaire, is facing liquidity problems after suffering heavy business losses, to the extent that he is facing some difficulty making loan payments in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Al-akhbar reports that his liquidity problems are affecting his relationships with “influential Saudis”, usually a code word for al-Saud princes.
It reports that his difficulties extend to his own family relationships and that it came to light after his sister Hind could not deposit three checks issued by him for US$ 150 million as payment of part of her share from their father’s estate. There were apparently insufficient funds to cash them. The reports claims his huge firm, Saudi Oger has suffered US$ 3 billion in losses and that many “influential Saudis” are angry at him.
Mr. Hariri got into serious trouble with the family of the de facto Saudi ruler, Prince Nayed the Interior Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, etc etc, after calling prince Mohammed, his son and deputy, a “bloodthirsty butcher”. He seems to have lost some of his magic to the Saudis, whose nationality he holds.
Cheers
mhg




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Slumdogs of Dubai: Not Your Father’s Dubai………….

     
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Dubai: A man masturbating on a public street; a woman waking up to an intruder in her bedroom; a peeping Tom spying through women’s bathroom windows… life in Mirdif isn’t what it used to be. The once-sleepy suburb of families has attracted residents of various moralities, due to the downward spiral in rents………”On weekends I’ve seen mid-teens sitting on the steps with bottles of vodka in their hands,” says a 21-year-old Sudanese. XPRESS has also witnessed teenagers making out on the steps of the back entrance, as well as groups of underage boys leering at women. A drive around the area reveals an increasing number of obscene graffiti on walls and teenagers sitting on street corners smoking. “Mirdif was never like this,” says 34 year-old Rainn Walker. “Now, everyone who’s of the wrong kind is in Mirdif. Two months ago, a boy who looked to be no older than 13 grabbed my behind as he walked past me on street 37. Last week I read about a woman who was kidnapped and held in Mirdif. Who knows what I’ll hear next. I’m having second thoughts about living here, ” she says……..

It ain’t your father’s, or your mother’s, Dubai these days. It ain’t my father’s Dubai either (he made sorties there in the old pre-oil days, along with many others). These symptoms have always existed in the backstreets of Dubai, as they have in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh and, dare I say it, Mecca. There was so much going on in Dubai for the media in the boom years that these things were overlooked: nobody wanted to cover the slums with open sewers and Kabul-quality electricity and water services. Just like nobody ever covers the truly seamy side of Las Vegas. Now with the bust and the departure of many European and Gulf investors, the owners of these formerly exclusive developments have had to lower their sights. And their rents. The slums of Dubai have begun to move into the formerly exclusive parts of Dubai. The slumdogs of Dubai are moving in.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Economics of Saudi Housewives and Princes………

     
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Household Economics 101: referring to my last post. The reason Saudi families need so many housemaids is not necessarily that they are lazy. The wife often works, mostly teaching in girls schools, in order to make ends meet. They also need someone to drive the wife to work and back because women are not allowed drive in Saudi Arabia, even women who threaten to breastfeed their Asian drivers (actually those in the news were upper middle class ones). They can’t take public taxis driven by strange men, besides it probably is not safe in the kingdom of many frustrations. They don’t all live in the style of the al-Saud and their retainers. Most middle class families have to borrow even in order to travel for a vacation, most don’t own homes. There are people who are dirt poor under that ocean of petroleum and not far from those princely palaces: that is how the thousands of princes can afford to amass billions.
A report in Arab News today confirms what I and others have written: that overall unemployment is in double digits and that it is about 40% for young adults (20-24). That is a (pre)revolutionary rate of unemployment for young people. Fortyfucking percent unemployment! And only Khaled al-Johani showed up to protest in Riyadh last month and nobody knows what happened to him! Enough to drive anyone from the Arabia Peninsula, whose last name is not al-Saud, to despair.
I shall have more on this point in a coming posting soon: you have been forewarned.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Revolutionary Housemaids of Arabia…………

     
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There are many reports of housemaids being abused or beaten, and occasionally even murdered. However, there is another side to the story. The large number of housemaids running away from their employers is causing untold problems, including social embarrassments and additional financial burdens for many Saudi families. “It costs a lot to recruit a housemaid, with fees that go up to SR15,000. This includes recruitment fees, plane ticket and visa,” said Abu Faisal, a recruitment office manager in Jeddah. “If the maid runs away, the employer loses all the money he spent hiring her.” Maids run away for several reasons, but they are mostly greedy and search for jobs in other households to make more money, according to Abu Faisal. “Many maids run away from their sponsors as soon as they land in the Kingdom, knowing that they will find a job no matter what, for people are always looking for maids,” he said……..”

Maybe the housemaids will start protesting in Riyadh; there probably are as many of them as Saudis. That will be the Saudi revolution, since the natives are either too afraid or too brainwashed by the shaikhs or too worried about clan or tribe feelings. After all, how can you protest against the ruling family if some neighbor of your best friend’s brother in law has a distant niece who is married to one of the al-Saud drivers? Makes it tough, don’t it? The best hope for a revolution is with the Asian and African housemaids, and God knows they probably have good reasons to protest. The other alternative is for people to lose so many of their housemaids that they rise in revolution out of despair. Despair is what drove Tunisians and Egyptians and Libyans and Bahrainis and Syrians to revolution. In India the rising price of onions can lead to political protests and change elections, maybe in Saudi Arabia the rising ‘price’ of housemaids will do the job.
Cheers
mhg




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Wael Ghonim to IMF & World Bank: J’accuse…………

     
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WASHINGTON — The Google executive who became the hero of the Egyptian revolution cropped up at the pinnacle of international finance Friday, chiding the elites for supporting strongman Hosni Mubarak. “I actually feel like Joe the Plumber,” said Wael Ghonim, drawing laughs after his introduction on a panel at the International Monetary Fund headquarters….. Dressed in faded Levis, an open-necked striped shirt and casual loafers, Ghonim, 30, filled his billing as “Internet activist” in the roundtable discussion notably featuring IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, became an Internet star after administering a Facebook page that helped spark the uprising that toppled Mubarak’s regime. “To me what was happening was a crime, not a mistake,” he said. He branded the international institutions and the “elites” of the world “partners in crime” in supporting Mubarak’s regime. “A lot of people knew that things were going wrong,” he added. Wearing a wristband with the date January 25, 2011, the first day of protests that swept Mubarak from power, Ghonim said: “We wanted our dignity back.” “Egypt has cancer” and what is needed is investment and entrepreneurship, and jobs that pay a decent wage, he said. Acknowledging a “radical view,” Ghonim welcomed outside expertise and support from the international community but rejected the idea of outsiders telling Egypt how to rebuild its society………..

Wael Ghomin was absolutely right. In fact he was a little too polite. The international bureaucrats all knew what was happening in Egypt and elsewhere. They accommodate the corrupt regimes of some countries too often. The designer-clad IBRD and IMF bureaucrats often listen to functionaries of the state, I know that firsthand, then they tailor a policy program that often is based on the input of the functionaries. They paper over flagrant corruption and policies that distort the economy and keep it stagnant. That is usually the case for countries with clout. Egypt was a country of ‘indirect’ clout because Mubarak had support on the IMF Executive Board from at least three representatives: his own (also the Gulf’s) member, the Saudi member, and often the American member. Not to mention the support of some other Executive Board members on the principle of “mutual back scratching”. Ditto for the World Bank (IBRD). They should just let the Egyptian people sort out their own problems as he said.
I recall traveling to Cairo some years ago with a potentate who told me during the flight that Egypt had changed, that I would be amazed by the ‘progress’. Needless to say, potentates don’t walk the streets of cities like Cairo the way I do. In Cairo, I saw that it had changed alright, but it had become shabbier, a much worse place than under either Nasser or Sadat. I saw many homeless people around the banks of the Nile, something that used to be rare in most of the city during my pre-Mubarak visits. The progress they were talking about was not that of the Egyptian people, but of the elite with whom the Arab potentates and the international financial organizations associated. The international bureaucrats, as I know firsthand, deal with numbers, data, not with human beings. IMF and IBRD functionaries should be made to go into town, walk the streets, see the millions living in old graveyards, without regime minders. And skip the incessant official wining and dining.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com