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Analysis - Gulf: Boom to Doom

Media professional T C Ajit analyses the aspects of fact, fiction or imagination

The tragedy of the Gulf, as seen by a majority of people, is not really what it is made out to be. Whose boom and whose doom is what one needs to understand.

The scene is quite similar to what the British thought about the state of India, when India began a massive Indianisation of the work force, particularly the Supervisory and Management cadres. At the end of the day, it was India that boomed and Britain that doomed –but, less said the better.

While the British consciously created the clerks, stenographers and secretaries in India, the Indians, unconsciously, created a cadre of managers and bosses in the entire Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), as enumerated below:

 

·         The Sultanate of Oman – understood and identified as Muscat;

·         The United Arab Emirates – seen essentially as Dubai, then Abu Dhabi and finally, to a much lesser extent, as Ras Al Khaimah (all thanks to RAK Ceramics);

·         Bahrain;

·         State of Qatar – better known as Doha, Qatar;

·         Kuwait;

·         Saudi Arabia;

·         Yemen.

 

As Shaikh Rashid-bin-Al Maltoum and Shaikh Mohammed-bin-Al Maktoum– the first being the father and, perhaps, the first Prime Minister of the U.A.E., and the latter being the son and current PM of the Emirates – have repeatedly said – “India and Indians have built us and we will be ever grateful to them.”

We, as Indians, have been their teachers, managers, bankers, traders, tradesmen and menial labour as well – you name it and we’ve done it for them in a variety of roles and positions.

The result has been that they are now their own managers and need a lot lower number of expatriates than earlier.

Take a look at Oman – that country’s Omanisation programme has created so many jobs for locals and that any expatriate recruitment has to carefully thought through and planned as the Government has brought down the shutters on many a trade, profession or job – drivers, receptionists, secretaries, clerks, HR personnel – these are all reserved only for Omanis – and this is strictly adhered to.

Similarly, Qatar has a clear quota system for expatriate recruitment – and Indians have the biggest problem.  The rationale behind this quota system is to ensure ethnic groups are at controllable levels – a couple of decades ago, there was a major issue at an oil-n-gas construction site.

The issue arose because the average expatriate is not allowed a liquor permit – the permit is issued on the basis of one’s socio-economic standing (if one may call it that!) – it depended on his salary and his designation in the company it depended on his salary and his designation in the company – a mason/carpenter/electrician/plumber would find not find himself in the ‘permit’-ted society, while a supervisor, manager, accountant and anyone above that would find it a lot easier to get a permit and a given quota of alcohol provided he obtained a document from his employer to say that his emoluments were so much and that he may be issued the relevant alcohol permit.

But the spiritual nature of the blue-collared workers being what it is, they found other intoxicants that limited their existence! And they created their own little ‘adda’ or binging spot at the petro-chem construction site!!

As a result, several South Asians came to nought. This led to an astrologer being consulted and his advise was to burn down the adda–  a large Porta-cabin, not very far from the main production unit.

And the astrologer being the authority that he was, was taken seriously and the Porta Cabin set aflame!!

The resultant catastrophe is better left to one’s imagination – fertile or otherwise!

The followers of the sooth-sayer had made every preparation to prevent the fire-fighters and other such emergency service personnel from entering the area and finally the police and military had to be deployed and over a thousand South Asians were repatriated. And there came in the quota for South Asian recruitment.

The essential reason for this boom-doom scenario is due to several reasons:

 

·         The politics of world cup football;

·         The manipulated crash of fossil fuels;

·         The appreciation of forms of energy like solar power, wind power, electricity;

·         The increasing economic power of the average south asian – higher salaries, better expectations by way of living standards;

·         Increasing urge and need of the average south asian to improve his earning capability in his own country or a better place like europe, australia, new zealand;

·         In short, greater ambition.

 

Having said that, one must also understand that the ambition of the locals in the GCC countries is no less – because of their fossil-fuel fired affluence, they have been able to acquire Western education and etiquette and are now better equipped to run their own businesses and countries. And so, one wonders as to whether it is really a boom-to-doom situation or is it a boom-to-doom-to-reboom position.

In fact, Qatar, has found an extremely interesting and original way to host the five million odd spectators expected to turn up in that gas-rich state in 2022.

Instead of building a whole ‘village’ of hotels, they plan to charter as many cruise vessels from around the world and use them as hotels for the fortnight in which the battle for the global crown for the world’s most popular game will be fought.

Thus no capital expense, no building up of excess capacity of hotel rooms once the event is over, and the spectators will pay for the accommodation expenses and other incidentals that follow.

In other words, they did not have to import construction labour, managerial manpower and other attendant workforce to build accommodation for spectators for the world’s biggest sporting  event.  They found a way to limit expense while enjoying the economic benefits of holding this phenomenal soccer bonanza.

Thus, in much the same way as the British gave up their Imperial hold over the South Asian countries in the mid-1900s, the South Asians now need to look at greener pastures in their own countries or regions other than the GCC! And New Zealand, Australia and South Africa seem to be the likely targets!