Friday, February 06, 2009

53% of Gulf companies put freeze on hiring

I lost more colleagues last week. They received their termination letters on the last day of the week, an hour before the office hour ended. It could be one of their worst day. I was in the similar situation a decade ago, received a call that "You don't have to come to work on Monday! You are fired"

Below from Arabian Business.

JOBS FREEZE: More than half of GCC companies surveyed said they had implemented a freeze on hiring amid the global slowdown.

A survey of GCC companies has revealed that 53 percent had already implemented a freeze on hiring with a further 17 percent planning to do so in the coming months.

The survey on the impact of the global economic slowdown was undertaken by Dubai-based international HR consulting company ORC and around 150 companies responded to the survey from across a wide range of industry sectors with operations throughout the Gulf region.

The survey comes as thousands of employees across the region have fallen victim to the economic slowdown, especially in the real estate and construction industries.

John Macdonald, MD of ORC Worldwide (Middle East) said it was interesting to note the extent of initiatives and corrective measures that companies were taking.

He added: "Obviously staff costs are one of the first things to be targeted in a downturn and, in particular, the 2009 budgets for salary reviews where we found that around 50 percent of respondents reported that their salary review budgets had been adjusted as a direct result of the downturn, many reporting quite significant reductions, typically down from an average of 12 percent to around 5-6 percent, or lower in Oman and Kuwait."

The survey showed that 40 percent of all respondents had already implemented or were in the process of implementing a pay freeze for some or all of their staff while 11 percent had gone a stage further and cut pay rates.

Others had switched the emphasis towards performance-based rewards, modifying bonus targets or targeting specific positions that have attracted pay premiums in the last few years that were no longer considered necessary, Macdonald added.

In terms of employee reductions, the survey showed that only 15 percent of respondents had already implemented lay-offs with a further 20 percent planning to do so in the coming months.

Observing that the UAE was reported as being the most affected country in the GCC, Macdonald added: "While many of the corrective measures are necessarily severe, it is encouraging to see that a large majority of companies are taking positive steps to improve the level of employee communication.

"We also asked companies to tell us their top HR priorities for 2009 and the leading issues were retention of key staff, improving employee performance and productivity, organisational downsizing and reducing the cost of salary and benefits."

ORC Worldwide is an international management-consulting firm headquartered in New York, with a Middle East base in Dubai.

Sultan Perak has C4ed his own convictions

The sultan could have taken the best option out by dissolving the state assembly to call for a fresh mandate from the people.
Rightly or wrongly, history will judge the former Lord President's decision on the current crisis.

As Kabilan wrote in Malaysiakini today, the sultan seemed to have forgotten his own convictions in such matters.

Flashback to 2004 – in his book, Constitutional Monarchy, Rule of Law and Good Governance, the sultan wrote:

"Under normal circumstances, it is taken for granted that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong would not withhold his consent to a request for dissolution of parliament. His role is purely formal."

He also added that no sultan or agung had withheld consent to dissolve legislative body, except in Kelantan in 1977.

With his decision now, it looks like what he wrote was just rhetoric... without any convictions.

The decision of the sultan to deny Mohd Nizar’s request for the dissolution also indicated that the sultan had seemingly subjected himself to a higher political power play.

And coming in his 25th year as the state ruler – celebrations were held on Tuesday – the decision by the sultan in handing over powers to the BN government without his subjects having any say is very disappointing to say the least.

To put in bluntly, the decision of the sultan – who is the custodian of the people, their protector and someone who is supposed to act for the people – had just killed any semblance of democracy in Perak.

Global credit crisis – I'm lovin' it

Emirates Business 24/7 reports:-

As incessant talk of a looming recession turns to a deafening roar, the question that can be heard over the panic is: Who are the winners of a financial meltdown?

From lost-cost fast-food joints to the cheap entertainment of the cinema, there is still growth to be found in a shrinking market.DIY materials firms, for example, also traditionally do well, as more people ditch the hired help to get their hands dirty and save money.

Sectors such as healthcare and education remain buoyant through recessionary times as they offer services people cannot do without.

Technology firms say they can ride out the global slump because the services they offer – such as network security – are critical. And administrators, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte, will be kept busy as they step into failing businesses to share out the spoils.

But the "humble" fast-food chains are expected to be among the recession's biggest winners, as consumers turn away from eating out at expensive restaurants.

Indeed, McDonald's has just posted continued solid growth in the region, while ice cream firm Baskin Robbins and Dunkin' Donuts have laid out ambitious expansion plans for the UAE.

"Our model remains recession-resistant," McDonald's Chief Executive Jim Skinner said after announcing the company's 2008 results this week.
"Today's conditions play to our strengths."While unfavourable foreign exchange rates led McDonald's to a 23 per cent drop in fourth-quarter income, same-store sales worldwide were up 7.2 per cent.
Earnings for 2008 for the year were up 80 per cent to $4.31 billion (Dh15.81bn). In 2008, sales at Dunkin' Donuts jumped by 22 per cent. It plans to open 12 more outlets and boost its workforce in the Emirates, while Baskin Robbins has reportedly set its sights on 15 extra stores.

Meanwhile, the healthcare sector will be kept busy due to a chronic undersupply of hospitals, beds and doctors. Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Capital, which operates three health facilities in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, will see its healthcare division well-placed as the Gulf grapples with effects of the global financial crisis. Although declining to comment specifically on its investments, an Abraaj spokesman said there was potential for growth given the universal need for healthcare irrespective of the economic cycle.

He said: "Local governments are also looking to involve the private sector more in healthcare. The demand for healthcare could go on forever." There are also others that have spotted a gap in the market, such as German firm Manager Forces, which specialises in crisis management.

The company, which launches in the UAE on Monday, offers freelance specialist managers to fix a company's financial problems. Executives can be installed for contracts from one month to 12-month periods. It is a business model that thrives on the back of economic turmoil, and a market downturn in the Gulf recently speeded-up plans to enter the region, said Nadeem Ahmad, Senior Vice-President for Business Development.
"Whenever there's a crisis situation in the world, the rate of contract employees substantially increases as opposed to permanent employees. Companies want to take on staff for a shorter period of time because they don't know what the future may bring," he said. "This is exactly the reason we're now in the UAE, as we see a lot of potential for this market here."
In 2008, Manager Forces' global business jumped by 22.7 per cent from the previous year, as the financial crisis took hold. The firm is targeting banks, oil and gas firms and logistics companies in the UAE and expects to have up to 40 clients on its books by the end of the year.
The use of interim managers in Europe has been growing since the 1970s, but between 2005 and 2008, the number of contracts issued for experts has shot up by 137 per cent, according to Ahmad. Joining Manager Forces in its expectations for robust demand are IT security firms, who work on the assumption companies still want to protect themselves despite of, or maybe because of, an economic downturn.The biggest demand will come from the Gulf telecoms organisations looking to secure their systems, said Ayman Al Awadhi, Chief Operations Officer at Kurt Information Security.
"Telecoms firms are still investing in security because they provide technology and information, so if they're not secure then it will hurt their services and revenues. We expect the strongest demand for our services from this sector as their IT security budgets will be the least affected by a downturn," he said.
Kurt Information Security is a security consultant for etisalat and also provides advice on guarding against fraud, a threat that transcends any economic climate.Margaret Adam, Research Manager for IT Services in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa at IDC, said although the IT industry generally will take a hit, demand for data security will remain strong.
"Organisations will still invest in security as this is an area that will get renewed focus in the current climate," she said. "Networking in terms of security will increase, but basic network skill demand may decrease as companies cut down on expansion plans.
"Professionals with crossover skills in Telecommunications and IT services are likely to be highly sought as some level of convergence is occurring between the two," Adam added.
Premchand Kurup, CEO at Paramount, a security infrastructure firm, added: "Last year when we launched our foray into the identity and access management space with an appliance-based solution, the market was slow to accept. The economic melt- down is a game- changer. "
The biggest security threat today is laid-off employees and the absence of a clearly defined exit process. Concerns rise over data theft by terminated employees," he added.
In the entertainment sector, cinema is expected to ride out the economic turmoil. The CEO of megascreen producer Imax said he was confident the movie business will remain "fairly recession-proof" and that his company would benefit this year from the release of the new Star Trek film and the latest Harry Potter epic.
Richard Gelfond said Imax – which has a seven-storey screen at Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai – plans to release as many 10 films in Imax theatres this year — up from seven last year.
"It's an unbelievable year for us," Gelfond said on the sidelines of last week's World Economic Forum.
Gelfond said he did not see the crisis eating into profits, which he said were still benefiting from Imax's shift five years ago from film to a digital medium.
Elsewhere, cinemas in the United States enjoyed their first billion-dollar January since records began, as taking rose 19 per cent to $1.03bn.
Jonathan De Mello, Director of Retail Consultancy at Experian, said: "Discount supermarkets are doing well. In a time of economic downturn, people tend to focus on cheaper, convenience items such as bread and milk and away from discretionary goods such as luxury items and clothes.
"Fast-food companies are doing well. Previously people were trading up and opting for healthier, better quality and more expensive menus. They now have less time to sit for lunch at restaurants and are opting for something quick and cheap.
"Retailers that are doing well, are the ones that are offering reasonable fashion lines on a budget."

Dress for success
Raja Daswani, founder of global luxury suit firm Raja Fashions, said it was possible to dress yourself out of a recession.
He said: "The right suit gives you supreme confidence in meetings and can have a knock-on effect for the outlook of your business, which is especially important in times of recession. If you want to make a statement, then the clothes maketh the man. Dressing for success has never been more important as it is now."
Raja Fashions is a Hong Kong-based tailor that makes more than 50,000 suits a year. Daswani and his teams spend 180 days a year on the road, travelling from hotel to five-star hotel and seeing thousands of men in the United States and Britain. The firm claims it can offer a $6,000 (Dh2,200) Saville Row-quality suit about $800 and deliver it to clients in a third of the time.

Kenapa Saya Tidak Jadi Seorang Politikus

Saya ada sedikit sahaja pengalaman dalam berpolitik. Masuk United Malay National Organisation sekitar tahun 1996 melalui cawangan di kampung. Terpilih sebagai salah seorang AJK yang dilantik.
Itupun kerana ada desakan kawan-kawan dan keluarga memandangkan tidak ramai dari kepimpinan pemuda yang berkaliber mahupun berpelajaran tinggi. Ketua pemuda bahagian masa itu pun hanyalah sekadar seorang budak pejabat....itulah taraf kepimpinan politik lapisan United Malay National Organisation.
Saya sempat bergaul dengan ahli parlimen, ADUN dan ahli-ahli politik United Malay National Organisation. Kebetulan pula salah seorang keluarga memegang jawatan Timbalan MB dan timbalan speaker parlimen.

Pernah rapat juga dengan ahli parlimen yang masa itu menyokong kemasukan saya dan meminta saya aktif sebagai pemimpin pelapis, sebab katanya, "Pemuda bahagian semuanya perompak dan penyamun....."
Selalu dengan dia yang kini masih ahli parlimen (waktu itu belum menteri, sekarang bekas menteri yang dikatakan meraba pelayan) dan dapat mengenal hati budi seorang politikus....never trust politicians from United Malay National Organisation. They have many faces for different situations.
Ada pemilihan tahun itu dan saya dicalunkan untuk ke bahagian. Selama hampir sebulan saya masuk juga berkempen ke serata pelusuk bahagian.
Akhirnya saya mengambil keputusan menarik diri kerana pengalaman sebulan itu sudah cukup untuk menyatakan saya bukan politikus. Tidak sanggup untuk berbohong dan merasuah orang. Saya tidak keluar satu sen pun duit (memang tiada duit...makan gaji) untuk mengupah orang berkempen kerana masih berpegang pada prinsip.
Terus meninggalkan United Malay National Organisation. Parti korup dengan sebahagian besar pemimpin berjuang demi perut dan survival diri. Persetan dengan perjuangan demi bangsa dan ketuanan.

Ramai yang menyokong dengan meminta duit kopi dan bayaran lain termasuk bayar duit ansuran kereta dsbnya.

Dalam tahun 1998, kesedaran berpolitik kembali memuncak. Saya masih teringat panggilan telefon dari (sekarang YB) Zulkifli Noordin, "Jom ke rumah Anwar, dia kena pecat!" Seminggu sebelum itu saya bersama ramai ahli korporat dan seniman (termasuk aruah Usman Awang) berada di pejabat Anwar untuk majlis baca sajak.

Saya muncul sebelum itu dalam satu program TV3 dirakamkan di Shah Alam untuk baca sajak bersama M. Nasir dan seniman lain.

Hampir setiap keluaran, saya menulis (kebanyakan cerpen melalui nama pena MFMN) dalam Harakah, walaupun masih bekerja di TV3. Selain laman-laman reformasi.

Dalam tahun 1999, pilihanraya umum saya naik ke pentas PAS untuk berceramah dan masuk ke kampung-kampung berkempen.

Tahun 1999 juga saya dipecat 24 jam dari Tv3.