16 November 2008

* Further Jobs Downsizing in Dubai

Developers and contractors have slashed jobs across Dubai as the global financial crisis hits the region. Damac Group has cut 200 jobs due to the slowdown in Dubai’s real estate market, the company said. The cuts reflect the awareness of developers and contractors that the economic meltdown in the United States and Europe has frightened investors into putting the brakes on providing funds for large projects.

The firm said that redundancies were “focused in those areas that have been directly affected by the contracting market, including sales and marketing, recruitment and back office support functions.” Damac CEO Peter Riddoch said, “We regret that we have to lose colleagues but we believe that taking an early decision was the right thing to do.

“This continuing global slowdown will inevitably lead all companies to review their staffing levels and recruitment requirements.” Simplex Infrastructure country director Ani Ray told Construction Week that his firm had relocated staff away from Dubai to Oman and Qatar “to avoid having to make them redundant.”

“The banks are the problem,” Ray said. “They are not even dispersing the funds for projects that have already been approved so the projects are stopping.” Contractor’s Association vice-chairman Imad Al Jamal told Construction Week that Emaar and fellow master-developer Nakheel have cancelled projects.
Some parts of Nakheel’s projects have been cancelled or shelved for a year,” Al Jamal said. “A project director in one of Nakheel’s projects was in design with the consultant when the instruction came through to stop everything until October next year – a year’s freeze.”

Al Jamal said he was not at liberty to name specific projects. “Transparency is much in demand here,” he added. “It is all going on behind closed doors.”

A top contractor, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, said that Nakheel had been forced to cut 150 jobs from across its Dubai operations.

Nakheel officials denied the claims. A spokesperson said the firm had not made any of its staff redundant, nor had it frozen recruitment.

But the spokesman added: “Given the current global economic climate we are naturally being prudent and looking at the best quality and quantity of resourcing across the entire company.  This is a responsible approach in line with Nakheel’s business model.”

A top Emaar executive, who also asked not to be identified, said the master-developer had been forced to cut “a substantial number of its Dubai-based workforce,” quoting 80 at present, “with more to come.”

Emaar officials told CW that it had “no comment on this matter at present,” and refused to comment on any further potential job losses.

The situation could worsen over the coming weeks, industry insiders have warned.

“In December there will be more blood on the streets,” Ani Ray said.

“The worst is yet to come for the market,” Al Jamal said. “We have just seen the first repercussions of what has happened in the West. In the next three to six months we are going to see worse than that.”


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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.