21 October 2008


Jan de WitOn the return journey from the US to the Netherlands last week, I had the 'honour' to be subjected to a thorough search by the American customs. In addition to the famous body scan, my shoes were investigated with a special apparatus and the contents of my rucksack were examined.

Amongst other things in my pack was the book McMafia by Misha Glenny. The customs officer took a particular interest in this, wanting to know what it was about. I explained to the man that it concerned organised crime in the new states of eastern Europe following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, organised crime in India, Israel, Dubai, Nigeria, in short in the whole world. Was it then a political book? the customs man asked. My answer that it was a far-reaching investigation by the well-known English journalist evidently satisfied him, because his next question was whether I thought that Iceland would survive.

In the plane I read the section on Dubai, the mini-state where everything is possible. Where rich folk go to live, where no taxes need be paid, where one architectural high-rise after another soars from the sand. Where major criminals find it a delightful place to go, a place where they can pursue their criminal practices in peace. This puts me immediately in mind of the slick Dutch TV programme on Dubai shown a few weeks ago. Dubai, the big success story of globalisation.

I've often asked myself – who built all these glittering buildings? To answer this you need to be in the even smaller country next to Dubai, Adjman. In McMafia, Misha Glenny mercilessly lays bare how the thousands of cheap foreign labourers who do the heavy work in Dubai are accommodated in Adjman in pitiful conditions. They have to travel for two hours to get to their jobs, work twelve hours under the baking sun, and then spend two hours travelling back. For €110 a month - if they are paid, that is.

As is so often the case, thanks to pure exploitation in Dubai the rich of the world can go about their business. And that is most certainly politics, Mr customs man.

Jan de Wit is a Member of Parliament for the SP.

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