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04 June, 2004

Old dogs, old tricks

Saudi's Labour Minister Dr Ghazi Al Gosaibi tells citizens to "Learn New Things, Develop New Habits" and warns that the move to Saudisation will be "painful". It's a view echoed by the UAE's progressive Higher Education Minister, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, who doesn't back compulsory private sector quotas but does warn nationals that hard work is ahead:

"...nationalisation of jobs in the UAE is an inevitable operation, but it should be gradual. Our people must know that they should eventually run their own country – and this can be done only through hard work."

Phantom jobs (where a Gulf national is employed for a high salary but essentially has either no duties, or has a lower paid subcon or paleface carrying them out for him) are still sadly rife in this region. A media associate gave some training sessions at one of Saudi Arabia's largest industrial companies some time back. All those attending (all men) earned at least US$ six-figure annual incomes, tax free naturally. He began by asking what their jobs were.

One man's job was "receiving posters". He was the senior executive that all company posters came to - for example notices on health and safety, and company announcements. The posters came to him, he stamped them with a date stamp, and gave them to his assistants to pin up. This formed his entire job: receiving posters. He retired not long later with a US$800,000 retirement package.

Another two men had the un-onerous task of "coming up with ideas for the quarterly external publication". Not bashing away at a typwriter writing out those ideas, or doing layouts and sourcing graphics and wrangling with printers - the usual publisher's fare - but just "coming up with ideas". For a quarterly mag.

A fourth man's task was to "take visitors on a tour of the company." This was done only in the winter months, he explained, because the summer heat - from about March to October - was a quiet period. "What do you do for those six months?" the media associate asked. "Planning," was the reply.

One of the training sessions dealt with time management. The media associate began a lively presentation on the importance of prioritising, efficiency, and so forth. A hand went up. "This is not relevant to us," he was told.

"But surely time management is relevant to everyone?" the media associate said. "When you get into your office, deciding what tasks to do first, sorting out your intray, fixing a timetable to best streamline your day..."

"Our problem is when we get into the office there is nothing for us to do," the Saudi said.

The session was skipped.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Where can I get a job like that?

Things will have to change and soon. Globalization is pulling many a boat up, and the tide is rising. Unless the region's economy's find a way to compete and to inovate, their doomed to radicalism and violence for the long haul.

Here's hoping Abdullah is serious about reform. Your post however, leaves me with very little hope.

12 November, 2005 00:39  

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