+++JORDAN TIMES 26 May ’08 “Difficult times ahead”Fahed Fanek
QUOTE:”we don’t have much of an alternative”

No one, whether in the government or among the people, denies the fact that
we have an economic problem caused by some worldwide developments that
cannot be controlled by us.
The most prominent of those problems is the soaring prices of some basic
commodities that Jordan imports, such as petroleum and foodstuff.
Protesting, striking and sitting at the doors of the government and the
gates of the parliament has been tried repeatedly elsewhere and did not
change anything….
Of course, the government cannot escape its responsibility. It is trying to
do something to suppress inflation. In fact, it is feared that the
government may, under pressure, go too far in taking tough measures that may
cause more harm in the longer term than benefits.
The larger responsibility, however, falls on our own shoulders, as
consumers, especially housewives, who keep the purse and may have to alter
their families’ consumption habits.
I know that this is easier said than done, but we don’t have much of an
alternative. …The limited income has to be put to the best usage. How
about quitting smoking, using public or sharing transportation instead of
individual private cars, reducing the quantities purchased, and maximising
the utilisation of government’s free services, such as the state schools and
healthcare facilities?

+++JORDAN TIMES 26 May ’08:”Dubai’s gleaming skyscrapers conceal city’s
labour
abuse”By Hamza Hendawi, The Associated Press
QUOTE: “the worst cases of sysematic exploitation in today’s world”

EXCERPTS:DUBAI – . . .Dubai’s astonishing building boom, which has made it
one of the world’s fastest-growing cities, has been fuelled by the labour of
about 700,000 foreigners(IMRA: about 80% of populstion.) – almost all from
poor, rural villages in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The workers’ meager wages still go far in their native lands… Yet many men
escape poverty back home only to find themselves trapped in near servitude
here..  .  .
. But despite promises of reform, there are still problems, the Associated
Press found in interviews with government officials and two dozen workers
and visits to employer-provided housing:
– Many South Asian workers are essentially indentured servants, borrowing
heavily to pay recruitment agents for jobs. They can spend several years
paying back debts that can run $3,000 or more with wages ranging from $150
to $300 a month. Lately, the labourers have effectively earned less because
of a weakened dollar – to which the Emirati dirham is tied – and Dubai’s
double-digit inflation.
– They work six days or even six-and-a-half, and 60-hour weeks.
– Employers often confiscate their passports, in violation of Dubai law, and
withhold pay for two or three months to stop workers from quitting.
– Many have no medical insurance and work outdoors in summer heat of 120
degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) with stifling humidity.
– Employer-provided housing often means bare, crowded trailers surrounded by
barbed wire or located on Dubai’s desert fringes. Some are not connected to
water or sewage grids.
Overall, human rights groups say, unscrupulous employers and government
indifference have combined to create one of the worst cases of systematic
exploitation in today’s world.
Dubai and Emirati officials dismiss talk of a minimum wage as incompatible
with Dubai’s market economy. But they insist they have taken steps to ensure
regulations are followed at construction sites and living quarters.
.  .  .But Dubai officials acknowledge they still face several obstacles.
One is persuading construction companies to make changes while maintaining
the phenomenal growth of a sector worth about $400 billion in projects this
year. Another is a shortage of labour inspectors – there are 400 now, almost
twice as many as last year but well short of the target of 2,000. It’s also
difficult to build new camps with enough space and hygiene because of
soaring land prices, officials say.
Workers can sue in court against employers who miss wages – but it seldom
results in payment.
.  .  .”But I have to do this…. If I stay home, I will have no future,” he
said. “I plan to be here for another six years and when I am done, I will
have what I need.”
===============
Sue Lerner – Associate, IMRA

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