Palestinian Rights Advocates Refuse to Applaud

Palestinian Rights Advocates Refuse to Applaud

Published on Thursday, August 13, 2020, by Common Dreams is an article on how Palestinian Rights Advocates Refuse to Applaud Israel-Trump-UAE Deal That Upholds ‘Ongoing, Devastating Apartheid‘. Here it is republished for apparent reasons if only of peace, progress and prosperity for each and everyone around unfolding however awkwardly before our very eyes. It would be a good opportunity to remind that resolving millennia problematics could start with the unequal impact of heatwaves without of course overlooking all those transboundary aquifers. 


“The Trump administration hit upon the Nobel Peace Prize-winning idea that you can supposedly solve the Israel-Palestine conflict by pretending Palestinians don’t exist.”

Julia Conley, staff writer

In front of the EU Council, covered by 4,500 empty pairs of shoes to represent every life killed in the Israel since 2008, is seen in Brussels, Belgium, on 28 May 2018. European Foreign Ministers greeted by the installation as they entered a meeting. (Photo: Olivier Matthys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Advocates for Palestinian rights vehemently rejected claims by the Trump administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Thursday marked a “historic day” in the fight for peace in the Middle East, after Israel and the United Arab Emirates forged a deal normalizing relations between the two countries.

The newly-official diplomatic relationship reportedly came after Israel told UAE officials that it would suspend plans to annex parts of the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

Rights advocates promptly pointed out that Israel already occupies the West Bank and will continue to do so regardless of any promise to the UAE, and that the Israeli to expand annexation—though on hold at least for now—would have been a violation of international law.

“We won’t celebrate Netanyahu for not stealing land he already controls in exchange for a sweetheart business deal,” tweeted Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a Palestinian-American.

As President Donald Trump, Netanyahu, and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed released a joint statement celebrating the so-called “historic diplomatic breakthrough”—and U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said the deal should solidify a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for Trump—CodePink pointed out that Netanyahu stated publicly after the deal was brokered that annexation is “still on the table” and something he is still “committed to.”

“The Trump administration hit upon the Nobel Peace Prize-winning idea that you can supposedly solve the Israel-Palestine conflict by pretending Palestinians don’t exist,” tweeted Intercept journalist Murtaza Hussain.

The deal is primarily an attempt to bolster “the Israel-US-Gulf alliance against Iran…while maintaining Israel’s status quo of occupation and apartheid,” said CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin. 

In Gaza, the Popular Resistance Committees called the deal “a treacherous and poisonous stab in the back of the nation and its history” which “reveals the size of the conspiracy against our people and our cause.” 

CodePink accused UAE leaders, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, of abandoning their previous stance that the UAE would only normalize diplomatic relations with Israel if and when the country acted in accordance with international law.

“We are not fooled by this fake diplomacy, which is nothing more than a way to maintain Israel’s status quo of land theft, home demolitions, arbitrary extrajudicial killings, apartheid laws, and other abuses of Palestinian rights,” said CodePink national co-director Ariel Gold. “Annexation is a daily reality on the ground. By normalizing relations with Israel without any gains for Palestinians, the UAE is pledging complicity with Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.”

The group said the purpose of the Trump-brokered deal was entirely unrelated to moving closer to peace and solidarity between Palestinians and Israelis, and was instead an attempt to shore up the power of Trump, Netanyahu, and bin Zayed. 

“The UAE’s change from supporting Palestinian dignity and freedom to supporting Israel’s never-ending occupation cements the UAE’s alliance with the Trump administration, which allows the country to purchase weapons that are used against civilians in Yemen,” said CodePink.

The Israeli and UAE delegations are set to meet in the coming weeks about cooperative agreements regarding telecommunications, investments, tourism, and other aspects of a normalized diplomatic relationship. But as the Middle East Eye reported, the new deal is simply a formalization of relations that had already been ongoing; last month, for example, two Israeli defense companies signed a deal with an artificial intelligence firm in the UAE. 

“There is nothing ‘historic’ or ‘groundbreaking’ about this agreement: Israel and the UAE have been strong allies under the table for many years!” tweeted Omar Baddar, director of the Arab American Institute. “This is merely making that friendship public.”

“Israel may be able to normalize with these dictatorial governments without treating [Palestinians] like human beings who deserve basic rights, but Israel will never be truly accepted by the PEOPLE of the region so long as Palestinians live without freedom under the boot of occupation,” Baddar wrote.

The agreement, journalist Mehdi Hasan tweeted, represented a “classic” deal by two countries regarding Palestinian people’s lives, security, and future.

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IfNotNow, a Palestinian rights group led by Jewish Americans, condemned the deal, which was made without the involvement of Palestinians.

“The focus needs to be on promoting solidarity between Palestinians and Israelis who are joining together in struggle to end an apartheid system,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “We must stand with the people. This Trump/Netanyahu deal will not alleviate Palestinian suffering—it will further normalize it.”Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons A

Plan to Cut Expat Numbers in Kuwait

Plan to Cut Expat Numbers in Kuwait

Kuwait Times of 10 August 2020 published Govt, Assembly near deal on plan to cut expat numbers in Kuwait by B Izzak. The issue is as an old hat as any in the Gulf region, particularly in Kuwait where the migrant workers have been on its Parliament’s agenda for years.
It is estimated that migrants, the majority of which come from Asia, make up more than 50% of the workforce and even as much as 90% in some countries in the region. Kuwait is no exception and at this conjecture, things have gone so far as to prompt, last week, a collective of international investors got in touch with 54 businesses operating in the region to ask what safeguards are in place for any migrant workers they employ, either directly or indirectly.

In any case here is Govt, Assembly near deal on plan to cut expat numbers .

KUWAIT: The government and the National Assembly appear to be nearing to approve a plan that envisages short-, mid- and long-term measures to drastically cut the number of expats in the country, with the government proposing to deport as many as 360,000 workers in the short-term.

Member of the Assembly’s manpower resources development committee MP Osama Al-Shaheen said the government’s plan calls to deport 120,000 illegal workers, 150,000 expats aged over 60 – employees, dependents or those suffering from chronic diseases – in addition to deporting 90,000 marginal and poorly-educated laborers.

The plan also proposes to cut tens of thousands of other expats through replacement, adopting technology and tightening the screws on recruitment, the lawmaker said. Shaheen said government plans show that the Kuwaiti population grew by 55 percent to 1.33 million between 2005 and the end of last year, while expats grew by more than 130 percent to 3.08 million during the same period.

Head of the committee MP Khalil Al-Saleh praised the government’s plan, presented to the panel by Minister of Social Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel. He said the panel asked the minister to submit timelines for implementation, like setting an exact timetable for the next five years showing the size of cuts each year. He said the panel asked the government to submit legislation needed to implement the plan by the end of this week. This will allow the committee to complete its report next week and submit it to the Assembly for voting.

Saleh said the discussion with the minister focused on steps needed to introduce a quota system that creates a balance between communities and takes care of security requirements. He said the government’s plan is more than excellent as it provides many solutions regarding the numbers of expats, nationalities, domestic helpers and trafficking in persons.

The committee is also expected to review seven draft laws presented by MPs, all concerning measures to amend the population structure, currently tilted in favor of expats who make up 70 percent of the population. Shaheen said the government plan shows that one of the main problems for the small number of Kuwaitis in the private sector is the huge difference between benefits in the public and private sectors.

He said the plan shows that the average monthly salary for Kuwaiti males in the government is KD 1,769 and KD 1,265 for females, with 154 average monthly working hours. At the same time, average salaries in the private sector are KD 1,387 for Kuwaiti men and KD 835 for Kuwaiti women, with 187 monthly working hours, far more than the government sector. Shaheen said that the plan also shows that the state budget rose 15.5 percent with each 5 percent increase in the number of expats as a result of spending on health, subsidies and infrastructure.

The Levant and North Africa: on the verge of . . . .

The Levant and North Africa: on the verge of . . . .

An Analysis dated 7 August 2020 by Dr Tankut Oztas is concerned by The Levant and North Africa with a challenging statement like: on the verge of economic malaise?
The pandemic-induced crisis is expected to exacerbate poverty, deepen inequality and constrain households’ access to basic needs, including health service.

ANALYSIS – The Levant and North Africa: on the verge of economic malaise?

ISTANBUL:  The spread of COVID-19 undoubtedly has had a catastrophic impact on the most vulnerable communities of the world. According to a recent World Bank report, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is ranked as second-lowest among all regions in the overall Global Health Security Index, and it comes last in terms of both epidemiology workforce and emergency preparedness and response planning. Without an effective and coordinated set of policies to achieve a swift economic recovery, the region is highly likely to suffer from greater political instabilities and become a breeding ground for terror groups.

The COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated these pre-existing vulnerabilities and risks in the widely-mismanaged economies of the MENA, where medical systems are under-resourced and much-needed infrastructure either destroyed or lacking.

A range of harsh anti-COVID-19 measures such as self-isolation, social distancing, and lockdowns, including total curfews and international travel restrictions have been implemented by governments to control the spread of the virus and protect lives.

These preventive measures, however, led economies across the region to experience severe supply and demand shocks. The most recent regional economic outlook reports published by both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast that regional economies would most likely experience a sharp economic fallout by –4.2 per cent and 4.7 per cent in 2020, respectively.

Still, the real socio-political and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the MENA remains highly uncertain and will strictly depend on the duration of the outbreak and the effectiveness of the policy responses developed by each nation.

The current predictions, however, suggest that all critical macroeconomic indicators such as fiscal and current account balances, foreign reserves, and the inflow of foreign direct investment will be distressed as a result of the crisis. The pandemic-induced crisis is expected to exacerbate poverty, deepen inequality and constrain households’ access to basic needs, including health services.

The economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic effectively forced almost all countries in the region to request financial assistance from the IMF or other financial institutions to strengthen their economic position and prevent the possibility of a prolonged economic recession. As a result, regional economies have become heavily dependent on the reform directions of the IMF, World Bank, and other investment banks.

Socio-economic and political tensions remain a distinct possibility in the post-pandemic era if policy responses fail to meet the demands of the majority and set a path for swift economic recovery. Countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, and Tunisia already have debilitated capabilities. Persisting socio-political and economic hardship exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to a vicious cycle of economic malaise.

The same outcome applies to the only two oil-exporting countries of the region, Iraq and Algeria. Their economies were hit by the complete halt of economic activities due to the pandemic and have also been severely affected by the crash of oil prices. A similar assessment is applicable to war-torn countries of the region, Syria and Libya too. Though their economic outlook is linked to a sustainable political order and strong security environment, the spread of the virus and its humanitarian and economic costs are extra burdens on the wellbeing of communities living in these countries.

The only countries in the region with a relatively positive socio-political and financial outlook are Israel and Morocco. While their economies are experiencing the economic consequences of the pandemic, their macroeconomic variables are in a better position compared to their peers. Their public and externals debts are relatively lower in comparison to other nations in the region.

Nevertheless, every country will experience the heavy burden of issues such as collapsing global trade, low commodity prices, major capital outflows, and healthcare-specific challenges inflicted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The crisis is dealing a heavy blow on sectors such as tourism, export companies, and small and medium-sized businesses, which employ the largest share of the workforce and generate a considerable share of the revenue streams for the region’s economic development.

A reduction in income from these sectors, as well as remittances and foreign investment from the oil-rich Gulf countries, subsequently hampered the foreign reserves and deepened the current account deficit across the region as a whole.

Against this challenging backdrop, a range of economic recovery packages have been announced by the governments to mitigate the economic repercussions of the COVID-19. The majority of them are aimed at helping the most hard-hit sectors and communities through temporary tax relief, cash transfers or cheap financing.

The uncertainty about the real economic impact of the pandemic, however, has complicated the policy response. Many of these economies have limited fiscal and external debt capacities. The Lebanese government, for instance, has the highest external debt in the region with approximately 170 per cent of its GDP. Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq follow Lebanon with external debts of 97, 90, 87.2 and 80 per cent of their GDP, respectively.

Ultimately, many of these economies had already been battling with high poverty, political instability, and poor healthcare infrastructure; hence the historic economic downturn provoked by the novel coronavirus will aggravate existing economic and humanitarian challenges. The region already has the world’s highest youth unemployment, and it hosts countries that have weak security institutions.

In the period that lies ahead, if the geostrategic vulnerabilities and risks continue to amplify across the region without a stable political leadership, effective civil service, and a well-targeted set of economic recovery programs, the region will likely experience a prolonged economic recession and an increased risk of social unrest.

[ The writer is a researcher at the TRT World Research Centre. He holds a PhD in International Political Economy from King’s College London and specializes in global security, geopolitical risks and the politics of transnational economic affairs ]

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UAE’s migrant workers fret over future

UAE’s migrant workers fret over future

UAE’s migrant workers fret over future in coronavirus economy; that is according to my reading, perhaps about their own future in the Gulf region, particularly in the UAE during and above all after the passing of the pandemic. It must be reminded that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) successfully launched its Mars mission dubbed “Al Amal”, or “Hope”, on July 20, 2020.

In the meantime, here is the original Reuters article that covers this traumatic period in the life of those numerous migrant workers in the UAE.


DUBAI (Reuters) – When Kapil left his Nepali village for an airport job packing cargo in the United Arab Emirates, he thought he was securing a future for himself and his family.

UAE's migrant workers fret over future
Unemployed men queue for food handouts from concerned local residents after they lost incomes due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Dubai, United Arab Emirates July 6, 2020. REUTERS/Lisa Barrington

But less than a year after arriving in the Middle East trade and tourism hub, he questions whether it was the right decision after learning there would be no work this month.

“I’m totally hopeless,” said 29-year-old Kapil, whose wife and five-year-old son are in Nepal.

The coronavirus crisis has taken a heavy toll on the economies of the oil-rich Gulf, heavily reliant on low-paid foreign workers.

They are the backbone of the Gulf economies, taking jobs in construction, services and transport, and are now facing the realities of the pandemic.

Reuters spoke to over 30 workers like Kapil in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, who all said they are now enduring hardship due to coronavirus.

Many have racked up debt and would go hungry without the help of charities as they wait for work and to be paid.

Some said they found little reason to stay without work and wanted to return to their home countries despite being owed months of wages; hundreds of thousands have already left.

The treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf has come under greater scrutiny, with human rights groups saying conditions have deteriorated because of the pandemic.

In the UAE, most attractive because of the economic opportunities it offers, there is no social safety net for foreigners, who make up about 90% of the population.

A laundry service worker from Cameroon told Reuters he had not been paid in months and was now selling fruit and vegetables on the street earning 30 to 40 dirhams a day ($8-$11).

The UAE government communication office did not respond to emailed questions about migrant worker welfare.

In May, the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said the Gulf state was committed to protecting the rights of all workers, state news agency WAM reported.

DEBTS

Those in blue collar jobs are the most vulnerable. They are paid low wages, work long hours and often live in cramped dormitories that have been coronavirus hotbeds.

Many also pay fees to recruiters in their home country, a practice common for low paying jobs in the Gulf.

Kapil, who said he paid a recruiter 175,000 Nepali rupees ($1,450) for his UAE job, is not sure when he will work again.

His employer told staff they would only be paid when they worked and it was unclear whether there would be any work next month, he said.

Kapil said he had been earning around $600 a month – six times more than his teacher salary in Nepal – working up to 12 hours a day, six days a week at the airport.

He said not working had left him stressed and unable to provide for his wife, child and elderly parents in Nepal.

Kapil, who showed his employment contract and other documents to Reuters, asked that his full name not be published and his employer not identified over fears he could face repercussions.

Arriving in the UAE last October, Kapil thought he would work at the airport for a few years before finding a better job, possibly using his teaching skills.Slideshow (4 Images)

Now he just hopes to work until the end of the year to pay back his loans.

“The global economy is getting worse and it’s affecting each and every business … I think during this time it’s hard to find any other job.”

UNPAID WAGES

No official statistics of how many people have left the UAE are available. But at least 200,000 workers, mostly from India but also from Pakistan, the Philippines and Nepal, have left, according to their diplomatic missions.

Sectors like construction and retail were struggling even before the crisis, which exacerbated hardship for workers already exposed to payment delays.

Mohammed Mubarak has not been paid for around 11 months for security work at a Dubai theme park.

“The company doesn’t know when they’ll be able to pay us, and we are suffering,” the Ghanaian said.

Government coronavirus restrictions that forced many businesses to shutter for weeks began to ease in May. Shopping centres, water parks, bars and restaurants – all staffed by migrant workers – are once again open, raising hopes.

Zulfiqar, a Pakistani in Dubai for 12 years, sent his family home early in the outbreak but stayed on hoping for work, sharing a room and what cash he has with a dozen other unemployed men.

“Things in Pakistan are also not good,” he said.

By Alexander CornwellLisa Barrington and Davide Barbuscia, Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Giles Elgood

The Middle East’s Threat Multiplier

The Middle East’s Threat Multiplier

Authors Olivia Macharis is a researcher at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut and Nadim Farajalla is Program Director of the Climate Change and Environment Program at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. They came up with this realistic picture of the Middle East’s Threat Multiplier. It is published on Project Syndicate of 12 June 2020.


The picture above is that of An Egyptian boy holding bread and flashing the victory sign shouts slogans at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on April 1, 2011 as he joins tens of thousands of Egyptians who gathered, issuing calls to “save the revolution” that ousted president Hosni Mubarak and to rid of the country of the old regime. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)


Although many factors contributed to the mass protest movements in Iraq in recent years, and in Egypt a decade ago, climate change was the common denominator. By exacerbating endemic problems such as water scarcity and food insecurity, global warming threatens to plunge an already unstable region into the abyss.n Egyptian boy holding bread and flashing the victory sign shouts slogans at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on April 1, 2011 as he joins tens of thousands of Egyptians who gathered, issuing calls to “save the revolution” that ousted president Hosni Mubarak and to rid of the country of the old regime. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)
Survey the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and you will find no shortage of crises, from escalating tensions between the United States and Iran to the cycles of violence in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. Countless young people across the region feel a sense of despair as they confront the daily realities of poor governance, economic immobility, and sectarian violence. Now, the COVID-19 crisis is putting increasing and unprecedented pressure on the global economy, state institutions, and livelihoods. It has also highlighted the dire consequences of health, social, and economic inequality. And as bad as these problems are on their own, all will be exacerbated and magnified by an even larger crisis: the devastating impacts of climate change.
With its largely arid conditions, the MENA region is particularly vulnerable to the physical impacts of climate change. It is one of the world’s most water-scarce regions, with a high dependency on climate-sensitive agriculture. Along with rising temperatures, the region is already experiencing a wide range of deteriorating environmental conditions, including decreased rainfall in Iraq, longer droughts in Syria, more severe flash flooding in Jordan and Lebanon, increasingly intense cyclones in Yemen and Oman, and rising sea levels. There is also evidence of rapid desertification regionwide, as well as unprecedented heat waves and increasingly frequent and intense dust storms.
Looking ahead, researchers warn that summer temperatures in the region will increase twice as fast as average global temperatures. This will lead to increased evaporation rates and accelerated loss of surface water, which will reduce the productive capacity of soils and agricultural output. Projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also warn of rising sea levels and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. In large parts of the region, the combination of worsening heat waves and increasing air pollution owing to sand and dust storms will likely compromise human habitability and force people to migrate.
Climate change not only has serious implications for the environment and public health, but also for economic growth, livelihoods, and peace. Climate-induced impacts have the potential to reinforce factors that lead to or exacerbate conflict and instability. For one, resource scarcity may undermine the livelihoods of vulnerable households and communities, potentially leading to increasing competition, which may turn violent in the absence of conflict resolution institutions. Most vulnerable are fragile states and communities with a history of violence. In Iraq and Syria, the occurrence of devastating droughts between 2007 and 2012, combined with governments’ inability to provide relief to vulnerable populations, favored radicalization and recruitment efforts by jihadist militias, including the Islamic State.
Other risks of conflict arise when growing resource scarcity is met with inadequate government action, which may cause grievances among the population and increase tensions along ethnic, sectarian, political, and socioeconomic lines. Water scarcity and contamination have already triggered recurrent protests in Iraq, and rising food prices have fueled protest movements in Egypt and other countries. The region desperately needs to start developing and implementing more robust adaptation strategies before it is too late.
UNPREPARED FOR THE WORST
Most countries in the region are woefully behind when it comes to preparing for the physical effects of climate change on the environment and for the socioeconomic effects on much of the population. Many governments are unable or unwilling to tackle issues related to poverty, slow and unequal economic growth, high unemployment, lack of basic services, and widespread corruption.
Instead, the region’s governments have long relied on what political scientists call the “authoritarian bargain,” an implicit contract in which the state provides jobs, security, and services in exchange for political loyalty (or at least obeisance). This contract assumes that the population will remain politically inactive. But protest movements over the last decade, from the Arab Spring to more recent demonstrations in Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and other countries, have shown that people across the region want to renegotiate.
In many countries, the protests are the result of worsening economic and political conditions, many of which stem from strained government resources that have led to a decline in the provision of public services. With climate change projected to put additional pressure on water and food security, livelihoods, health, and overall living standards, public discontent is likely to keep growing in the coming years, resulting in a heightened risk of political instability and conflict.
The linkages between climate change, resource scarcity, and social unrest are of course complex. Examining two cases – one dealing with water scarcity and contamination, the other with rising food prices – can help shed urgently needed light on these dangerous dynamics.
WATER POLITICS IN IRAQ
A good place to start is by considering Iraq’s water resources, which have been under increasing stress for more than three decades. As a result of both natural and anthropogenic causes, water quantities have decreased and water quality has deteriorated. The natural phenomena include increasing climate variability and lower annual precipitation, resulting in a lack of snowfall in the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates. The anthropogenic causes center around increasing water demand, inadequate government policies, and dam-building by upstream neighbors Syria, Turkey, and Iran.
The Tigris and Euphrates are Iraq’s most important sources of freshwater. These twin rivers converge in al-Qurna, in the southern Basra governorate, to form the Shatt al-Arab River and drain toward the Gulf (see map). Both rivers originate in Turkey, with the Euphrates cutting through Syria before reaching Iraq. Several of the rivers’ tributaries originate in Iran, with the Greater Zab, the Lesser Zab, and the Diyala flowing into the Tigris. In total, more than 50% of the country’s renewable water resources originate outside of its borders.

Of particular concern to Iraq is Turkey’s controversial Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP), which is located at the Euphrates-Tigris Basin in the upper-Mesopotamian plains. At an estimated cost of $32 billion, the GAP is one of the world’s largest river-basin development projects. Other serious concerns include Iranian dam-building activity and an expected increase in Syrian water usage. Regional cooperation to improve water management is limited, and political negotiations have so far fallen short of concluding a legally binding, comprehensive, and long-term agreement.
On the domestic front, while rapid population growth, urbanization, and increasing industrial production have driven up water demand, decades of conflict and sanctions, along with inadequate government policies and the lack of a regulatory framework for sustainable water management, have undermined investment in supply. The main challenges include chronic deterioration of infrastructure, inefficient irrigation and drainage, lack of water treatment facilities, and weak regulation of agricultural runoff and discharges of sewage, industrial waste, and oil byproducts. In addition, the continuous decline in the water levels of the Shatt al-Arab has led to severe saltwater encroachment from the Gulf into the river.
DISASTER AREA
Basra, a port city with direct access to the Persian Gulf, was once glorified as the “Venice of the East” for its myriad of freshwater canals lined with palm trees. The surrounding governorate accounts for most of Iraq’s oil production, with nearby West Qurna considered to be one of the world’s most lucrative oilfields. But these strategic assets have not benefited the public, because government mismanagement and negligence have turned Basra into a decrepit and dysfunctional city, plagued by strained utilities and broken infrastructure. Its waterways have become open sewers that are poisoning the population.
In the summer of 2018, Basra became the epicenter of an environmental and socioeconomic disaster that threatened the stability of the entire region. In July, Iraqis took to the streets to demand basic services such as clean drinking water, electricity, jobs, and an end to pervasive corruption. Then, in August, an outbreak of gastrointestinal illnesses, most likely caused by water contamination, sent tens of thousands of people seeking medical assistance in increasingly overwhelmed hospitals. Later that month, the UN-affiliated Independent High Commission for Human Rights called on the Iraqi government to declare Basra a “disaster area.”
The water supply problems fueled further public outrage. Street protests resumed and gradually intensified. By September 2018, the protests had turned violent, with deadly clashes between protesters and security forces. Demonstrators burned government and political party offices and attacked the headquarters of the popular mobilization forces and the Iranian consulate, voicing anger over the growing influence of Iran-backed militias in the city. By early October, 18 civilians had been killed, and another 155 had been injured.
While a wide range of long-neglected issues fueled the protests, water scarcity was cited as the most immediate cause or trigger. According to one civil servant quoted in The Independent, “The water shortages have made all the other problems gather and explode. It’s so extreme because it’s water, it’s essential for life.” Concerns remained that the health of the Iraqi people would continue to be affected unless the water situation improved drastically and quickly. Despite efforts to contain the outbreak of waterborne diseases and despite promises by the government to improve water infrastructure, it did not.
In October 2019, the unrest spread to Baghdad, where protesters demanded economic reform, an end to corruption, and the provision of basic services, including clean water and electricity. A brutal crackdown by security forces resulted in more than 100 deaths in the first five days. Still, the demonstrations gained momentum, with protesters going so far as to call for an overhaul of the entire sectarian political system. According to the UN’s special envoy to Iraq, more than 400 people were killed, and another 19,000 were injured, just between October 1 and December 3 last year.
EGYPT’S TROUBLED WATERS
Likewise, climate change and politics have become inextricably intertwined in Egypt, where agricultural production and food security are threatened by acute water scarcity and other climate-related challenges. Egypt is also heavily reliant on food imports, which makes it all the more vulnerable to the impact of adverse weather events on global output and prices.
Similar to the situation in Iraq, increasing water stress in Egypt reflects not only climate change, but also rapid population growth and resource mismanagement. The government bears a significant part of the responsibility, as a lack of treatment facilities, poor infrastructure maintenance, and weak regulations against dumping domestic, agricultural, and industrial effluent have all created water scarcities.
Egypt’s water dependency ratio is one of the world’s highest, with the Nile River providing more than 95% of its total supply. Approximately 86% of the Nile’s total volume comes from the Ethiopian Highlands, flowing through Sudan before reaching Egypt (see map). As a result, water allocation has long been a source of political tension among Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
The biggest challenge to Egypt’s water supply currently comes from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project. At an estimated cost of $4.8 billion, the dam’s construction is a crucial step toward energy security for Ethiopia. For Egypt, however, the project poses a significant threat to its water supply, especially with Ethiopia becoming the dominant power in the Nile River Basin.

Egypt’s economy is highly dependent on agriculture, which itself is almost entirely dependent on irrigation, accounting for over 85% of the country’s total water usage. Egypt’s food production is thus severely restricted by rising temperatures and more frequent droughts, which translate into higher water demand and lower agricultural yields.
Worse, climate models show that Egypt’s national food production could decline by anywhere from 11% to 50% by 2050, depending on the level of warming. Moreover, the Nile Delta, Egypt’s breadbasket, is subsiding and extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise. Higher sea levels are expected to affect around 30% of fertile land in the Nile Delta within this century.
With tightening resource constraints and a growing population, Egypt’s dependence on imported food is growing, as is its vulnerability to supply and price risks on the global market. The Egyptian population was hit particularly hard by the global food crisis of 2006-08, which came at a time when the country’s domestic production was weakened by severe water scarcity and debilitating agricultural reforms.
BREAD, FREEDOM, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
As world commodity prices rose in 2007, Egypt’s government was unable to contain domestic food price inflation, owing to increasing resource scarcity, a corrupt and unsustainable food-subsidy system, and other structural problems. The annual rate of growth in food prices soared from 6.9% in December 2007 to a peak of 31% in August 2008, compared to an average of only 4% in the early 2000s. Rising food prices eroded the purchasing power of the population, causing poverty and food insecurity to rise. Between 2005 and 2008, the incidence of extreme poverty – defined as the inability to meet basic food needs – increased by about 20%, and a growing share of the population became dependent on government-subsidized bread.
When the government struggled to meet demand, bread shortages became the focus of a wave of anger at perceived official incompetence, indifference, and corruption. On April 6, 2008, in response to low wages and rising food prices, Egyptian textile workers in the northern town of Mahalla al-Kubra organized a strike. Residents took to the streets, participating in the biggest demonstration that Egypt had seen in years. Police responded with live ammunition to disperse the crowds and arrested more than 300 people. The strike spread to other cities, including Cairo, albeit not with the same intensity. According to news reports, the demonstrators’ complaints were mainly economic: higher food prices, stagnant wages, and “unprecedented” inequality. Many view the Mahalla protests as a precursor to the Arab Spring less than three years later.
Then, in 2010, fires in Russia and floods in Pakistan disrupted global wheat and rice markets, and the prices of basic foods in Egypt rose again (see graph). By the end of the year, Egyptians had been pushed to the brink by the sharp increases in food prices, escalating unemployment, chronic government corruption, rigged parliamentary elections, lack of political freedoms, growing concern about police brutality, and crackdowns on the media and universities. Resentment toward Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-old regime was growing. Social media had raised awareness of state repression and the fall of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011, gave Egyptians hope that political change was possible.

Two weeks later, thousands of protesters poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square, demanding dignity, democracy, and better livelihoods for all. One of the popular chants called for “bread, freedom, and social justice” (“aīsh, huriyya, adala igtima‘iyya”). As the call for “aīsh” indicates, the accessibility and affordability of food was part of the population’s key grievances against the government. And although rising food prices were not the main factor behind the uprising, they likely played an important role in the sequence of events that led to nation-wide demonstrations and deadly unrest. Protest movements were met with extreme police violence and the excessive use of force by the military. Reported deaths in January and February amounted to 846 persons, in addition to mass arbitrary arrests and many cases of abuse and torture.
THREATS, MULTIPLIED
Resource scarcity and the lack of basic services are feeding public frustration, social unrest, and broader instability throughout the MENA region. In Iraq, water scarcity and contamination have given rise to recurrent demonstrations in Basra, and also contributed to the protest movement that started in Baghdad in October 2019. In Egypt, steep increases in domestic food prices led to riots and sporadic protests in 2008 and contributed to the uprising in 2011.
Basic services such as running water, sanitation, stormwater drainage, solid-waste management, electricity, and access to staple foods, but also – as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic – basic health care, social protection, and emergency response mechanisms, are the pillars on which governments build relationships with their citizens. The collapse of one or more severely erodes public trust and can lead to social upheavals, as demonstrated again by the recent uprisings in Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan, and other countries.
At the heart of the water and food scarcities in Egypt, Iraq, and other countries lie poor governance, weak regulation, and a lack of cross-border cooperation. But looming large in the background is a changing climate, which has exacerbated these problems. As the ultimate threat multiplier in a region that is extremely vulnerable to its effects, it must not be overlooked.
Given the risks, it is crucial that governments in the MENA region make adaptation efforts a top priority. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored this need. Countries with preset plans have contained the spread of the coronavirus and managed its consequences much better than those with no plans. Likewise, confronting climate change requires developing comprehensive national and regional strategies that take into account the projected effects on water resources, agriculture, and human health. It is up to MENA governments to start building more resilience. The climate will not wait for them.

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The Expats are leaving Dubai

The Expats are leaving Dubai

Business Maverick tells us the Expats are leaving Dubai and that’s bad news for the economy

By Bloomberg
It’s a choice facing millions of foreigners across the Gulf as the fallout from the pandemic and a plunge in energy prices forces economic adjustments.

“Dubai is home for me,” said Sissons, who owned a small cafe and worked as a freelance human resources consultant. But “it’s expensive here and there’s no safety for expats. If I take the same money to Australia and we run out of everything, at least we’ll have medical insurance and free schooling.”It’s a choice facing millions of foreigners across the Gulf as the fallout from the pandemic and a plunge in energy prices forces economic adjustments. Wealthy Gulf Arab monarchies have, for decades, depended on foreign workers to transform sleepy villages into cosmopolitan cities. Many grew up or raised families here, but with no formal route to citizenship or permanent residency and no benefits to bridge the hard times, it’s a precarious existence.

The Expats are leaving Dubai
A letting sign sits on display outside a commercial property available to let in Dubai on June 8. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg

The impact is starkest in Dubai, whose economic model is built on the presence of foreign residents who comprise about 90% of the population.

Oxford Economics estimates the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a part, could lose 900,000 jobs — eye-watering for a country of 9.6 million — and see 10% of its residents uproot. Newspapers are filled with reports of Indian, Pakistani and Afghan blue-collar workers leaving on repatriation flights, but it’s the loss of higher earners that will have painful knock-on effects on an emirate geared toward continuous growth.

“An exodus of middle-class residents could create a death spiral for the economy,” said Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at Stratfor. “Sectors that relied on those professionals and their families such as restaurants, luxury goods, schools and clinics will all suffer as people leave. Without government support, those services could then lay off people who would then leave the country and create more waves of exodus.”

With the global economy in turmoil, the decision to leave isn’t straightforward. Dubai residents who can scrape by will likely stay rather than compete with the newly unemployed back home. The International Labor Organization says more than 1 billion workers globally are at high risk of pay cuts or job losses because of the coronavirus.

Some Gulf leaders, like Kuwait’s prime minister, are encouraging foreigners to leave as they fret about providing new jobs for locals. But the calculation for Dubai, whose economy depends on its role as a global trade, tourism and business hub, is different.

The crisis will likely accelerate the UAE’s efforts to allow residents to remain permanently, balanced against the status of citizens accustomed to receiving extensive benefits since the discovery of oil. For now, the UAE is granting automatic extensions to people with expiring residence permits and has suspended work-permit fees and some fines. It’s encouraging local recruitment from the pool of recently unemployed and has pushed banks to provide interest-free loans and repayment breaks to struggling families and businesses.

A Dubai government spokesperson said authorities were studying more help for the private sector: “Dubai is considered home to many individuals and will always strive to do the necessary to welcome them back.”

Expat Exodus to Hit Spending in Mideast's Consumer And Business Hub
Residents spend time on the beach at the Jumeirah Beach district on June 8. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg

Dubai’s main challenge is affordability. The city that built its reputation as a free-wheeling tax haven has become an increasingly costly base for businesses and residents. In 2013, Dubai ranked as the 90th most expensive place for expatriates, according to New York-based consultant Mercer. It’s now 23rd, making it the priciest city in the Middle East, though it slipped from 21st place in 2019 as rents declined due to oversupply.

Education is emerging as a deciding factor for families, especially as more employers phase out packages that cover tuition. Though there’s now a wider choice of schools at different price points, Dubai had the region’s highest median school cost last year at $11,402, according to the International Schools Database.

That will likely lead parents to switch to cheaper schools and prompt cuts in fees, according to Mahdi Mattar, managing partner at MMK Capital, an advisory firm to private equity funds and Dubai school investors. He estimates enrollments may drop 10%-15%.

Sarah Azba, a teacher, lost her job when social distancing measures forced schools online. That deprived her of an important benefit; a free education for her son. So she and the children are returning to the U.S., where her 14-year-old son will go to public school and her daughter to college. Her husband will stay and move to a smaller, cheaper home.“Separating our family wasn’t an easy decision but we had to make this compromise,” Azba said.

Expat Exodus to Hit Spending in Mideast's Consumer And Business Hub
A cyclist rides past a commercial property advertised for rental in the Jumeirah district. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg

For decades, Dubai has thought big, building some of the world’s most expansive malls and tallest buildings. From the desert sprang neighborhoods lined with villas designed for expat families lured by sun and turbo-boosted, tax-free salaries. New entertainment strips popped up and world-class chefs catered to an international crowd. But the stress was building long before 2020. Malls were busy but shoppers weren’t spending as much. Residential properties were being built but there were fewer buyers. New restaurants seemed to cannibalize business from old.

The economy never returned to the frenetic pace it enjoyed before the 2008 global credit crunch prompted the last bout of expatriate departures. Then, just as it turned a corner, the 2014 plunge in oil prices set growth back again. The Expo 2020, a six-month exhibition expected to attract 25 million visitors, was supposed to be a reset; it’s now been delayed due to Covid-19.

Weak demand means recovery will take time. Unlike some Middle Eastern countries, the UAE isn’t seeing a resurgence in Covid-19 infections as it reopens, but its reliance on international flows of people and goods means it’s vulnerable to global disruptions.

Emirates Group, the world’s largest long-haul carrier, is laying off employees as it weighs slashing some 30,000 jobs, one of the deepest culls in an industry that was forced into near-hibernation. Dubai hotels will likely cut 30% of staff. Developers of Dubai’s man-made islands and tallest tower have reduced pay. Uber’s Middle East ride-hailing unit Careem eliminated nearly a third of jobs in May but said this week business was recovering.

Dubai-based Move it Cargo and Packaging said it’s receiving around seven calls a day from residents wanting to ship their belongings abroad. That compares with two or three a week this time last year. Back then, the same number of people were moving in too. Now, it’s all outward bound.

Marc Halabi, 42, spent the past week reluctantly sorting belongings accumulated over 11 years in Dubai. Boxes line the rooms as he, his wife and two daughters decide what to ship back to Canada. An advertising executive, Halabi lost his job in March. He’s been looking for work that would allow the family to remain but says he can’t afford to hold out any longer.

“I’m upset we’re leaving,” Halabi said. “Dubai feels like home and has given me many opportunities, but when you fall on hard times, there isn’t much help and all you’re left with is a month or two to pick up and move.”

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