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Gulf rentier expectations 16, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia, The Emirates.
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13 comments

Further to my post yesterday about Kuwait and their pernicious rentier state mentality, just so people don’t think that I’m being overly mean to Kuwait, I thought it best to share out the loftily biting remarks. And as luck would have it, two articles popped up in my Reader that allow my to lecture the UAE and Saudi too.

A recent study undertaken by a Dubai based market research firm found – shockingly – that Emirati teenagers spend nearly four times the international average per week: some $71 compared to $21. [Interestingly only Norwegian teenagers spent as much, though I suppose that this has more to do with higher tax and prices in Norway.]

This is not exactly ground-breaking news. Nor is it, in and of itself, a problem. However, speak to Emiratis of an older generation and I’d bet that their reaction would be exactly the same as those in Kuwait: they fear that the younger generations that were brought up in such luxury simply do not have the same values or work ethic as their forefathers.

This conclusion was mirrored in an op ed on unemployment in Saudi Arabia by Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, the former head of Al Arabiyya.

However I was informed that this unemployment is not all as a result of a scarcity of jobs. I was told that there are a huge number of jobs available, but that job-seekers reject these because they do not meet certain specifications with regards to the nature, location, or salary, of the jobs desired. These job seekers want to be employed in air-conditioned offices or in the military, and they consider service industry or manual labour jobs to be shameful. The other issue is that these job seekers want to be employed in their city of residence, and refuse to take jobs that require them to move to a different location. They also want to start any job in question with a high position and a good salary. This is why the vast majority of companies prefer to employ foreigners, which prompted the government to open the door to foreign employment.

This kind of rentier mentality is well documented. As oil goes, as Bahrain is finding, these kinds of indulgences and inefficiencies need to go. Yet Bahrain ‘suffered’ from some level of a rentier society for, say, half a century. What will happen to the Emirates and Emiratis when they too realise that they need to alter their parameters of what is acceptable after another few generations of the rentier lifestyle? How will they make the transition?