See you in Oz?

Just about the final piece of the moving back jigsaw has fallen into place.

The shipper has e-mailed to confirm that our stuff will be delivered the day after we arrive. That couldn’t be better timing, just one night camping and then we’ll have the furniture and the rest of our belongings.

So after nearly six years this will be the last post on Life in Dubai.

The first post was January 20, 2006 and I’ve rabbited on in 1264 posts in total. I’m amazed, I had no idea when I started that it would go on and add up like that.

A sincere thanks for stopping by, for taking the time to read the posts and for the comments, I really appreciate it.

I’ll leave this blog as it is because it’s a report of daily life as one person saw it through a unique period of time in the development of Dubai.  I won’t post here any more but I’ll check back every so often to see if there are any new comments; I still get comments on posts from years back.

As in future I’ll be in Australia that’s where I’ll move my blogging to. But I’ll be visiting Dubai regularly, at least for a while, and I’m sure I’ll have things to say about it. You’ll find me at Life in Oz…& Dubai.

If you’d like to keep in touch, as I would with you, just click on this link:  Life in Oz…& Dubai..

Last lap

Less than a week before we fly back to Oz, Saturday morning in fact, so this really is the last lap.

Everything’s done, except packing the bags and we always leave that to the last minute.

The online tracking system shows that the ship with our container of belongings arrived in Sydney on schedule last week. It does say that customs clearance was completed today but as I expect a bill from customs I don’t believe that.

It also says Quarantine Date was August 5, but I’m not sure what that actually means. The Quarantine Service in Australia is very tough and I fully expect them to demand that at least some of the furniture is fumigated but I’ve heard nothing about that so far. Usually they send a Quarantine Notice saying why fumigation (or destruction) is required and the cost of doing whichever one you choose.

Anyway, it seems to indicate that our belongings should be delivered not too far from when we arrive ourselves.

The shuttle is booked to get us from Sydney International early on Sunday morning and I’m hoping we’ll be home by about 10am. The forecast is sunny with a possible shower and a max of 18C – that’s very different from the horribly humid day we’re having in Dubai. The worst humidity of the summer I reckon.

Solutions drivel

I’ve been letting a few examples of ridiculous corporate gobbledegook pass without comment, plus a few with the use of my hate word ‘solutions’.

But there’s such a classic combination of the two in a Gulf News report this morning that I have to share the gibberish with you.

They’ve even managed to get three ‘solutions’ into one sentence.

It’s a short report about the link between Mubadala and Virgin Australia and includes this company statement:

“Leveraging the full scope of Mubadala Aerospace’s global MRO [maintenance, repair and overhaul] capabilities, some services will also be completed out of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies, SR Technics’ sister company. These agreements will cover full nose-to-tail integrated component solutions and are complemented with a component financing solution from Sanad Aero Solutions”

The report is here.

Paperwork done

The last items of paperwork for the move back to Oz are done now, cancelling the residence visas.

My cancellation was easy – my sponsor did it. A bit more involved for Mrs Seabee’s though, because I was her sponsor. And I’d had to pay a deposit of Dh10,000 when I arranged it, which I was keen to get back.

I actually started the process a few days ago when I went to the DNRD office in Bur Dubai, on Trade Centre Road. That’s where I arranged it all in the beginning so I thought I’d go back there.

It was absolutely packed with people though, although much more orderly than the first visit because now they have the numbered ticket system. It’s hardly rocket science, and it’s existed in other countries for many years, but it’s new here.

And what a huge improvement it is in government departments (and banks and other organisations). It replaces the chaos we always had of everyone pushing and shoving, waving papers and shouting to get the attention of someone behind the counter. Now you tell the ticket dispenser person what you’re there for, he gives you a numbered ticket and tells you the counter number(s) to go to. You sit and wait for the machine to bleep and display your number, telling you which counter to go to.

Anyway, even with a more orderly crowd the size of it made me think I’d be there for most of the day. So I decided to drive down SZR and go to the smaller, less popular Jebel Ali DNRD office. It was as I’d expected, very unbusy.

Now anything you do at DNRD requires ‘typing’. Generally you have no idea what’s being typed, and it’s in Arabic of course. But you have to have ‘typing’. 

I told the Information person I was there to cancel a visa. “First typing. Then any desk”.

I told the typing department ticket issuer what I was there for, got my ticket and sat down. For an hour. The ‘typing’ took twenty minutes. Another fifteen minutes waiting at a DNRD desk until I was first in the queue (no ticket numbers for this bit, just sitting in order on the bench seat and shuffling along as the people ahead of me were dealt with).

The actual cancellation took about two minutes.

Then I took my Dh10,000 deposit receipt to the cashier desk.

I was told that as it was issued in Bur Dubai I had to get the refund from Bur Dubai.

Another of those inexplicable obstacles you run into here. It’s all the same DNRD, one large government department, but you have to get the deposit refund from where you lodged it.

Back up SZR to Bur Dubai DNRD.

There seem to be just three desks for deposit refund paperwork and I was their only customer.

That’s when I hit the next obstacle. As with just about anything official you have to do here, you don’t know what you’re supposed to do, you don’t know what you have to bring with you and there’s no way of finding out in advance. It’s only when you try to do whatever it is that you’re told what you should have brought with you and what the process is.

I didn’t have all the bits of paper I needed, so I gave up and went to get some coffee.

I haven’t been able to get there again until today and as it’s the first day of Ramadan I wasn’t too confident about it all.

In fact the office was almost deserted. Plenty of people behind desks but with no-one waiting to be served. No big queues at the ticket dispenser. I got my ticket, only waited about five minutes and then it was my turn.

“Go to typing to get letter, then come back”.

Out to the Dickensian typing office.

Tiny, hot, crowded both sides of the counter. No numbered tickets here, and it’s the east-west queue rather than the north-south queue. That is, a double line of people the length of the counter, pushing and shoving, waving papers, yelling in a variety of languages.

I joined in, told them I wanted a deposit refund letter, paid the oddly precise amount of  Dh19 and waited while they photocopied everything and printed out an Arabic letter.

Back to the DNRD counter and five minutes later I had the authorised deposit receipt.

I asked where I had to take it and was told, “Outside bank”.

I wandered outside and found a Commercial Bank of Dubai branch. Got my ticket, waited five minutes, signed and had to write my mobile phone number on various bits of paper, and had to pay Dh20 for something or other. I was eventually given ten crisp new Dh1,000 notes.

So it’s done. All the paperwork’s completed, the deposit’s back where it belongs in my wallet.

We’re booked to leave in a couple of weeks.

Silence on property ‘residence visa’

At the end of last month I was talking here about the new so-called ‘residence visa’ for property owners, which the media and real estate spokespeople were lauding as a great move forward.

It was nothing of the sort of course, and not even a residence visa. It was a three year multi-entry visit visa for which, in spite of all the applause, we were given no details.

We were told that holders would have to leave the country every six months…which was ‘clarified’ a few days later by a statement that holders would not have to leave every six months.

The only other information was that holders would need proof of a bank account either here or overseas and a salary of Dh10,000 a month, and the visa would only apply to property ‘worth Dh1 million’. They would also have to have medical insurance renewable every six months (strange) and take a medical here every two years.

But the real detail that property owners, and potential buyers, need wasn’t, and still hasn’t, been given. The announcement was made, then nothing.

Value of property for example. Based on what? The original price paid?  Even with the burst bubble, apartments in my building that were originally bought for Dh450,000 are currently over Dh1 million – and they’ve been much higher than that of course. But if the original purchase price is the yardstick, none of the owners qualify for the visa.

Or is it based on current value?  Two problems with that. One, who decides what current value is? Two, value fluctuates all the time depending on many factors. Something that’s worth a million today may be worth less than a million in a month’s time if interests rates go up, mortgages become even more difficult to find, a large supply of similar apartments is released.

Then as it isn’t a residence visa, can holders apply for all the things that require a res. visa, such as a driving licence, DEWA connections and so on? Or are they treated the same as other visit visa holders?

And what’s the cost? The original plan for a six month visa required the holder to exit the country and apply for a new visa to come back in…at Dh2,000 a time. That soon adds up if it’s a family on the visa. We had no indication of the cost of the latest version.

Far from helping the real estate sector, this kind of part announcement leaving vital questions unanswered damages it even more.

Johann Hari exposed

The story broke in the UK press a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, but being busy with the imminent move back to Oz I didn’t get around to it.

It’s been somewhat swamped by the Murdoch News of the World saga but it involves much the same thing, appalling standards of ‘journalism’.

I’m prompted to devote time to it today by an article in this morning’s The National.

It concerns Johann Hari, a columnist I’ve disliked for a long time and who I’ve slated here before, and his standards of ‘journalism’. You’ll remember Mr Hari for his infamous article ‘The Dark Side of Dubai’ written over two years ago now.

He’s at last been publicly exposed for something that was apparent from that and other articles; misrepresention, misquoting and making up ‘facts’ to make a point.

Hari admitted exactly that when in response to the criticisms he said he had opted for “intellectual accuracy” over “reportorial accuracy”.

He has quite rightly been suspended by his newspaper, The Independent, and calls are being made for his various awards for journalism to be taken back. One committee is said to be actively investigating their award to him.

The National quotes Bitish author and columnist Guy Walters as saying Hari has committed three journalistic crimes: “First, he has pretended that words spoken to other journalists were in fact said to him. That is plagiarism, pure and simple. Secondly, he makes things up. There is no doubt in my mind that many of the people he supposedly encounters – such as the girl in hot pants in Dubai – are figments of his imagination. Thirdly, he distorts the words of the real people he does manage to interview.”

Certainly the second and third apply to his Dubai article, as I pointed out in my detailed response to it.

That was back in April 2009 and it’s interesting that I still regularly get visitors landing on that page.

The times when news went into the bin at the end of the day have disappeared, now it stays here on the www for people to read forever. This is an example – various commentators reporting Hari’s attack on Dubai linked to it and to my response, and now more than two years later people are still reading both.

Now that he’s been exposed I think there’s a good argument for The Independent to remove the links to any of his articles which have been called into question for containing plagiarism, lies, distortions.

I would also suggest that those of us who took him to task over his Dubai article and follow-up, and who took a lot of stick at the time from his supporters, have been exonerated.

The Dark Side of Dubai.
My post disecting it
More lies from Johann Hari.
The National.

Pssst. Wanna buy a suit?

I’m sure it must be a scam, although I don’t know exactly what it is because I always cut it short.

Walking in Dubai Marina I’ve been stopped now about ten times by a car pulling up alongside.

“Scusi. Can you please tell me the way to Sheikh Zayed Road, there are no signs”

The passenger is always Italian, presentable, friendly.

I tell him how to get to SZR.

Profuse thanks, then “Where are you from?”

“Ah, Australia. Melbourne or Sydney? I have a brother in Melbourne”.

When I say Sydney they usually ask whether I know Machiavalli restaurant – one of my favourites as it happens.

They go on to say they’ve been working in Oz, more often than not as interior designer at the Versace hotel on the Gold Coast. But…they’ve changed occupations and now are in Italian fashion and can make me an offer which presumably is too good not to accept.

That’s when I tell them I’m not buying and say ciao.

I wonder how the scam plays out. Anyone know?

They don’t get it.

The News Corp phone hacking saga continues like a runaway train.

Actually, to my mind it’s not about phone hacking, although it did start when the public discovered that the News of the World  hacked into the phones of people other than celebrities. That meant the illegality which had been accepted for years was suddenly an outrage.

And although it’s called the phone hacking scandal, the real story is corruption.

The UK has long prided itself on being corruption free. It can’t any more.  Media, politicians, police all scratching each others’ backs with secret deals, payoffs, freebies, exchanges of confidential information.

Politicians playing for Murdoch’s media support. And in return he expected…?

A relationship between police and Murdoch’s empire that included police being paid for information.

Former executives from the NoW being given well- paid jobs with the police and government.

The original enquiry finding no problem other than a couple of minor underlings, who went to jail, and the enquiry being closed with unseemly haste.

And so it was back to business as usual.

But every day sees more sensational developments. It’s not just underlings taking the rap any more, big names are beginning to fall.

The latest is the top cop, Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who resigned yesterday.

There were a number of pressures on him but the one that to me is the biggest is that he accepted a gift of thousands of pounds of free health spa accommodation.

It doesn’t matter who the owners were, who arranged it, whether it had anything to do with Murdoch.

The problem is the nation’s top policeman accepted a valuable gift from someone.

At the very best it shows appalling judgement and naivete.

And like others being outed in this drama, he just doesn’t get it.

Here’s what he said:

Sir Paul insisted there was “no impropriety” in relation to his use of the spa. He said: “I am extremely happy with what I did and the reasons for it � to do everything possible to return to running the Met full time, significantly ahead of medical, family and friends� advice. The attempt to represent this in a negative way is both cynical and disappointing.”

See, accepting gifts is perfectly OK for senior police officers. There is such a thing as free lunch.  People will give them gifts worth thousands of pounds and never even think of wanting a favour in return.

Just watch it, this story will grow like a snowball because it’s becoming a really dirty fight.  People involved are looking to deflect dirt from themselves by naming others, people are settling old scores, good friends are hurriedly being dropped, there’s a mad a scramble as people scurry to put distance between themselves and News Corp. And of course, anti-News Corp forces, including media rivals, are throwing fuel on the fire.

There are widespread reports of Sir Paul’s dig at the Prime Minister who he said risked being compromised by his closeness to former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

And, naturally, not for himself did Sir Paul kept secret his relationship with and employment of Caulson’s former deputy Neil Wallis as a ‘strategic adviser’. No, that was to protect others:  “I did not want to compromise the prime minister in any way by revealing or discussing a potential suspect who clearly had a close relationship with Mr Coulson.”

Very senior people, including long-standing friends of Rupert Murdoch, have gone and are among those arrested. The top cop has gone and his deputy should be next.*  The opposition is baying for government blood.

They’ll make a movie of it one day.

Quotes are from:
Sir Paul turns on PM. The Guardian.
Daily Telegraph.

* Breaking News

It’s ninety minutes after I posted this and the Assistant Commissioner has just resigned. Things are moving faster than we can keep up with.

Power tends to corrupt…

So said Lord Acton back in the eighteen eighties.

Very relevant to the momentous events going on in the UK surrounding Rupert Murdoch’s brand of ‘journalism’ I would say.

Another saying that springs to mind is ‘one law for the rich, one for the poor’, but this one is happening in reverse from the usual meaning.

The hypocrisy of the general public is never more evident than in the Murdoch saga.

He’s made his squillons and gained his power & influence by feeding the public obsession with gossip and personal details about people’s private lives, the more dirt-raking the better. His papers are as downmarket as you can get, with even the once internationally respected The Times and Sunday Times going on a rapid downward spiral when he took them over.

The public’s insatiable appetite for dross gave tabloid rags like The Sun and the News of the World the highest readership in the UK. In Australia it’s the same with his tabloids versus the broadsheets.

Then the hypocrisy. As long as the gossip and lurid details were about royalty, footballers, politicians and ‘celebrities’ the illegal means of obtaining the information were not questioned.

But when exactly the same methods were used against ordinary people – an uprising.

It’s not the unprofessional, immoral, illegal actions which have caused such outrage. It’s who the victims are this time.

They won’t of course, but people should take a long hard look at themselves for accepting illegal practices when they were used against well-known people. That’s encouraged the practitioners to see their illegal, immoral actions as normal practice, happily accepted by the public.

Then there’s the side to this saga that will be society changing.

When the Dirty Digger, as Private Eye* famously dubbed him, bought into the UK’s newspaper world he was a breath of fresh air.  He challenged the establishment, as very few did in those days, and broke the print unions which were killing the hand that fed them. (I had personal experience of them when I worked in London ad agencies).

But as his influence with the public – read voters – increased so did his interference in politics. Now there is evidence not only of his power to influence the highest levels of government but of his organisation’s illegal activity in phone hacking, fraudulently obtaining personal information (‘blagging’) and bribery of police.

The mutual back-scratching of News Corp., politicians and the police isn’t new but it’s reached new depths.

No-one knows how much more there is to discover. Was it confined to the now thankfully defunct News of the World? (Always a dreadful example of tabloid ‘journalism’). Was it even confined to the UK? The FBI in the US is looking into alleged breaches of US law. In Australia, where his empire began and where he owns nearly two thirds of big city newspapers, MPs are calling for an inquiry into media regulation.

This time News Corp won’t be able to sweep it under the carpet as they did earlier, sacrificing a couple of, albiet guilty, fall guys. I’ve always maintained that the culture of an organisation is set at the very top. Underlings do what they believe the boss will be happy with, often what the boss indicates he’ll be happy with.

To make matter worse, far from making a couple of minor mistakes in handling the crisis, as Murdoch told the (his) Wall Street Journal they’d done, he’s made uncharacteristically massive errors. Maybe he’s simply lost the plot.  But I suspect it’s more that the years of increasing power and influence have made him overconfident about what he can get away with. Arrogance and treating people with disdain aren’t cutting it any more.
It needed an immediate admission that the practices were totally unacceptable. An immediate apology and promise that he was on his way to sort it out and hold those responsible, right to the top, to account. An urgent personal apology to the family of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler, the hacking of whose phone started the public outrage.

He should not have refused to attend the parliamentary hearing – a bad decision since reversed only as he realised the severity of the storm and threats of a summons to appear were made.

He should have immediately dropped his bid to buy the whole of BSkyB, ‘pending the outcome of the current investigations’. Instead he tried to remove it from the political arena by having it referred to the competion watchdog, then had to withdraw the bid anyway. Calls are now being made to consider whether News should be allowed to retain its existing 39% holding.

All in all, mistake piled on mistake. As I said, out of character and massively damaging to the empire. Perhaps even fatal to it in its present form.

It will certainly lead in the UK to a formal distancing between media proprietors and politicians and between the media and police. Perhaps a new media regulator, maybe no more self regulation. More attention will be paid to the meaning of a ‘fit and proper’ person in relation to media owners. Quite possibly stronger regulations about the percentage of media one person can control.

Very senior people are going to be held responsible for their actions and lose their jobs – instead of the usual platitude of  ‘I take full responsibility’ with absolutely nothing happening thereafter.

And much more transparency all round.

It’s a big, big story and, as they say, it has legs. And there’ll be more sensational revelations as it evolves.

* Private Eye covers are consistently brilliant. Do have a look at their website, click on ‘Covers Library’ and search Rupert Murdoch for example.