Fake street cleaners negatively impact those who clean the Kingdom’s roads

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Donning a street cleaner’s uniform, Arab News reporter Essam Al-Ghalib poses after cleaning the streets of Al-Rawdah district in Jeddah. (AN photos)
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Updated 16 July 2017

Fake street cleaners negatively impact those who clean the Kingdom’s roads

JEDDAH: One would think that no one really wants to be a garbage man, as the job entails handling things that most people do not wish to see, touch or smell.
In Saudi Arabia the job pays a mere SR400 ($107) per month, and involves spending up to 11 hours per day, six days per week in the stifling heat in places where feral cats and street rats abound.
But there is one benefit to being a garbage man: Due to a sense of pity and the charitable nature of Saudi Arabia’s citizens and residents, cash handouts are frequent.
A number of street cleaners told Arab News they are given SR700-SR2,500 each month in cash handouts from passing motorists.
This has not gone unnoticed by some who are in Saudi Arabia illegally and without a source of income.
Badr Al-Ahmari, a representative of Seder Group’s Environmental Services Division in charge of cleanliness in some districts of Riyadh and Jeddah, said there is a problem with individuals obtaining uniforms and pretending to be street cleaners in order to get money.

“In the case of one worker at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, he was found to be making SR300 an hour in tips,” Al-Ahmari said.
Arab News was able to obtain blue overalls, a reflective safety vest, orange gloves, a broom and a garbage bag for only SR114 from various safety-equipment businesses.
Donning a street cleaner’s uniform, this reporter cleaned the streets of Al-Rawdah district in Jeddah for two hours, receiving SR10.
This is hardly the SR300 Al-Ahmari spoke of, but for those who do not have money to eat, SR10 makes a huge difference.
During the course of this investigation, Arab News watched seven street cleaners for a number of hours.
They never wandered more than 200 meters away from a traffic light, repeatedly walking back and forth between cars as the traffic light changed color. They were obviously more interested in receiving handouts than cleaning the streets.
Arab News approached the seven street cleaners for an interview. One abandoned his garbage can and broom and ran away.
The second walked away. When cornered, he said: “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again. You’ll never see me here again.”
The third walked away briskly but was caught up to. As he pulled out his iqama from his wallet, SR5 and SR10 notes fell out and were blown away by the wind. As Arab News tried to collect the money to give it back to him, he ran away.
The other four street cleaners were employees of municipality-contracted companies who said they had cleaned their part of the neighborhood and were exhausted from walking in the heat for the past few hours.
They claimed to be resting at the traffic light awaiting the end of their shift for the company bus to pick them up.
One of them, Abdulrahman from Bangladesh, who cleans Tahlia Street and was the only one of the seven making an effort to keep the street clean, said his salary is SR500 per month.
He added that he collects aluminum cans and sells them for SR3 per kg, as well as cardboard boxes for SR40 per kg.
He said he depends on this and handouts from the public in order to send money to his wife and two children in his country.
Mohammed, a legitimate street cleaner, said: “Those who want to give us a tip shouldn’t give them to those who stand at traffic lights. The real street cleaners are those who clean the inner streets of your neighborhood and who shy away from places where there are a lot of people. If you want to give money, give it to the cleaners there who you actually see cleaning.”

Tokyo summit discusses ‘strategic response’ to Saudi Aramco oil attacks

Taro Kono denounced the recent attacks on Aramco sites in Saudi Arabia. (AN Images/Kevin Hammontree)
Updated 25 min 44 sec ago

Tokyo summit discusses ‘strategic response’ to Saudi Aramco oil attacks

  • Shinzo Abe says it is Japan's mission to reset transparent, rules-based international order
  • Goldman Sachs' chief Japan strategist says closing gender gap can greatly boost global GDP

TOKYO: The attacks on Saudi Arabia grabbed all the headline attention at the G1 Global Conference in Tokyo, but the day-long think-in in Tokyo was more than just a survey of the dramatic headlines and images that had dominated the weekend media.

The event is now in its ninth year, as a global leaders’ conference conducted entirely in English on the big themes of international affairs, business, culture and society from a Japanese perspective.

One of the organizers called it the “Davos of Tokyo,” and while it may have fallen short of the famous Swiss Alpine gathering in numbers and glamour, the Sept. 16 event certainly rivaled it in the breadth and ambition of the agenda.

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, set a high bar in an opening video address in which he said it was “Japan’s mission” to lead the world in resetting the transparent, rules-based international order that has been weakened by the populist waves in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

On the theme of “sustainable innovation in times of disruption”, the G1 followed a familiar pattern of plenaries, breakouts, workshops and networking, in the functional setting of the Globis University in downtown Tokyo. What it lacked in Alpine splendour, it more than made up for with the convenience of a one-day colloquium.

But first, the weekend’s news stole the show at the opening plenary, and was an elephant in the room for the rest of the day.

Taro Kono, the Japanese defense minister, declared the attacks on Saudi oil installations and the threat to global oil supplies the “most worrying scenario” in the world today.

He was backed up by John Chipman, director general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who criticized the failure of the US and its allies in the Middle East and elsewhere to counter Iranian expansion in the region.

“The strategic response to this has not been properly considered, and now Saudi Arabia’s most important strategic asset has been attacked,” he said.

The attacks on Saudi oil installations also featured prominently in a later session, conducted behind-closed-doors under the Chatham House Rule, at which security experts debated the origins and impact of the attacks, including the appropriate level of response from Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Chipman also spoke frankly about the confrontation between the US and China over trade, technology and digital strategy. “The US and the West has only just woken up to China’s strategic rivalry,” he said.

Referring to the Soviet space launch in the 1950s that stirred the US into a space race with the USSR, Chipman said: “China wants a unipolar Asia in a multipolar world, and that is a ‘Sputnik’ moment for the Americans,” he said.

There was skepticism that US President Donald Trump was the man to lead an effective rule-based order against Chinese expansion.

Mieko Nakabayashi, professor of social sciences at Waseda University, who spent many years in the corridors of power in Washington, said: “A lot of people say that Trump is a disaster, but he also has a lot of supporters. He might win next year’s election, which would make for a very adventurous four years to come.”

Given the East Asian venue and focus of the event, the threat from China, and its relations with neighbors such as Japan, Korea and the Southeast Asian countries, were recurring themes of the day.

A session entitled “Geo-politics: US-China hegemony in Asia” had two experts from opposite sides of the issue. Abraham Denmark, American director of the Asia program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said the US was in the middle of the biggest debate about foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.

Although recent polls suggested that a large number of Americans still support an active role for the US in trade and global affairs, it was also apparent that the old rules of engagement with the rest of the world were no longer sufficient.

“We used to believe that engaging with China was a good thing in itself. Now we have to balance competition and co-operation, and will co-operate only on matters of mutual self-interest,” Denmark said.

Zha Daojiong, of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said there had been some “positive momentum” in recent weeks with both sides pulling back from higher trade tariffs, adding: “What is the antagonism between China and the USA? It is about primacy, and somebody has to be number one. They are like two 800-pound gorillas rising and falling under their own weight.”

Lynn Kuok, of the IISS, gave a Southeast Asian perspective on the issue. “Trump’s insistence that other countries have to ban Huawei means that the USA is saying ‘you have to chose between USA and China,’ but it should not be a choice between two countries but between rules and non-rules based orders.”

The session turned into a barbed exchange between the US and Chinese representatives. “If you give technology to Huawei, you’ve got to assume it will end up with the People’s Liberation Army,” said Denmark, who also complained about Chinese state subsidies to corporations.

Zha Daojiong responded with allegations about subsidies to US defense manufacturers such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin. “Where is the state, and where is the company with them,” he said. Taking a swipe at US financial policy, he said: “Negative interest rates are not very capitalist.”

The G1 was not just about high matters of geopolitics, however. One big theme was the progress towards achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals in environmental, social responsibility and corporate governance.

Also high on the agenda was gender equality. In a session entitled “Womenomics and Gender Equality in Entrepreneurship,” Kathy Matsui, chief Japan strategist at Goldman Sachs, produced recent research showing a direct link between economic growth and greater female participation in the global workforce. “I believe that if you close the gender gap, you could actually boost global GDP by as much as $5 trillion,” she said.

The Tokyo gathering also focused on events that will put Japan in the global spotlight and boost tourism. The Rugby World Cup begins next week, and the country is hosting the Olympic Games in 2020.

In a session headed “How to evolve into a unique and sustainable tourism super-power,” experts discussed Japan’s ambitious plans to increase the number of international visitors and get them to spend more while on holiday. The government wants 40 million visitors next year.

About 75 per cent of foreign visitors to Japan come from four Asian countries — China, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong — and the government would like to attract more Americans, Europeans and Australians, who tend to stay longer and spend more.

This year a 30 per cent drop in the number of Korean tourists is expected as Japan and South Korea square off amid a trade dispute sparked by events dating back to the  Second World War.