Posts Tagged ‘Rentier’

Response to Manar Al Hinai’s “It might be boring but perhaps the lesson is get a life”

Posted on: August 5th, 2012 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

Finding a purpose for our life is one of consistent themes for personal satisfaction. Whether it be the impact of Maslow’s “Self-Actualization”, Rogers “Peak Experiences”, Covey’s “Seven Habits”, or any of the thousands of personal coaches around the world, the majority of us understand that a purpose larger than “ourselves” is a major prerequisite for a life well lived.

Taking Mana Al Hinai’s excellent article as a starting point regarding the “purpose” for our efforts, I propose that both private and public organizations understand that the biggest challenge to achieving Emiratization is ineffective and inappropriate of both the western oriented management principles and the “survivor mentality” of the ex-pats from lower income countries.

Too often in “western management”, financial reward is still considered the underlying motivation for job performance. Decades of evidence indicate the fallacy of this assumption. Money is rarely even in the top five of motivation drivers. People invest their time to benefit their families, look after their health, and to make a difference to the people and the world around them. Daniel Pink’s book Drive gives many examples of the reality behind successful motivation methods. It is not enough to say “if you do better, we’ll pay you more money.” It does not work.

In the UAE another particular problem regarding motivation is the example set by those ex-pats whose primary reason for being in the UAE is to send money back home to their families. Whether in labor or professional occupations, the dedication, intensity, and willingness to spend any number of hours on the job, while laudable, is not based on a desire for a meaningful life. It is based on the goal of maintaining a job, by whatever ways possible, so that a consistent revenue stream is sent back home. These ex-pats are rarely interested in recreation, community involvement, or a balanced life style. They really don’t care about the UAE except as a place to earn as much money as possible to send back home.

The corollary to the above is that the ex-pat professional managers, have no use for those who want jobs that provide meaning, or that have a purpose beyond earning money. They have no patience for UAE employees who are not motivated in they same way they, the ex-pat managers, are motivated. I spoke to one young Emirati woman who was giving up her job with a bank because achieving money based targets was the only measure of her success. Emiratization fails in large part because money is not going to work as a major motivator for Emirati employees.

My constant refrain is: The UAE is a unique nation. There is no nation in the world, past or present, that has grown as fast as the UAE in 40 years. There is no nation in the world that is as committed to, and has the resources to, provide a standard of living for its citizens second to none on the world stage. Whether you believe that the symptoms of a “rentier” state explain the current “motivation” for Emirati employees or not, the reality is that the only true method for Emirati motivation NOT money.

The best motivation is internal (intrinsic) rather than external (extrinsic) motivation. The motivation for a “purpose” driven job or career is rarely, if ever, based on the external motivation financial reward. Purpose driven implies and is the result internal motivation.

All of this to plead for Emirati leaders to consider that UAE employees will not be motivated by traditional “western oriented” money motivation, nor the paranoid obsessive compulsive examples of the professional expats. Look at ways to bring purpose into both private and public jobs. Look for different ways to measure accomplishment. This does not mean lowering expectations, it does me changing the work atmosphere to allow the Emirati employees to find their own motivation that will inspire them to not only achieve, but exceed the expectations of their managers.

This echoes Ms. Al Hanai’s recognition that it is only by find a purpose beyond ourselves that we can find meaning (and avoid boredom) in our life.

It might be boring but perhaps the lesson is get a life
Manar Al Hinai
Aug 5, 2012
I went out for an after-iftar coffee with nine of my girlfriends last weekend. They included engineers, an interior designer and a renowned TV presenter – but not one of them said they were excited by their jobs.

In fact they complained about how bored they were and how meaningless they felt their work was, even though they were busy for the eight hours they spent at the office every day.

But, just like a heavy workload, boredom is also stressful. And when we are busy at work but still feel bored, that means even more stress.

By the looks of things, my own working life should be very exciting. I have a busy and non-routine job at a government organisation. I write articles and columns for national publications. I run my small fashion business. I get to meet interesting people from different walks of society. I have been lucky enough to win prestigious awards. I volunteer at various community causes. I have more upcoming projects in the pipeline. I am fully occupied – and yet sometimes I, too, feel bored.

Unable to shake off this terrible feeling from time to time, I often introduce a new challenge to my personal business, or suggest something new to work on at my office and that really helps.

However, I realised the boredom my friends suffer from is not a result of having nothing to do but from having nothing worthwhile to do.

The thing is, if boredom is a result of having nothing to do it could be eradicated by giving more tasks to employees. Nonetheless, this is only likely to work in the shortterm, until employees realise what they are asked to do does not contribute to something bigger than themselves.

In another situation, if boredom is a result of having to do too much of a good thing, with a consequent loss of excitement, then it could be solved by giving people something new to do. This situation is common with high-performers who get the job done quickly but are easily bored and feel unchallenged. It is like giving a middle-school maths student a first-grade maths problem to solve.

Obvious fixes to such situations include job rotation, new training programmes and larger responsibilities to handle.

But how do employees fix the ironic situation of having more than enough to do in the office yet still suffering from boredom?

I am lucky as my job is a far from routine one and I always have something new to work on. But for my friends, and some of you, that might not be an option.

And so it seems the only solution to boredom is to give people something more meaningful to do.

As a chief executive of an organisation or an owner of a business, ask yourself this question: if your organisation went bankrupt, who would really care about it besides you and those who depend on it? But when you empower your employees to make them feel what they do, however small, is important to the organisation, not only will they feel less bored, they will be more productive.

Coming back to you as an individual, if meaningful work is too much to ask at this point, why not develop a passion?

Many high-achievers have “other lives” or talents besides their daily job. From my own social circle, I know a vice president who owns a successful gymnasium, and a government officer who is an abstract artist and an art curator.

After volunteering for different community causes, I also found the ultimate key to a meaningful life – at work and elsewhere – lies in turning our focus from ourselves to others. We can do this by creating opportunities for those we work with, aiding them when they need help, or by supporting a community cause.

Boredom should not be underestimated. After all, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard described boredom as the root to all evil and the major task for mankind is to overcome it.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning fashion designer and writer. She can be followed on Twitter: @manar_alhinai

Criticize the United Arab Emirates? Easy!

Posted on: November 27th, 2011 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

An unedited version of this response is at the bottom of this post.

Criticize the United Arab Emirates? Easy. Live there and the lack of logic, accountability and responsibility, cause both frustration and an unlimited source of humorous anecdotes.

The restrictions on Emirate women are to me unacceptable (four successful sisters and 3 successful daughters in Canada).  Why do the majority Emirati women appear to acquiesce?

CID (secret police) presence is overwhelming, yet non-invasive if on the right side of their laws. Police are professional and courteous. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching English language and communication programs with Police, Immigration and Customs officers. We shared meals, jokes, and laughter.

“Western” ex-pat professionals, experts, and consultants tend to accept that greed is a better motivator than “Western” truth, justice, ethics and morality.

“Non-Western” ex-pats are primarily laborers. To send upwards of 80% of their meager wages home to their families, they endure 10 to a room in a variety of conditions. Labor camps are “improving” because of international condemnation.

Non-Emirati Muslims (from Palestine, Jordan, Yemen, and Syria) cannot become UAE citizens. For some, going home is not possible. For others, the educational system and economic opportunities are better in the UAE than in their home countries.

When fired by a government organization (although lauded for my work and belief in the potential of Emirati Nationals), no reasons were given. The CEO was told to fire me. I had no recourse.

Where am I going with this? Simple explanations, simple understanding, simple conclusions, and simple criticisms are abhorrent to me.

The UAE’s 40th anniversary is next week. Consider Canada at 40 (1907); Could women vote? Were there controls on rapacious capitalists? Was there protection for the Chinese laborers that built our rail system?

Canada in 1967 versus the UAE in 1971. Only a 400-year-old Canadian would be able to witness the changes in Canada equivalent to the changes experienced by UAE in 40 years. From 1971 to 2011 the UAE has progressed from a desert and small business economy to what could be argued is the most technologically advanced country in the world.

Naïve criticism of cultural and religious influences on Emirati citizens is counter-productive to our “western aims and desires” for the citizens of the UAE.

We demand a more “western” orientation to women, power, business, democracy, justice, ethics and morality. We demand immediate changes. We demand they see the rightness of our demands. We demand and expect Emirati Nationals to easily accept these demands.

Asked about my five years in the UAE, I challenge my audiences to consider the different ethnic, racial, and religious influences on the Canadian mosaic.

Then I introduce four concepts that help explain the UAE (Arab) reality.

1) Tribes

2) Nomads

3) A “rentier” mentality.

4) The Muslim religion.

My Response to a reply to my “response” above.

Thank you for your comments.

I use the idea of a nation’s age to encourage perspective. There are people and cultures all over the world that practice behaviors based on traditions that we in the “West” consider barbaric.

Serbia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Russia, Germany, East Timor, India, China, Mexico . . . all have existed as countries well before the UAE was created. And their attacks on individuals, democracy, freedom, equality, peace are certainly not exclusively the result of the Muslim religion.

The common denominator in the worst examples of barbaric behaviors is authoritarianism, dictatorship, AND isolation from news about the world “outside”. Lack of education, social stratification, and the marginalization of women, also contribute to a country’s character.

Criticism of the Arab world, and the UAE in this comment, is based on the assumption that the UAE of 2011 is the same as “our” 2011. While the buildings, cars, airports, airlines, houses, highways, interchanges, malls, entertainment, and sports facilities are all equal to or better than many “western” oriented countries, the underlying, deep, traditional, cultural memory still drives the beliefs, attitudes, and actions of the majority of the Emirati National population. Culture, as anyone who has worked to change corporate culture, is notoriously difficult to influence let alone change.

It is absolutely imperative to know the cultural history of a society you are attempting to understand and potentially influence. Look at the UAE in 1971 or 1951 or 1931. Consider the native populations in those years. Consider their exposure to education, other religions, other nationalities, world media, different roles for men and women, childrearing . . . up to 1971. Throw in the negative impact of the “colonial” attitude on native populations and you will appreciate even more the reality of the UAE in 1971 to 2011.

Pictures of Dubai in the mid 1990’s show very little change from 1971. The major changes have been in the last 18 or so years. The Higher Colleges of Technology, the largest institution of higher learning in the UAE, was founded in 1988. Expansion to the smaller Emirates was not completed until 5 years ago.

The admonition “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”, does NOT apply. Ignorance pre-supposes awareness of “laws” and their application. Ignorance of what you should and can know is far different from what you are unable to know, and unable to understand. “We cannot perceive that which we cannot conceive.”

 Below is an unedited version of my first response.

It is easy to criticize the United Arab Emirates. When you live there, the little things that make no sense, the lack of logic, and the absence of the concept of responsibility, cause both frustration and an unlimited source of humorous anecdotes.

The role and apparent restrictions on Emirate women (though much, much less repressive than Saudi Arabia), were unacceptable from my perspective (four very successful sisters in Canada).  Why do the majority Emirati women appear to acquiesce?

The presence of the CID (secret police) is overwhelming and yet non-invasive if you are on the right side of their laws. For small accidents and some other administrative issues, as well as interacting with many as an English language / soft skills trainer, I could not meet a nicer group of people. We shared meals, jokes, and laugher. However they do of course have unquestionable authority.

On the other hand, “Western” ex-pat professionals have it made if they accept that greed is a better motivator than “Western” truth, justice, ethics and morality.

The “non-Westerner” ex-pats are primarily laborers who put up with “anything” in order to send upwards of 80% of their meager wages back home to their families. They live 10 to a room, or more, in a variety of conditions. Labor camps (hidden behind both the laws and the power of Emirati owners sponsoring the construction) are “improving” because of international condemnation. I met and worked with many, visited some of their accommodations and listened to their stories. I count more than a few as friends. Regardless of their lifestyle in the UAE, it is often immeasurably better that at “home.”

Are the labors slaves? NO. As per the Irish immigrants to the US in the mid 1800’s, slaves would be treated better because of their economic value (assets of their owners). The laborers, despite apparent reforms (stated but rarely implemented), are often treated as mere fodder for the economic prosperity. They can be, and are jailed for any verbalization or action against their working/living conditions. And they can be sent to jail and deported with no fanfare.

Non Emirati Muslims (from Palestine, Jordan, Yemen, and Syria) are not allowed to be citizens and are treated with destain. For some, going home is not possible. For others, the educational system and economic opportunities are better in the UAE than in their home countries. My “family” in the UAE are Muslim ex-pats from Jordan (to which they will eventually retire) and are wonderful, warm, and supportive friends.

I was fired from two government organizations (although lauded for my work and belief in the potential of Emirati Nationals). There was no recourse. None. Nor even reasons given for dismissal in one case. My CEO was told to fire me. End of story.

In another instance (completely unrelated to the above) I experienced the UAE legal system (I was sued, but won). It is a totally different process from Canada! I met, informally, a number of judges. The ones I met were not Emirati. Some from Saudi Arabia, some from Syria. They are intelligent and open to conversation and questions, but they are far more “powerful” than Canadian judges. You can appeal a decision, but rarely with success. The same judge, the same evidence; the same decision!

Where am I going with this? Simple explanations, simple understanding, simple conclusions, and simple criticisms are abhorrent to me. The UAE is 40 years old next week. Were we to look at Canada at 40 (1907); could women vote? Controls on capitalism? Protection for the laborers from China who build our rail system?

What is more important is to look at Canada in 1967 versus the UAE in 1971. The change in the UAE in those 40 years would be in many ways greater than that of our primarily European background from hundreds of years before 1867. Such change in 40 years is beyond comprehension by the average Canadian. A Canadian would have to be 400 years old to witness the changes experienced by UAE in 40 years. From the desert to the most technologically advanced country in the world in 40 years.

Pejorative accusations against the cultural and religious influences on Emirati citizens is both naive and counter-productive to the aims and desires of those of us in the West. We demand a more “western” orientation to women, power, democracy, justice, ethics and morality. We demand immediate changes. We see the rightness of our demands. We expect the Emirati Nationals to quite easily accept our judgements, our demands, and the logic of both.

When asked about my five years in the UAE, I immediately challenge my audiences to consider Canada’s cultural realities. The different ethnic, racial, and religious influences on the Canadian mosaic. Then I introduce four concepts that explain the current United Arab Emirates (Arab) actions.

1. A tribal history that dates back thousands of years and that continues to exist and significantly affect thinking and actions in all Arab based societies. (An interesting parallel to the Canada’s Aboriginal community.)

2. A nomadic way of living, again dating back thousands of years in the Arabian Peninsula. (And again the parallel to Canada’s aboriginal community.)

3. The “rentier” mentality brought on by the immediate and overwhelming influence of oil. The mega-prosperity experienced in the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain gave power to men (and only men) whose previous experience and history had been confined to a few thousand people, a small patch of desert, less than a little education, and leader status based on violence, blood shed, and death.

(While one could certainly argue that the Canadian Aboriginal Community is hardly rich, the same sense of entitlement pervades both the Arab and Aboriginal way of looking at their place in the world. For Canadian Aboriginals, the largess of the Canadian government could easily be seen to mimic oil revenue in the United Arab Emirates.)

4. The influence of the Muslim religion. Although most of the western media looks to the Muslim reality as the most significant influence on Arab actions, I would argue that it is the least important of the four. Easy to see, easy to attack, and yet of far less import. The tribal way of life explains suicide bombers far more accurately than the Muslim religion.

It will be interesting to observe the eventual outcome of the Arab Spring. I am not hopeful. The depth and pervasiveness of Arab culture is not to be overcome in a year, a decade, a generation, a century, or even a millennium. Yet we have to work with, live with, and grow with the Arab world. My simple advice is to begin with understanding. Only then can we accept the reality of Arab cultural assumptions. Only then can we find those areas of commonality upon which friendship and trust are based.

Response to: “Hatching a Job Plan.” UAE National News SE2411

Posted on: September 24th, 2011 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

I respect Mr. Weir’s desire to offer ideas on “Hatching a Job Plan.”
I have some difficulty with the ideas.

First, “What does job creation look like in the Arab world?” is a good question.

Second: The three suggestions (addressed individually below) do not address the UAE reality, let alone the Arab world reality.

A few assumptions:

a) The primary (or implied) target market for these initiatives are Emirati Nationals. The goal is to increase the Emirati presence and percentage in the private business sector. (Thereby decreasing the dependence on ex-pats in the private business sector throughout the UAE.)

b) There is a “culture” in the UAE that embraces the “visceral feel of entrepreneurial greatness.” (Theodore Levitt “Marketing Myopia”)

c) If money were available, the only thing missing is training related to today’s job market.

Fuel entrepreneurial activity:

The very nature of the word “entrepreneur” (the person who creates new businesses), pre-supposes a national business environment and culture that accepts and supports private enterprise, accountability, and a level playing field. If this is not the case, all efforts are merely handouts.

The UAE is a “rentier” state regardless of protestations to, and denial of, this fact. (Please remember: “Just because you ignore the facts doesn’t mean they go away.”)

Please read: (or look up the definition of a rentier state)

A “rentier” state’s revenue does not come from the citizen effort, it comes from “external rent (that) liberates the state from the need to extract income from the domestic economy.”

“The government becomes an allocation state, which is very different from a production state.

A production state relies on taxation of the domestic economy for its income; taxpayers stay involved with government decisions because they are supporting them with onerous taxes.

An allocation state, by contrast, does not depend on domestic sources of revenue but rather IS the primary source of revenue itself in the domestic economy.

The primary goal of the allocation state’s economy is spending.”

“the rentier . . . violates the most sacred doctrine of the liberal ethos: hard work.”

“The economic behavior of a rentier is distinguished from conventional economic behavior ‘in that it embodies a break in the work-reward causation.’”
“Rewards of income and wealth for the rentier do not come as the result of work but rather are the result of chance or situation.”
The rentier mentality is a “psychological condition with profound consequences for productivity:

contracts are given as an expression of gratitude rather than as a reflection of economic rationale;

civil servants see their principal duty as being available in their offices during working hours;

businessmen abandon industry and enter into real-estate speculation or other special situations associated with a booming oil sector;

the best and brightest abandon business and seek out lucrative government employment;

manual labor and other work considered demeaning by the rentier is farmed out to foreign workers, whose remittances flood out of the rentier economy; and so on.

In extreme cases income is derived simply from citizenship.”

(Please refer to the website (address above) for reference information.

The efforts of all Emirati leaders are to be lauded. They are setting goals for Emiratization. They are providing education opportunities (often free) for their citizens. They are encouraging more participation by citizens in the private business sector.

However, you cannot create a “reality” that is at odds with the prevailing culture. Culture wins every time. Receiving money without attaching effort, accountability, pride, and “the respect of friends and family” will never push people to look for jobs in the private sector, let alone to take the risks associated with becoming an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs are a special group. They risk. They take risks. (Not unexamined and naive risks, (that just promotes failure), but they do step away from security, certainty, a guaranteed salary and lifestyle.

The suggestions to facilitate small-business loans and train workers for today’s job market, are irrelevant other that to provide opportunities to avoid reality.

My weakness is my desire to help Emirati college and university graduates enter the workforce, consider the private sector as a realistic and attractive alternative to the public sector, and help them become proud, effective, and creative citizens of the UAE and the world. And I have done and will do everything I can to help that happen.

I say weakness because I refuse to play the “colonial” game. I will not be a sycophant. I will say and repeat the obvious rather than stay silent and take the rewards; job, high salary, no accountability, and false credibility based on past education and experience. (I much prefer nepotism to cronyism. With nepotism you know what you are getting. With cronyism what you are getting is just a guess (without any reliable vetting). And only the new employee and his “crony” benefit.)

Please know, however, that I continue to be a huge fan and supporter of the Emirati college and university graduates (mostly women) with whom I have worked. I believe, however, that an employment strategy that ignores the cultural reality of a nation is both unethical and immoral.

A problem is either managed or solved. Pseudo managers, experts, and consultants benefit from “managing” a problem. To solve the problem means they stop getting paid to solve the problem. As long as these people can make it “seem” like they are doing something productive, they will NEVER solve the problem. (They will however, vigorously and vehemently attack anyone who questions their recommendations.)

Do I have the answers? No.

Do I believe there are processes both to address the issues and to develop (with continuous and in depth participation by all Emirati citizens)? Yes.

Do I think that ideas can be generated that include the rentier reality and it cultural impact, while generating a culture of, and a desire to be part of, the private sector. Yes.

If you agree with my response to Mr. Weir’s article, do something, speak to those in power, challenge them to accept rather than deny, and call on their national pride, their love of their children, and the potential of the United Arab Emirates, to be the stimulus that moves them to action.

Other resource: