Wednesday, May 30, 2007

This person is having a priority. He is very important governmental man.

TO: Suburban Muscat
FROM: The Department of closing the roads and making your life hell three times a month.
RE: Sultan Qaboos Street closures.

Dear Suburban,

We are surprised to hear that you did not enjoy spending an hour in stopped traffic yesterday. We are even more shocked that your infant child did not enjoy spending an hour in strapped into a snug car seat, sweating and screaming as the sun slowly beat down on her and your car turned into an oven. Did she not enjoy the procession Diwan-mobiles and Chevy trucks with machine guns that went past a full 45 minutes after you had been stopped? Such a selfish child you are raising.

We are sorry that you feel angry and homicidal towards whatever important person is visiting this week, but we must remind you that these guys are Very Important People, and thus their time is more valuable than yours. Their time is also more valuable than that of the 25,000 other folks sweating in traffic, missing their appointments, and slowly wasting precious minutes of their lives.

We are aghast that you have pointed out that perhaps we could chopper them to the palace. Although we spend about as much annually on defence as we do on education and healthcare combined, helicopters are noisy, windy, and dirty. Using a Helicopter might frighten the sensitive VIP’s or depending on what they are wearing treat them to a surprise Marilyn Monroe experience. Don’t picture that…. Stop laughing! Madam this is serious.

We find your suggestion that we could host visiting dignitaries somewhere closer to the airport hysterical and impractical. Really, we fell all over the floor laughing when we read that. Even more entertaining was your suggestion that we schedule their movements so as to avoid peak traffic hours. Surely you realise that would be preposterous, and might inconvenience them or make them late for dinner.

With regard to your young infant, maybe you should buy an insanely expensive car with better air conditioning, or perhaps join the psychic friends network so you could accurately predict what time the blockades will be established on a given day. Then you could schedule your medical apointments for some other time. Because nobody really needs to see a doctor or be on time for a meeting. You should be thankfull that you were not giving birth or having a heart attack you ungratefull wench.

Furthermore, you are not supposed to criticize matters like this. It's not the done thing.

Kind regards,

Department of foreign dignitaries visits and traffic inconvenience

Underwear update!

because you really care because you asked Because You, apparently, have nothing better to do than read this-

My shipment from Victoria's Secret has arrived!!! Unopened!!! hair free!!! I can go swiming!!!! I can throw out my really, really un-sexy nursing bras!!!! let's just use about five more exclimation points because I"m so excited!!!!!

Thank you UPS, Thank you Customs Authourities, Thank you Suburban spouse.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Where are my panties?

not the sort of question I usually find myself asking... but Suburban spouse ordered me some gorgeous girl apparel and a few new swim suits like three weeks ago and they still have not arrived.

These things I know,
  • I know that my enormous order from Victoria's Secret ( links to an online lingerie store. You have been warned) shipped more than two weeks ago.
  • It usually takes less then four days to arrive, since we pay for express shipping.
  • It must be here, in Oman. perhaps with customs, or perhaps with the post office.
  • I am haunted by nightmares of my order arriving having been previously worn by hairy staff at customs at customs. As I gleefully open the package containing the new bras bunches of curly, icky, black chest hairs fall out and float gently to the floor. This is keeping me awake at night.
Oman post, customs authorities, and UPS, Please can I have my shipment?

I must express my undying love to you…..

I must express my undying love to you…..

In honour of eight great years of bringing joy, customer service, Lebanese veggies and six types of Tabasco sauce to the consumers of Muscat. Sultan Center, I love you.

How do I love the? Let me count the ways,

I love you, first and foremost for the totally awesome guys at the fish counter. They exhibit fantastic customer service while being funny, cute, hard working, and Omani.

I love you because I can purchase Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars on the second floor

I love the amazing variety of things you stock, things I can find nowhere else in Oman.

I love the idea of your ‘Just Ask’ service. I’m going to see if you can find some car parts for me next week.

I love that your staff are friendly and hardworking, delighted to help me find what I’m looking for and answer my questions. Oh my god, it’s such a treat to find retail employees with brains.

I love how all your merchandise usually has a tag on it, and matches what is in the computer, so I never have to wait around while you run to find a lost barcode. Because that reeeeally drives me crazy.

On the one occasion when something didn’t scan, you asked me how much it cost and rang it up. You trusted me, your regular customer. Thanks for that.

I love your weekend breakfast buffet.

I love the American spelling of Center. We don’t need no stinking Silent E’s

I love how I cannot get through a single shopping trip without one of your staff swooping upon my baby and cuddling her. We have a framed photo of the fish boys, clad in plastic aprons, standing behind a mountain of fish, holding my happy, wiggling baby.

I love that your staff are happy. Happy staff makes Happy customers.

I love your fresh produce, excellent cuts of meat, and ability to order speciality meats for me from anywhere I want. Dry aged, corn fed, Black Angus rump? You can and will get it for me.

I love that you seem to have a working, practical and efficient Omanisation policy. You are creating happy, lifelong workers and providers.

In conclusion, Sultan Center is one of the few great examples of a business that really, truly, works. Inventory rotation, Staff satisfaction, Omanisation, Customer service. Lulu, Carrefour, and the rest have a long way to go before they have a hope of getting my business.

Tune in next week for why I love the Chevrolet / Hummer Service Department at OTE in Ghala. I love those guys.


Update! Courtesy of Muscati- Apparently Expatriates are allowed to change jobs. I am feeling suitably retarted now. / update...

*Disclaimer 1*** This is Just my opinion, and I'm not like a PHD in economics or labor law, so If I've got it all wrong, just be really glad that I don't work for the Ministry of Manpower.***End Disclaimer*

*Disclaimer 2*** I alos realise I got somewhat off topic somewhere***End Disclaimer*

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a more than a month now, ever since I read in the paper that the Authorities (Min of Man I assume) are planning on instituting a minimum wage of RO 140 a month,for all omanis.

Measly as a hundred forty rats a month is, it’s one more incentive for employers to avoid hiring an Omani to do the same job.

For those of you who don’t want to read the whole article, I’ll sum it up in the following three bullet points, and then you can surf onward and away.

1) A minimum Wage that applies only to Omanis provides a negative financial incentive for further Omanisation.
2) Excessive reliance on expatriate labor is bad for the economics of the country and for the character of the society.
3) Current quotas for omanisation make it difficult for companies to terminate an under performing Omani, while re-enforcing the attitude that keeping your job is a right, and not a privilege that is earned.

I’ll outlay a number of reasons why a minimum wage should be applicable across all sectors and nationalities in a minute, but first I want to ask you which of the two prospective employees you would hire, assuming they are equal in work experience, education and work ethic.

Candidate A:

  • Is here alone, without immediate or extended family

  • Once hired by you, cannot quit to take a position with another company

  • Does not expect annual leave, every two years is OK

  • Is easy to fire should their performance not meet your expectations

  • Costs 40% less because the minimum wage does not apply to the candidate.

Candidate B:

  • Has a large family both in Muscat, and in the home village

  • Can quit anytime to work for the competition

  • Expects annual holiday leave, as well as leave for family deaths, Eid, weddings, and personal issues

  • Is practically impossible to fire or terminate, particularly if your company is subject to omanisation quotas.

  • Costs 40% more due to the mandatory minimum wage

I’m going to hire candidate A…. Duh...

But here’s the thing, it’s not good for the economics or the work ethic of the country to be so dependent on cheap foreign labour. It’s holding us back, and the current laws are rewarding companies for hiring foreign staff, skilled and unskilled alike.

Take for example our nanny. Our lovel and hardworking Nanny is from Sri Lanka. She’s not here for the weather or the fantastic egalitarian treatment offered to our guests from the subcontinent… she’s here for the money, of which she sends 80% home to her family in Sri Lanka. It’s safe to assume that most foreign workers here are sending at least half of their salary overseas, and every baiza of that is money we’re just pissing away, never to be reinvested here. If we had been able to hire an Omani woman to care for the princess, it’s likely that 90% of her salary would be re-invested locally. She could pay for her kiddies to attend a good school here, she could purchase a car from one of the car selling monopolies, and her daughters would wear clothes purchased here. If, god forbid, we were to mistreat her she could quit and find a job with a better, kinder family.

Another example is the guys constructing the addition to the house next door. Last week they needed to put a new line into the power transformer across the street. To do so they had to dig up the road and the parking area adjacent to the house. It took six imported Pakistani workmen three days to dig a trench, and another day to fill it in (using hand tools). That’s six guys, sending six salaries home each month, needing six return air tickets every other year. With one backhoe and one trained Omani it would have taken three hours, and cost less, even if the Omani were pulling a huge salary.

Forced Omanisation via the use of quotas isn’t a good idea either, in the long term. Once Hired, It’s difficult to fire an Omani who isn’t a good fit for the job, so many of these companies are just paying a bunch of Omanis to stay home or while away thier hours in a "Job Center" (ask PDO about that) One small company I worked for had a PRO who was completely useless. But they had to keep him on because of the omanisation quota, and the difficulty of firing him without possible recourse in court. This hammers home the concept that it's our right to be paid for doing nothing, and our right at birth to be treated differently. It also reinforces the negative stereotype of the "lazy Omani". not good.

So, Ministry of Manpower, if you are listening here's a few things I think we should do, gradually, in order to allow business to adjust.

1) Secure the borders. We don’t need a flood if illegal immigrants.
2) Create some financial incentives to hire Omanis, and some financial consequences for hiring expatriates. It should be a lot more expensive to hire an expatriate.
3) With immediate effect, anybody can quit his or her job to work for another company at any time. This will incentivise employers to keep their employees happy, or risk loosing them, and the investment required to recruit and train them.
4) Start teaching the kids in the schools that should work, and that there is no job so menial that you should consider yourself above doing it. Sweeping streets, construction, hospitality, or child care, no one is above earning a living.
5) Do away with Omanisation Quotas. A stiff corporate tax incentive could encourage higher levels of Omanisation instead.
6) Make it easy to fire anyone, local or expatriate alike, with little or no financial penalties. Allowing an employer to fire a useless or lazy worker and replace them with a more deserving candidate is fundamental.
7) Establish a Minimum wage that is applicable to everyone, or don’t establish one at all.

Later tin the week, Suburban Muscat will enlighten everyone on her opinions regarding closing the highways every time someone important comes to town. I'm planning a real dummy spit, so don't change that channel!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Glorious Peace… I’ve been on a bit of a Blogging Hiatus, due mostly to my profound apathy and lack of time management skills. Suburban spouse must wonder what the hell I do with my days if I can’t seem to get dinner on the table or a single blog entry written. We have hot and cold running staff; I am now, finally, fabulously, unemployed (Yesssss!!!!) and the in-law invasion ended more than two weeks ago. Like, Get it together woman…

I’m working on a post regarding the mandatory minimum wage for Omanis in the private sector. I need to do some more research before I go shooting my mouth off on that issue.

Also in my sights are the often badly researched, “opinion” pieces written by Essa Al Zadjali of the Times of Oman. He has it coming from me after his recent editorial on Wadi Kabir and the expatriate economic influence therein. Expatriate monopoly driving prices my ass…. How about the Bahwan / OTE/ Zubair cartel that have exclusive rights to new spare parts? I know Wadi Kabir better than your average Joe given the wide variety of aged, obscure, and barely / semi working vehicles in the possession of the Suburban Family.

But the thing that’s really gotten up my nose is Oman FM… again. If anybody from there is reading this, Please, for the love of god, for the sake of my sanity, and in the name of proper grammar and pronunciation, can we stop with the Windows on Oman Show? Last week, I listened to an hours' programme read in a vapid monotone that I think was about the roundabouts in Salalah. How many, what they depict, how many workers and gallons of paint it takes to maintain them annually, etc...

Boys and girls, Enough. If we can't think of any thing better to tell the world about Oman than the number of gold coffee pots surrounding the central gold coffee pot at R/A # 23277430 in Qantab then we're really not looking properly at the magnificence that Oman really has to offer. Also, to broadcast this in Oman, it's like preaching to the converted. We all live here, we know it's wonderful.

I've given up hope of an independent radio station setting up here, but Oman FM? are you listening? Please Just Play Music. In the meantime, I"m going to find my I-pod broadcast thingy and just listen to my own tunes. So take that. Hmmph...