Browsing 'expat' News

 

Art is often referred as an important factor in stimulating creative energies leading to healthy mind and body. Considering it Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has collaborated with International Artists of Doha (IAD) launching a six-month program aimed at channelizing the power of art to improve the health and well-being of its residents at HMC’s Bayt Aman residential facility.

Bayt Aman has been providing a safe and restorative environment for expatriate workers who have completed medical treatment and are waiting to return home. The arrangement has been useful for the patients to fully recuperate and re-adjust to their normal routines so they are better able to return to living their everyday lives.

Since its inauguration in July 2016, numerous patients have benefitted from their stay at Bayt Aman. “We believe it is very important to help these patients recover fully so they can begin living a normal daily life before returning home,” explained Dr. Wafa Al Yazeedi, Chairperson of Qatar Rehabilitation Institute.

IAD and HMC began their formal activities marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, 2017. In continuity, a series of events have also been organized with the slogan ‘Qatar Cares’ to conclude in May 2018. The artwork that will be created during these sessions though will be a part of Bayt Aman heritage, will be displayed for the residents. Further the project will conclude with a public exhibition in a renowned art gallery in December, observing the International Day of People with Disabilities 2018.

The initiative is lauded for its progress till now and attendees are participants are excited to witness the further developments.

Dr. Wafa Al Yazeedi expressed “I am excited about the benefits that this partnership with IAD can bring to our patients. We are committed to providing a calm and healing environment for our residents so that we can maximize their recovery potential before they return home,”

“IAD believes that art can have a real positive impact on the health and well-being of individuals and society. We hope that our partnership with HMC can bring positive energy to the residents of Bayt Aman and help them on their journey of recovery,” explained Mr. Willy Kempel, IAD Chairman and Ambassador of Austria to the State of Qatar.

Bayt Aman currently, can accommodate up to 12 guests at a time and is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by a charge nurse and patient care attendants. However, such a facility if expanded will benefit more patients in their rehabilitation phase getting back the zeal to live a normal life.

 

 

 

 

 

Labor camp

Penny Yi Wang / Doha News

By importing a huge labor force from poor countries, Qatar is actually doing more to help counter global inequality than its well-off peers, a pair of American academics has argued.

Offering a contrarian perspective on Qatar’s migration policies in an essay recently published in New Republic, Eric Posner and Glen Weyl – both University of Chicago professors – say this country’s high use of foreign labor is helping to raise income levels in some of the world’s poorest countries.

They point out that low-income laborers from Bangladesh, India and elsewhere make significantly more money working in the Gulf than they would in their home countries, and most of their earnings are sent back home. This enables their family members to acquire basic services such as health care and education.

“By welcoming migrant workers, the UAE and its neighbor Qatar do more than any other rich country to reduce global inequality,” they said.

Qatar has one of the largest migrant workforces, relative to the number of nationals, in the world. Tens of thousands of new migrants take up residence in the country each month, driven in large part by the need for laborers to construct the vast amount of infrastructure needed for the 2022 World Cup.

The professors further argue that – while not palatable to human rights groups – the many restrictions blue-collar workers face here and in the rest of the Gulf are needed to reassure locals skeptical about importing such a big foreign workforce.

“Reducing inequality will require uncomfortable tradeoffs. Qatar would not welcome so many migrant workers if it had to give them generous political and civil rights …

The many unappealing aspects of the system – the migrants’ limited economic, political, and social rights, their segregation from the citizenry, and an authoritarian enforcement regime – seem necessary to maintain political support for the migration policies that help to reduce global inequality.”

Scrutinizing the tradeoffs

Workers in Qatar exit bus.

Richard Messenger / Flickr

While Posner and Weyl argue that limiting the rights of foreign workers is needed for the system to work for Gulf governments, other researchers have said restrictions leave low-income laborers vulnerable to exploitation and thus unable to accumulate the wealth that they set out to earn.

In his 2012 paper, “Why Do They Keep Coming? Labor Migrants in the Gulf States” (registration required), former Qatar University assistant professor Andrew Gardner argued that the popular narrative of foreign workers yielding a certain portion of their rights in order to secure economic opportunities breaks down under scrutiny.

“I have repeatedly encountered men and women for whom a sojourn in the Gulf states has been a financial catastrophe: by entering into an agreement to travel to the Gulf, these men and women enter into a system that is fully capable of separating them from the tiny fortunes they and their families have invested in sending them to the Gulf in the first place,” wrote Gardner, who is currently an associate professor at the University of Puget Sound.

Migrants and their families must frequently borrow money to pay fees charged by recruitment companies in their home countries.

Compounding the problem is that roughly 20 percent of foreign workers are promised a salary that’s higher than what’s stated in the contract they’re presented upon arrival, according to a separate 2013 study by several Qatar University researchers and other academics titled, “A Portrait of Low-Income Migrants in Contemporary Qatar.”

Workers

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Still, those authors found that workers whose contracts had been “switched” were only marginally less satisfied with their roles than those who were unaffected, suggesting that the changes were not always seen as a big issue by the affected workers.

The researchers, who interviewed nearly 1,200 low-income expats in early 2012, found they were paid a median monthly salary of QR1,000 (US$274) and sent home an average of QR764 (US$209) each month.

Those remittances add up to be a major source of income for many expats’ receiving countries, totaling some QR40.55 billion ($11.14 billion) last year, according to the Qatar Central Bank.

Fighting inequality, Gulf style

Posner and Weyl acknowledge that the income gap within Gulf states is among the largest in the world, with nationals earning many times the average salary of foreign laborers.

Chantelle D'mello

Nevertheless, the volume of migrants who have traveled to the Gulf in pursuit of economic opportunities means these countries have helped make a greater dent in global income inequality than most rich countries, they argue.

The researchers compare the Gulf nations’ impact to efforts made by members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of 34 of the world’s richest countries.

They argue that wealthier nations try to reduce income inequality primarily through foreign aid and domestic policies, such as minimum wages and tax systems that effectively redistribute wealth.

“We citizens of OECD countries take pride in our political and civil rights, and our generous welfare systems. Yet we maintain our high standard of living by giving no rights and trivial money to people who live outside our arbitrary borders. While we fuss over whether we should raise or lower our marginal tax rates, we ignore the plight of the most desperate people in the world.”

While Posner and Weyl discuss how wealthier countries could dramatically help the world’s poorer citizens by adopting more liberal immigration policies, they stop short of advocating that other nations should import immigration policies from the Gulf:

“The GCC model of accepting migrants on economically and politically subordinate terms, though not humanitarian on its face, has proven so in practice. If this model were adopted in rich countries, then inequality – both political and economic – would dramatically increase within our own societies. This could undermine some of the liberal character we all prize, and it would certainly make all of us even more uncomfortable about inequality than we already are. But the benefits for the world’s poorest people would be vast.”

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Patrick Gage/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Longtime Qatar resident Glenn McKay, a Canadian expat, recently blogged about the simple spending choices he’s been making during his time here. In this guest post for Doha News, he expands upon that reflection, arguing that not all expats, even if they could afford it, crave a five-star experience while living in Doha.  

Recently, I was out at a lounge at one of Qatar’s fancy hotels, catching up with some friends. I was driving, so I skipped the alcohol and just had a soda while we chatted.

When it was time for the bill, I prepared myself for what I knew would be a ridiculous charge. Sure enough, it was QR30 for one soda. Oh well. I chalked it up to the price you pay for having a pleasant time with friends – but that cost is also why I rarely go to the hotels.

As a longtime Western expat in Qatar, I tend to live a “three-star” lifestyle. I live in a small apartment in an older part of the city, like to get my dinners from small Indian or Arabic restaurants, and have owned the same little car for seven years.

I earn a good salary, but like many foreigners here, I am concerned with saving money. Hopefully one day, I’ll be able to retire in comfort.

Lots of people in Qatar live more lavish lifestyles: driving expensive cars, living in beautiful villas or apartments in places like West Bay or the Pearl, and enjoying lots of fine dining.

I don’t begrudge them spending their money how they want – it’s their money after all – but a luxury lifestyle is not for me.

For me, it’s the little things, like eating a meal at a table with strangers who sat with you because the restaurant only has five tables, or haggling in a small store over the price of some shirts, or practicing my Arabic with some guys smoking shisha at cafes in the old city that make me feel like I’m experiencing this foreign land. A five-star hotel experience or dinner at a fancy restaurant could be had anywhere in the world.

Justifying choices

Surprisingly, I’ve encountered many people here who find it strange that I don’t live like many of my Western counterparts. Plenty of times, I have been asked why I’m not driving a fancier car, or living in places like West Bay, or going out for drinks in the fancy lounges all the time, or why I don’t fly business class when I go on vacation and stay at the Ritz.

Back home in Canada, I knew almost no one who lived like this, yet here the expectation is that I should be. It’s like a luxury lifestyle is the norm rather than the exception, and that you should be spending what you earn rather than saving it.

Such a culture can have its downsides. Not every Westerner or Qatari is making big money. I’ve heard anecdotal tales of many a Qatari who have buried themselves in debt trying to live a lifestyle they couldn’t afford (I believe this is what led the Qatar Central Bank setting limits on retail loans in 2011).

And all the cars that were abandoned at the airport in Dubai during the financial crisis is an indication that plenty of foreigners in the Middle East are one or two paychecks away from being unable to pay their bills. Is this “culture of luxury” creating pressure on people to spend more than they should?

It’s tempting, but it’s not for me. So no, I don’t need a Ferrari, thanks. I’m happy with my little car.

Thoughts?