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Dubai dream turns sour as job losses mount

business Updated: Jan 04, 2009 14:11 IST

AFP
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Dubai's rapid expansion in recent years provided jobs for millions. But the global financial meltdown has abruptly ended the dream for many people as more and more firms sack staff to cut costs.

Spectacular economic growth, spurred by a robust construction sector, lured people from far and wide to the booming city on the shores of the Gulf, tempted by high pay, low tax and -- for many Europeans -- the year-round sunshine.

Foreigners form most of the population in Dubai and with residency permits linked to employment many of the people who are losing their jobs face the added upheaval of leaving the country.

"I don't feel that I was wronged. This is business... But I would have preferred a cut in my salary rather than being sacked," said an Arab man who was let go by government-controlled property group Nakheel.

Another former Nakheel employee, "Only four days before we were given the termination letter, our director told us in a meeting that the situation was very difficult and that the budget for our project had been cut by nearly three quarters.

"It was too quick," said the 30-year-old employee who was sacked at the end of November as one of 500 employees -- 15 percent of the workforce -- who lost their jobs.

Nakheel has its fingerprints on most of Dubai's iconic projects, including three palm-shaped artificial islands and a cluster of islands in the shape of a world map.

It unveiled in early October another gigantic project to erect a one kilometre high tower, which, if ever built, would dwarf the unfinished Burj Dubai, currently standing around 700 metres (765 yards) high.