THE GULF BETWEEN THEN AND NOW……

My recent visits to the Middle East makes me feel good that I am now working in India. Having spent close to 10 years in the Middle East (Gulf ), I am happy that I have settled back in my country which is really progressing well and far more professional in handling its affairs, specially the economy.

Till ten years ago ( 2005 ) it seemed the middle east was a good place to be in and make some money and invest back in India. That is a general statement. The talent that was required in the Gulf and the labour as well, was sourced mostly from India. Indians excelled in all types of jobs and generally they took advantage of their good education, polite behavior and ability to converse in English. The Gulf was the destination for the “not so elite” Indians . The elite ones got better jobs in India and USA and in the developed world. Gulf has long been the main stay for Indian blue collared work force and labourers.

When the Indian economy took off around 2005, several changes started happening at the same time in the Middle East and elsewhere which have affected Indians. In the 2000’s I hardly found Africans in big numbers in any hospitality industry. Now, I find them actually dominating some jobs. Most of the jobs where Indians dominated are clearly the strong hold of the Filipinos now. Egyptian and other Arabic nationalities were always there in some numbers , thanks to their Arabic language skills , but now the Egyptians and people from other Arabic nations have a total domination in many fields. Never did I see Nepalis in the Gulf 15 years ago, but now you see them in plenty. Bangladesh is one such country as well. I was shocked to see a construction site where only Arabic workers dominated, a stronghold of Indian labour till ten years ago. The situation in the last 10 years in Syria, Palestine, and some other countries have forced them to take up jobs in the Middle East at survival rates.

The salaries that are generally been paid now are excellent figures when converted back into the currency of their home countries- for the Nepalis, Filipinos, Bangladeshis and the for African new comers. Not for the Indians though. The conversion and the cost of life back in India does not entice Indians much- specially at the middle management level and for skilled blue collared workers – to go to the middle East anymore.

Due credit also must be given to countries such as Philippines where they have massive skill development campaigns and programmes to “create” overseas Filipino workers- a brand “OCW” by itself . India did not do this for close to 40 years. Thanks to recent efforts, we have started, though quite late. Had we done this decades ago, the result would have been many million dollars more as remittance from the Gulf.

I noticed a great improvement in the English speaking abilities of the average Filipino, the Average Egyptian, other Arabs, and even Bangladeshis & Nepalis. This could be an effort from those countries to improve the English of their countrymen and better their job prospects in the Gulf Region. A lot of jobs lost by Indians, specially in the service industry could be because of this, and of course the relative conversion factor.

SO ARE WE THE LOSERS ? I think NO. On the FLIP side, our progress in the last 10 years has been excellent. We have created work opportunities for our own people in our own country. What could be better than that ? The plight of people in Gulf at the lower categories is pathetic. No one discusses this. The life in India is far, far better. Of course, more money helps. On the FLOP side, we lost a few million dollars income from the GULF , but we are on our way to a trillion dollar economy.

The Middle East is likely to be a dream which is getting over very soon. Everyone discusses in hushed tones so many related issues.

Does a country invest in anything just because its oil prices are high? Can only fancy looking skyscrapers and nice highways drive an economy? Is this a correct model of sustainable growth? The Indian model of development is far more logical and comprehensive. It does not need high oil and gas prices. It is a great economy by itself. Progress is assured in India and higher incomes as well for all. In India, oil prices do not decide whether the government is to build a hospital ! When we know we need it, it is done. There are adequate sources of financing. The basic need and demand , drives the completion of a project, not anything else. When that demand is there, things are in the right direction for an economy.

For Indians employed in the Middle East, The Gulf Between “then” ( 1970-2005) and “now” ( 2005-2020 ) has widened a lot. But, the Gulf between India and the Middle East has narrowed a lot. It makes more sense to work FOR your country , IN YOUR country and “BUY” in your country !

Dinesh Bandiwadekar

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