losing the peace: cheap labor

It's great we are building schools in Iraq. But it's NOT great that we are doing it with cheap imported labor from Asia. via TPM, the article in the Financial Times last Tuesday:

�We don't want to overlook Iraqis, but we want to protect ourselves," the US Army colonel who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority's procurement office told the paper. "From a force protection standpoint, Iraqis are more vulnerable to a bad guy influence."
"Iraqis are a security threat," says a Pakistani manager in Baghdad for the Tamimi Company, based in the Saudi city of Dammam, which is contracted to cater for 60,000 soldiers in Iraq. "We cannot depend on them."
The company, which has 12 years' experience feeding US troops in the Gulf, employs 1,800 Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis and Nepalese in its kitchens. It uses only a few dozen Iraqis for cleaning.

In the dusty backyard of the US administrators' Baghdad palace, south Asians, housed 12 to a Saudi-made temporary cabin, organise 180,000 meals a day for US troops and administrators.

A Tamimi manager says the company pays an average salary of one Saudi riyal (Dollars 3) a day and grants leave once every two years. The contracts are awarded by Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton, which in 2001 won its second Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or Logcap, contract to sub-contract the supply of US military provisions. The Logcap is open-ended and its Iraqi share is worth "in excess of Dollars 2bn", according to officials of the Defence Contract Management Agency in Baghdad.

Though Marshall initially accepts the security premise for the policy, an email from a reader suggests otherwise:

Josh: I just read your FT blog - to a certain extent I think this rationale of the "Iraqis can't be trusted" is a bunch of hoo ha.
UAE: 20% of the pop is local. Of the 80% of the expat pop, fully 75% are subcontinenters. Why? Dirt cheap, much cheaper than the Arabs (imported or otherwise).

Of the international construction firms here, they all use minimum of 80% subcontinenters (i.e. the Halliburton and Bechtel types take all the money).

Bottom line: wages are a function of the price of living in the home countries. The price of living for subcontinenters in the subcontinent is nothing. E.g. I pay my Indian maid USD 300 month of which she supports a family of 10 people in Bombay and still manages to save probably 50% of her salary here in Dubai.

When you prepare city plans you have to do population studies first, e.g. existing and forecasted pop, breakdown of population by M/F and ethnic mix, et al. Why? as an example - the low wage Indians are in construction camps w/o dependents- I need land for construction camps for them, not houses; they also do not own cars so I don't need to factor in their "trips" as car trips, I factor them in as bus trips since they are bused everywhere, etc.

The reader misses one additional point - much of the imported labor is from Pakistan, not India. That means that the same security risk applies as with Iraqis! It is clearly a financial calculation, not a security one.

I know of many many families from India and Pakistan who have moved to Dubai and other middle east countries for precisely this reason, so I have much corroborating information. Coupled with the many reports of how money is being misspent in Iraq, this is amounting to an outrage for both Americans (whose money is being wasted) and Iraqis (who are being exploited).

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