Two tales of Dubai
IN FULL SAIL for profit, whatever war is on the horizon? Rising like Sinbad's dream, the world's tallest (330m) and it's said, finest hotel, the Burj al Arab, is symbol of Dubai's properity.
Halliburton is off to join the party.
But those who toil on construction don't see so much of the wealth.
TWO bits of news from Dubai. First, after collecting millions of dollars from the US taxpayer in contracts for the "war on terror" - everything from oilfield repairs and water for troops to the cages at Guantanamo - our old friends Halliburton, so generous they kept vice president Dick Cheney on the payroll after he'd left the board, have patriotically quit downtown Houston, Texas, to get closer to the Gulf action, by setting up heaquarters in the Emirates.
As Solomon Hughes comments in the Morning Star, "As well as being free of taxes, the Emirates are also free of votes, political parties and any form of democracy". (British WMD now run from Dubai, Morning Star, March 30).
In the latter respects not entirely differant from China, where, as reported on the opposite page, Burberry is shifting production of its awfully British clothing, closing the Treorchy factory in Wales with 300 job losses. Oh the joys of profit and patriotism! Let us pursue the cheapest and most-controlled labour, and the poor can do the soldiering, and wave the flags.
Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan has ruled the United Arab Emirates for over 30 years, and created a plush tax-free environment for big business so we'd guess exporting "democracy" to Dubai isn't among Bush and Blair's urgent priorities. As for Halliburton, its departure from God's Own Land-of-the-Free for the land of the tax-free has enraged US Democrats but not aroused much comment in Britain.
Yet the US company is big here. As the Star's Solomon Hughes points out, "It helps run Britain's nuclear deterrent by owning the Devonport nuclear dockyard. Halliburton also transports British tanks across Iraq thanks to the Heavy Equipment Transporter scheme. Under this PFI arrangement, Halliburton supplies not only tank transporters but also drivers with military training who will shoot if necessary".
Halliburton is also involved in building aircraft carriers and army barracks, and has a contract as "logistical support partner" of NATO's Northwood military headquarters. We might add that it has a hand in NHS computerisation and as Cardinal, has been running street cleaning and dust carts in a west London borough, though as far as I know the drivers have not yet been supplied with firearms.
Halliburton's charging on no-bid US contracts brought some troublesome visits from the FBI, but the Blair government seems to have been much more understanding. And with Halliburton's latest move, as Solomon Hughes observes, "everything from our Trident missiles to British squaddies' toilets are now run by a firm based in a Middle Eastern sheikhdom".
Oh dear. Our Trident missiles? I was thinking of giving mine up so I could save a few bob for my old age. But not one of Britain's three main parties is willing to give me the choice.
What about the workers?
And now to our next tale from Dubai. It's the underside of all those magnificent soaring towers of Babel that boast of the sheikhdom's prosperity. It comes via the Building Workers' International(BWI), and while I'm not always inclined to accept everything from international union federations without care, this one seems straightforward enough.
BWI Campaign: ACT NOW to defend migrant construction workers in Dubai!
Take a couple of minutes to make a difference to migrant construction workers in Dubai. Migrant construction workers in Dubai earn an average wage of US $150 per month. Any form of strike or protest is illegal under UAE labour law. The BWI cannot tolerate that around 200 workers from contractor ETA Ascon, who rioted last week, as they do not have any right to strike or collective bargaining are being deported and banned from entering the country, according to the UAE Ministry of Labour.
These workers are from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The workers went on strike on 10 March 2007 demanding an increase in their basic salary, which is US $150 (AED550) per month. They were demanding an increase of around $70 per month but the company granted an increase of about $0.5 per day, as well as a two-way airfare when they take leave every two years. Please pass this campaign on to your colleagues and friends.
For more info and petition see: