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24 February, 2008

Reshuffle ruffle

The Economist isn't very impressed with Sheikh Mohammed's recent cabinet shuffle, particularly the moving of Sheikh Lubna Al Qasimi from economy to foreign trade and the ousting of labour minister Dr Al Kaabi, describing it as "a blow to reform in the UAE":

"The cabinet reshuffle announced by the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum, has entailed the redeployment of the minister charged with pushing through structural economic reforms and the replacement of the minister of labour, one of the most sensitive portfolios in the government. Sheikh Mohammed said that the changes were aimed at bringing greater consistency, improved efficiency and more rapid development to the operations of the government of the seven-member federation. It is as yet unclear whether this will entail a review of the flagship policies of the previous administration, which was appointed in 2004 (and modified slightly two years later) or a drive to implement the existing policy programme."

The Economist is worried that Sheikha Lubna's plans to scrap the notorious "agency laws" - which gives UAE companies near-unbreakable monopoly rights on foreign brands - will go by the wayside. Likewise her attempts to abolish the 49% limit on foreign ownership. The magazine notes that these "may not be pursued with the same vigour as before."

Dr Ali Al Kaabi is well known for some of his heroic attempts at reform. He paid impromptu visits to labour camps, threatened non-paying construction firms, hauled his own staff over the coals for lounging around and doing nothing, tried to force transparency among ministry officials, planned to get labour agencies shut down (the reality is that indentured labour suits the UAE just fine - they could have fixed it years ago if they actually wanted to) and took various actions towards improving the plight of labourers.

Now he's out. Still, there are another two women in the cabinet, which has to be seen as some sign of progress.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shame about Al Kaabi. Seemed to be the only decent, humane human being in the whole bunch. So no surprises at his P45 then...

24 February, 2008 17:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very sad indeed. but hey, I think this is what happens when someone gets too "comfortable" in his position... its time to reshuffle.

24 February, 2008 18:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you really didnt think dubai really cared did you. eat shit, take the money, and get out when we tell you - this has always been, and will be the situation here. if that suits you, feel welcome.

24 February, 2008 18:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eat shit and take the money and get out? Yes, problem is that a lot of better of expats that were contributing to the UAE Economy are doing just this. Either packing up and going home or sending the family back home, and living on 2 sandwiches a day in a studio and sending all the cash back home. At this rate locals will be eating shit, too, in a few year. Problem is that they will not have anywhere else to go to. No long term planning in this country. They really think that this boom will go on forever?! I honestly pity them knowing that the boom will come sooner that they expect.

24 February, 2008 20:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So did the new members get voted in or were they appointed?

Were the outgoing ,'appointees', fired or did they ,'graciously', step down?

Were they ,'asked to step down', because they tried to change the old ways?

Are any ,'Khaleejs' , interested in the reshuffle ?

Will the world look at Dubai and appreciate these changes?

Are the unwashed masses better off? (oops they were deported by the new guy)

Are we going to read a gulpSnooze / KlapTimezs /Al Boohoo / Al Khaljiz / Business 48/0 et al editorial on thins topic ? ( My guess is they don't have the balls to write about this )

24 February, 2008 21:19  
Blogger DC-Lawyer-202 said...

Speaking of labour matters, check out this really funny web site I came across about "Emirati workers emigrating to Canada." It's at:
I think the Canadian web site authors confused Lebanon with the UAE. My favourite line from the web site is this last one:

"According to the NAPWC, the chronic economic and political crisis in The United Arab Emirates, including the current state of civil war in the country and the lack of jobs, pushes over 34,000 emiratis abroad daily in search of a better life. It is estimated that there are around 500,000 emiratis living in Canada, concentrated in the major cities of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal."

24 February, 2008 22:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure the economist is right on this one. Al Kaabi, for all his talk, was just talk. I How many of his promised reforms actually made it? and, remember, he was hauled over the coals by the big man during the national strategy speech a year ago or so, alongside the justice minister (who also got the boot), for failing to deliver.

Also, Lubna was handed a new portfolio; new ministerial portfolios aren't created for nothing, and rarely for the purposes of shunting someone sideways. Consensus (aside from the Economist) is the foreign trade/ inward investment brief is a pretty big deal. How it pays off in terms of the internal economics and her absence from that post remains to be seen, but I wouldn't expect to see any radical changes.

Still, why is it that it takes a UK magazine to actually analyse this properly (even if I disagree). All the local press could say was "giant step forward" etc etc etc.

25 February, 2008 07:54  
Blogger Rami said...

I'm a little confused.

Al Kaabi is the guy who's been running around for a while now pushing the whole residence cap idea. His tenure also hasn't changed the fact that we're still practically chained to our employers (the power of the NOC).

I'm not saying he was all bad, but I've been hoping for change for a while now.

25 February, 2008 11:49  
Blogger Seabee said...

anon@7.54 I tend to agree, I'm not sure the Economist has it quite right. Ministers were warned to perform, including Justice and Labour. And most commentators seem to think that the creation of a Foreign Trade portfolio was needed and that Sheikha Lubna was a good choice for it.

25 February, 2008 12:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, let's not forget that Al Kaabi single handedly spread panic throughout every company in Dubai with his announcement that, henceforth, all HR and secretarial positions would be filled by locals -- a decision that was hastily reversed by Sheikh Mohammmad. The Economist has a remarkable trick of sounding extremely authoritative about everything but actually being completely wrong a lot of the time (the Iraq war and Russia spring to mind)

25 February, 2008 15:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And one more thing: if anyone thinks that a Lubna al Qassemi, or a Gergawi or anyone outside of a senior Maktoum or AL Nahyan is capable of scrapping the agency laws, then they're hopelessly naive.

25 February, 2008 16:00  
Blogger screwed.mind said...

Hailing puppets in a puppet show is something only kids do!

25 February, 2008 16:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Hailing puppets in a puppet show is something only kids do!"


25 February, 2008 21:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sheikha Lubna did a fantastic job w Economy post and have to believe that the trade posting comes in part from her v visible global role during Dubai Ports fiasco. Let someone else reform agency issue and let her focus on international PR and visibility (in the guise of trade) which is her forte!

26 February, 2008 01:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. I'll be in Dubai from the 27th of March to the 3rd of April. I have a blogspot and would like to know if blogspot is blocked in Dubai. My blog is an entertainment blog, and it is important for me that I get to update my trip to Dubai on my blog daily, for my readers, which number around 3k average per day.

Any information you might have would be very much appreciated.

Thank you.


26 February, 2008 02:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

moaning about dubai is one thin, the gov another, I wonder how you'll end up when the usa/uk go bankrupt, hope it doesn't go well for you.

02 March, 2008 07:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

moaning about dubai is one thing, the gov another, I wonder how you'll end up when the usa/uk go bankrupt, hope it doesn't go well for you.

02 March, 2008 07:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nor for you, you will probably be reduced to drinking oil straight from ground since there will be no one to pay for it.

02 March, 2008 17:05  
Blogger UAE Students said...

Great're getting into the Emirates Economists' territory but it's all good.

03 March, 2008 04:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forget International Finance. This is the juicy Sci Fi stuff that we love this place for:

03 March, 2008 10:32  
Blogger Annabelle said...

Can anybody tell me where I can find Al Kaabi now? Would love to talk to him and just ask what has happened. Any Emirati who can tell me where his family lives?

11 March, 2008 19:34  

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