Monday, December 27, 2010

Dubai Police Chief Lt Gen Khalifan's comments in the press

The Dubai police chief had recently made comments regarding expat workers. You can find the first article from Gulf News describing his statements on Qatar TV.

Dubai Police chief calls on them to stop relying on expat workers

* By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: Dubai's Police Chief supported a claim that if the population of expatriate workers continued to rise in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states at the current pace, Gulf citizens would soon be marginalised.

"The possibility of GCC nationals turning into a minority in their own countries cannot be ruled out if a law is, for instance, promulgated and enforced to naturalise expatriates," Lieutenant Colonel Dahi Khalfan Tamim said.

He was reacting to questions from the audience at a popular monthly call-in programme on Qatar Television Laqum Al Qarar (It Is Your Decision).

The audience comprised mostly young people from across the Gulf, Qatari daily The Peninsula reported yesterday.

The discussion addressed the issue if the rising numbers of foreign workers posed a serious threat to the GCC identity and culture, and if so, what steps the governments in the region could take to reduce the danger.

If the GCC governments do not take bold steps to check the inflow of foreign workforce, a day could come when locals would be marginalised in their own countries and become like Red Indians in the United States, Lt Gen Dahi said.

Unending chain

Citing examples, he said Malayalees (people from the south Indian state of Kerala) and Iranians who came to the Gulf and ran small neighbourhood stores eventually became millionaires.

"Why can't we run these stores which, after all, we legally own? But we do not want to do such work," he said. An Indian driver is hired by a Gulf family and then he manages to bring a relative even if there is no job for him. The relative hunts for a job and lands one. This is an unending chain," Dahi said. Ministers should bring to the notice of the GCC Rulers the rising threat the heavy influx of foreign workers poses to GCC identity and culture," he said.

However, when asked if the problem could be tackled to some extent if more workers were brought in from Arab countries, Lt Gen Dahi said: "I do agree that they [Arab expatriates] are better than non-Arabs."

Here is an interview in Khaleej Times giving Lt Gen Dahi Khalifan a chance to clarify his comments.

Amira Agarib

27 December 2010, 6:32 AM
Dubai Police Chief Lt General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim recommended a quota system for all nationalities in the UAE to keep the expat population in the country in check.
He made the comment while reaffirming his remarks made to a television channel on Saturday that expats are a threat to the national identity of Emiratis as well as GCC nationals.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, the Commander-in-Chief of the Dubai Police said the Emirati society, which has traditionally been open to other cultures, has the right to preserve its national identity.
The outspoken police chief warned that expatriates may endanger the identity of the UAE nationals in a way that they could influence the culture and the language of the local children, noting that expatriates have brought with them many things that are today misunderstood to be the traditional elements of Emirati culture.
“Today Emiratis are very concerned about their national identity, as the number of foreigners is rising rapidly and nationals are now a minority in their own country. To keep the balance, I recommended a quota system that would ensure that the number of other nationalities should not be more than UAE nationals and Arabs.”
Warning against the mass influx of foreigners to the country, he said only those people who are needed for the jobs should be allowed in the country.
Pointing out the rules of many other countries that discourage import of foreign workforce, he said: “If we go to any of other country to reside, it is considered offensive; they do not allow us easily to reside, work or invest. Each country has its own rules and conditions and we have to do the same to preserve our national identity.
However, he reassured that the country has no hostilities towards foreigners. “But we are concerned about losing our identity, heritage and language. The new generation of Emiratis feel increasingly isolated and expatriates could not observe Emirati culture and adapt to it.”
Dhahi had made the comments on Qatar TV on Saturday, likening the case of GCC nationals to that of Red Indians in the US.

 These are some interesting comments.

Now if you are an expat, one would feel that these comments are a little unfair. Expats are not coming to Dubai (or for that matter any GCC country) to seek welfare benefits (unlike in the UK or in Europe, where healthcare/education is free for all residents). Expats of Dubai pay for everything, schooling, electricity, tax (where applicable) and most importantly health, expats do not seek any benefits from the government. Expats are there to WORK, because there are jobs there that Emirati's are not as qualified to do or do not want to do. In fact, the current rules where Emirati's must be a partner in the business has made the local people lazy and happy about getting cash without having to do much work.

What about the expat who was born in one of these GCC countries? He is a foreigner in the only place he knows well, he goes "back home" to his/her native only to find people calling them foreigners there. They have no identity.

 But if you are an Emirati, you can understand Lt Gen. Khalifan's view. "Where is my culture?" "We want our people to benefit from the growth". It must be hard going to your local  grocery shop to see foreigners working there and having to communicate in a foreign language (English, Malayalam or Farsi).

The attitude of the leadership in most GCC partners, is not to provide nationality to expats in order to preserve their welfare for the local(indigenous) population. Frankly speaking this cements the power for the leaders as their subjects are happy (they have money, education, a world class healthcare system thanks to the visionary leaders). Imagine the effect it would have on the national population if all of a sudden expats were given nationality? Budgets would have to significantly increase, healthcare/education costs would shoot up. This would affect leaders positions politically as the level of service will decrease.

The Sultanate of Oman has offered a slightly different policy to other GCC nations, I believe the rules are if a expat has been resident there for over 25 years and can speak arabic (there are other additional rules here that need to be fulfilled), may naturalise. The country has also provided nationality to many expats who have contributed significantly to the development. This demonstrates fairness and vision of HM Sultan Qaboos.

What is the solution to the Dubai Police Chief's comments?

As in any other western country, seeking naturalisation in the GCC should involve adopting to the local culture. In the UK for example, a naturalisation applicant needs to show english proficiency and must sit a MCQ test on British history/culture. I think adopting something similar maybe a viable option.

Today, the global economy relies on a workforce that can move in and out of the country easily. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat government in the UK have similar problems with the number of immigrants coming to the country. They responded by having a proposal limiting the number of visas. This is NOT A viable option, simply because no MNC in the country will accept this and it is causing a storm. I can place a wager that this promise will not be filled by the current government in the UK simply because this is impossible to do in todays open global economy.

UAE & Oman rely on global trade (Think of the ports in the UAE, Salalah in Oman, HH Sheikh Mohammed's visionary airports in Dubai), it needs Indian IT professionals to come in and do their work, it needs foreign cleaners, it needs more foreign businessmen for trade in their freezones. Its this "openness" that contributes significantly to the growth of the GCC economies. Having a high expat population is a consequence to today's global economy. Closing yourself to the world will be disaster for the economies in the Gulf. Thankfully, the leaders are smart and recognise this.

My guess is that the GCC will provide naturalisation without the benefits that the local "indigenous" population receive such as subsidised healthcare/education etc at some point in the future.

PS. My message to expats is spare a thought for the locals and the leaders of the countries. My message to the "locals" is spare a thought for the expats and don't forget they are contributing to the growth of your great countries.

Thanks for Reading.

Added later:
The GCC should continue to build world class education infrastructure, provide the tools in order for their citizens (locals) to benefit and be able to play a productive part in their economies. Recently, there were complaints on quality (cheating allegations, bribes to professors in order for students to pass exams) of graduates produced at GCC universities. The government and the leadership need to pay attention to this area and ensure that QUALITY of graduates are improved.

1 comment:

  1. Anywhere around the world, you'll find a threat to the identity. The Arabs in general are a bit more conservative than others when it comes to holding onto their identity.
    As for workers, it is true that some jobs you would find locals equally qualified AND willing to take the job. However, somehow the Westerners looks give the idea to local business owners that a local won't be able to produce similar results. For others specialized and unskilled labor, Expats are important in the development phase.