Fiery expat debates rage over Dubai lifestyles


By Natasha Bukhari


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates —  “Budgets are shrinking, prices are escalating, and paychecks don't keep up – worst yet, one gets an occasional kick unexpectedly from his greedy company owner. Uncalled for and unjustified it might be, yet our legal rights, well, they are interpreted just a bit loosely, just a bit too slowly,” an obviously disgruntled expatriate wrote to a daily paper as part of a debate on life in Dubai.


A local replied: “To all of you living in the UAE, please either put up with it or leave. And to those who have been transferred here and are stuck here, well, I am sorry for your miseries. All said and done, I do believe that you do have the choice to stay or leave. If you do stay and still complain, then you are simply 'biting the hand that feeds you,' and that is not nice.”


While the above debate is said to be reflective of typical attitudes of both expatriates and nationals in Dubai, foreigners working in Dubai these days feel more victimized than ever, and complaints about inflation and lack of regulation to protect their rights are on the rise. They also say they are fed up with the “love it or leave it attitude” of many Emiratis.


Expatriates, who make up over 80 percent of Dubai residents often complain of abuse against laborers, growing inflation, racism, and a loose regulatory system. Locals, on the other hand, complain that expatriates are ungrateful, disrespectful of UAE culture, and plain greedy.


“We open up our country for them [expatriates] and all we hear is complaints. Yet, we put up with so much to accommodate them,” says Fatima, an Emirati mother, saying that she hates seeing “half naked” Western women walking around in malls drinking water during the month of Ramadan, for example.


Nonetheless, observers say that not enough is being done on the official level to actually bridge the gap between these two sectors; the government has so far failed to implement an ambitious Emiratization program demanding companies to employ locals, for example, which, if implemented to the full, will encourage coexistence and dialogue between the two sectors.


Expatriates also complain of elusive laws or lack of regulation when it comes to livelihood issues such as rent. The head of Dubai's rent committee, for instance, said this week that there is still no decision on the future of the 15 percent rent cap, which was introduced earlier this year and expires at the end of the year.


Continuing rent hikes in Dubai have in fact forced many of its foreign working force to pack and leave, saying that inflation has got out of hand, especially with skyrocketing rent. Dubai, in effect, many argue, is shooting itself in the foot.


“Unless the powers that be step in to moderate rent, especially in the light of all the new apartments that are coming on-stream in the next six to 12 months, Dubai will very quickly become a victim of its own success and the greed of many developers,” writes another expatriate.


He adds: “Skyrocketing rents will inevitably lead to inflation, and the same people who have gained valuable insight and experience in the unique business culture cannot continue to survive and will be forced to find elsewhere to live. When that happens, the question of whether there are enough UAE nationals who can support Dubai comes into question, not from want of skill or talent, but simply because of the sheer volume of people needed to continue to drive the growth of this jewel of the Middle East without compromising the cost and quality of living.”


Another tells 7DAYS newspaper that “we all live here and our services interact with others.' If we leave what should happen to this nice desert? The only ones left here will be greedy landlords, road killers and bump car drivers, real estate agents, beach perverts, taxi perverts, etc … ”


As for the “$50 million question,” why do thousands of expatriates still flock to Dubai yearly seeking jobs? Well, that depends on who you talk to.


Some say that it is the very turbulent political situation in their home countries that drive them to Dubai in search for a “decent lifestyle.” Dubai is a haven of stability, which, in many cases, is more important than affluence.


“I really appreciate that politics is absent here … all it [politics] brings in the Arab world is dispute, wars, crime, and poverty. We can escape all that in Dubai; and yes, it is very expensive to live here, but I would give up everything for the peace of mind,” says Rita, a Lebanese who has been living in Dubai for eight years.


Others still feel that the emirate is a promising land of opportunity and that the inflation, which they say is a global phenomenon, will soon be curbed, “as the wise leadership will not allow it to get out of hand,” in the words of Ahmed, a Palestinian entrepreneur.


Source: Middle East Times, November 30, 2006