No Karama clarity for the building industry

Wouldn’t it be handy if there was a Karama market for contractors? For those who don’t know, Karama is the place to go in Dubai if you want to buy a fake Louis Vuitton bag; or a pirated DVD with subtitles that have been complied by a seven year-old student of English from Beijing; or a Rolex watch that, frankly, isn’t fooling anyone.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  November 26, 2005

|~||~||~|Wouldn’t it be handy if there was a Karama market for contractors? For those who don’t know, Karama is the place to go in Dubai if you want to buy a fake Louis Vuitton bag; or a pirated DVD with subtitles that have been complied by a seven year-old student of English from Beijing; or a Rolex watch that, frankly, isn’t fooling anyone. For Messrs Rolex, Vuitton, Versace and Armani, the presence of markets like this is a bit of a pain in the backside, but at least us consumers have a choice. You can buy the real thing and pay for it or you can buy the fake and pay substantially less. If you want to buy the real thing, you go to the big glitzy air-conditioned shopping mall with the soothing piped elevator music. If you want to buy the fake you go round the back of a shop in Karama, and into the dingy backroom where the ceiling is only six foot high and the flies play chicken with the slowly turning rotors of the ceiling fan. They are two very distinct retailing environments and not even the most incompetent of shoppers would ever get them confused. But there is no such clarity in the building products and materials market. There is no suburb of Dubai where peddlers will sidle up to you and whisper “Readymix, rebar, rockwool, very good price.” Or if there is, I haven’t found it. So who is to know what is real and what is fake? It’s a bit of a worry really. One Dubai-based investigator of counterfeit building products says that more than half of the products circulating in the market are counterfeit. He also reckons that some of the buildings currently under construction in the region should have expiry dates printed on the side of them like cartons of eggs. Discovering that the Louis Vuitton bag you bought in good faith, was not in fact crafted by Mr Vuitton in his stylish Paris studio but by Mr Lee Huay Tong in his Shanghai sweatshop, might lead to some personal distress. But you’ll get over it. Discovering that the concrete in your tower block was made with a 25:1 mix of Creek sludge and expired Weetabix, is a whole different ball game. Sean Cronin Editor||**||

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