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70% pay rise for Emiratis 23, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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The National reports that public sector Emirati workers will be receiving a 70% pay rise. I only have a few thoughts on this:

  • Do you think that Emiraiti in the ‘ministries’ will work harder for this pay now, or will the legendary* caricature of the four and a half day a week, 2 hour lunch break taking, late starting and early finishing Gulfie carry on as usual?
  • This is the rentier bargain in a nut-shell. ‘Yes, dear citizen, Dubai has huge issues, but don’t worry about it. Here’s some more cash…off you run to the shops now…’
  • There’s only so far that these salaries can rise. Not for a very long time given Abu Dhabi’s oil and gas wealth, but eventually these economies will have to face up to economic realities of ludicrously high wages and equally ludicrously low levels of productivity throughout the state sector. Decisions today are creating the mother of all rods for the backs of their grandchildren’s generation of rulers. It easy to give out cash like this but to take it back?…that’s not going to be pretty.

* The notion of ‘the national’ working in ‘a Ministry’ is a loaded concept in the Gulf. I’ve spoken to countless people about this in industries ranging from education to oil and gas to security to research in Kuwait, the Emirates and Qatar and I have unanimously heard stories of woefully under-productive workers with little to do (if anything at times), little motivation to do anything and no coercive measures to make them do anything. Needless to say, this doesn’t apply to all workers, but arguably the majority. I’ve heard these stories from nationals themselves and from ex-pats.

Technically, I could, of course, have been speaking to people with an agenda to push. However, given the numerous different settings in which I’ve talked to these people I doubt this and overall I do not really think that anyone with any serious experience of the region would argue with this premise. The only argument to have, as far as I see it, is over the question of how bad/prevalent it is. You can draw your own conclusions, but, as far as I see it, it is a chronic problem soundly based in rentier theory, which, as I explain above, poses a real threat to these societies.

Hat tip: UAE Community Blog

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