Thursday, May 07, 2009

And the Floodgates Begin to Open...

Bahrain ends sponsorship system

For good or for ill, this signals a lot of change.

I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid among the "rights" people that this is a great thing so that people working in Bahrain can move freely as regards their profession.

Since the whole concept of human capital is still in its infancy in the Middle East region, and that the paternalistic culture prevalent in the work environment still governs hiring and promotions, this ruling will basically guarantee that the subcontinental mafias (among the Indians and the Pakistanis) will have free rein.

It's not so much as the rights of people to work in Bahrain, but that they are qualified to do so. Or that the correct amount of opportunities are being created and given. Those are the more important questions.

Yes, this openness with the labor market is a great thing. But without the accompanying civil rights, the crowd that will come is a crowd that will be subject to oppression and remain huddled in fear. While Bahrain is a relatively open space compared to dinosaurs of tradition such as Saudi Arabia, it's no cakewalk either.

The lessons of Dubai should ring out clearly --- freedom is only so much of a commodity, but without proper fundamentals, the road from boom to bust is just another oil recession away.

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