Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Villamar project update

An update on my earlier post on Villamar...

The word on the street is that most of the Villamar apartments were sold to speculators (like most of these projects, so nothing new there) who paid deposits only and then defaulted on making instalments... (and as an aside, many of those purchasers were GFH staff and associates. Given that many GFH staff have been laid off, don't expect they will be following through with their instalements!).  One building at least was bought outright by another developer on a downpayment.  They were then going to pay the original developer once monies were collected from end-users... same problem - end-users only put down deposits and then walked away/defaulted, with only 5-10% paying their instalments.
So to wrap up, speculators/end-users not paying the developer and/or other intermediaries, developer is not paying contractor, and contractor has stopped construction. Just what you would expect when a property bubble bursts, and not unexpected when the prices being fetched for dream apartments were at eye-watering levels.  And, this being the Gulf, the contractor hasn't started legal action to recover its costs yet due to the close relationship it has with the project sponsor - none other than GFH.

Of course, the word on the street maybe completely inaccurate... but any insiders are welcome to comment and tell me what I've got wrong!

Oh yeah, and the half-built development was scheduled for completion in June 2009... Aren't there any newspaper journalists out there with the guts to question Gulf Holding Company's blatant PR lies?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bahrain's majlises sign petition to kick out British Ambassador

Yesterday the GDN finally provided something of value... a list of people not to do business with on any terms.  Unfortunately, the GDN isn't so kind enough to provide a PDF of that page, even though they have PDFs on their website of every other page for that day.  So here's a scanned version - click on this link or the image below.

Majlis petition

Thursday, March 11, 2010

We can't let our slaves go on vacation or renew their visas, because [please insert excuse here]

Another example of defending the indefensible... In today's GDN, Habib Ali Awachi and Sons Company list a plethora of excuses for not letting staff go on vacations or renewing their visas, after one of their slaves labourers complains that he hasn't been allowed a vacation for six-and-a-half years, and they hadn't renewed his visa after it expired three years ago.  The story about the man who is getting a little desparate now and claims his wife is threatening to kill herself and their two children because his company "allegedly" refuses to send him home, is printed on the same page.  He also claims there are 150 others in a similar situation.

Habib Ali Awachi and Sons Company's response is laughable and repeated below in full.  What is the Ministry of Labour or the LMRA doing if they are allowing these shenanigans to continue?  Why isn't the company blacklisted and their CR annulled? 

Is there any property or infrastructure developer in Bahrain that applies ethical standards in awarding contracts to construction companies, or even attempts to vet them to ensure they meet the minimum criteria for treatment of their staff?

Construction crisis blamed for delays in labourers' vacations
Posted on » Thursday, March 11, 2010
A CRISIS in the construction industry was yesterday blamed for delays in vacations and the renewal of visas at the Habib Ali Awachi and Sons Company.
Chief executive officer Zuhair Awachi admitted the visas of several workers had expired, while others had been denied holidays.
He blamed global financial turmoil, delays in payments from clients - including the government - and a tax on expat workers for crippling the construction industry.
But he claimed the company was now in the process of cancelling the visas of its workforce and sending them back home.
"We are aware that visas of some of our workers have not been renewed," he told the GDN.
"And we also know that many have applied for annual leave, but their applications have been rejected.
"We are cancelling their visas and sending them back to their countries.
"We have already sent 28 last month and 10 at the beginning of this month.
"The reason is that we didn't get BD800,000 from one of the ministries and, on top of that, we have to spend a lot of money on expat workers when we bring them to Bahrain to work for us.
"We are spending a lot of money on their training, and Labour Market Regularity Authority (LMRA) and General Organisation for Social Insurance (Gosi) fees.
"The LMRA knows our situation very well, we are suffering as a construction company and due to budget problems.
"We haven't received payment from ministries for several months and we have an official letter from them asking us to bear with them.
"We, as a local company, can only wait and try to finish the work on time - but foreign companies abandon the work and leave the country.
"What happened in the case of the Isa Town flyover? The company (Sungwon) took the government to court.
"We as locals can't do that as we are Bahrainis and we have to live and work in Bahrain, in good or bad conditions."
Mr Awachi said the company had already flown home hundreds of workers in the past six months, and said 100 more were due to leave within two months.
"We have 800 expats and 250 Bahrainis working for us and we increased the basic salary for each employee last year," he added.
"Our company is located on the road - it's not hidden and everybody knows about it.
"The problem is that we can't satisfy all our workers and, unfortunately, we have to send them back.
"Around 100 workers are already on the list and we will finish the list in two months' time.
"We are now processing their documents and finalising their settlements so that they can leave for good and forever.
"Everybody knows that liquidity in the market is very low and, for us, it was really a bad season.
"In the last six months, 240 workers left Bahrain and we are looking for more idle manpower to be sent back."
Mr Awachi revealed that family funds were being pumped into the company, but said he hoped for a quick recovery from the crisis.
"We have high hopes that Bahrain will recover soon and all the sectors, not only construction, will boom again," he added.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Villamar project is on track says GHC. Yeah right!

In today's GDN, Kuwait-based Gulf Holding Company (GHC) attempts to defend the indefensible. Word on the street is that work on the Villamar project is at a standstill due to the lack of liquidity. You only have to look at the building to see that work has stopped.  Those cranes have stopped moving.  Meanwhile, as per the press release in the GDN...
"Construction on three towers of the flagship project is progressing round the clock," GHC senior investment relations officer Ahmad Al Shammari said....
..."Work on the development never stopped for a single moment and is progressing round the clock, because of the availability of sufficient liquidity needed to finance the construction coupled with the company's determination to deliver the development on schedule," he added.
Sorry mate... telling porkies ruins you and your's firm's credibility.  When will companies in this region wake up to this simple fact.  This is not an isolated case - this is the norm.  Last week we had a similar denial of the facts from the failing Amwaj Gateway project. When will these people learn that lying in public won't help their cause... the only people they can hope to influence with their lies are those that know the facts anyway.  Those naive enough to believe the lies probably don't care... they won't haven't invested/speculated on property in the development.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rapists must not escape justice

The GDN has an article today from Women's Rights campaigners following up on the story I blogged earlier.

Rapists 'must not escape justice...'
By REBECCA TORR , Posted on » Monday, March 01, 2010
WOMEN's rights campaigners are demanding urgent changes to a draconian law that they claim encourages rape.

Under current Bahraini legislation, rapists are escaping punishment dished out by the courts by marrying their victims after they have been convicted.

Victims often agree to the marriage because of the social stigma, fearing that having been raped they will be unable to find another husband.

However, activists claim that in most cases the rapist divorces his victim soon after the marriage - having already secured his freedom.

They are now calling for changes to the law so that convicted rapists have to serve their full prison sentence, regardless of whether they marry their victims or not.

Batelco Care Centre for Family Violence Cases president Dr Banna Bu Zaboon argued the current law actually promoted violence against women.

"Because of the stigma in society they (the victims) agree to get married, but it causes more problems and leads to further sexual and physical abuse and psychologically it is very damaging," Dr Bu Zaboon told the GDN.

"In most cases they don't stay married because they (the rapists) say they never intended to marry a girl they already know."

In the latest case reported by the GDN, a convicted rapist sentenced to three years in jail was allowed to walk free after judges heard that he had married his victim - who had previously worked as his housemaid.

Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society secretary general Faisal Fulad said the loophole was simply a get out of jail free card for rapists.

"Imagine he raped her for a few weeks and beat her and when they come to the judge he says if you marry her you will be free," said Mr Fulad, who is also a Shura Council member.

"How is this? It's against human rights. Even if he (the rapist) doesn't divorce her straight away there is nothing to say he won't divorce her in three months, six months or one or two years later.

"This is not correct. He should go to jail under the rape law and then if he wants to marry her or not that is up to him.

"He should be punished otherwise the law will be very weak in society and make men feel it's easy to rape."

Mr Fulad warned that unless laws were toughened up rape would remain a silent crime.

He now plans to raise the matter with the Shura Council's women's committee.

"This law is weak against rape, we need the law to be tough," he said.

"A woman who is raped will be a shame in society, so she will feel forced to marry.

"I'm sure there are many women who are raped in Bahrain that don't talk because they feel shy or something bad in society.

"This will make her physically and mentally sick and this guy will rape again.

"We need better protection for women against rape."

Meanwhile, Bahrain Women's Union president Mariam Al Ruwaie said her organisation had long been campaigning for changes to the law and had already held meetings with decision makers - including a special committee set up by parliament.

"This law needs to be changed because he (the rapist) makes a marriage agreement with her (the victim) and then a week or one month down the line he divorces her," said Ms Al Ruwaie.

"We demand another law to protect women from violence.

"We think the rapist should be punished for his crime and there should be a law that gives women more protection against violence."