Business must be slowing down in Iraq. After booking over $20 billion in revenues from its work in Iraq, some on no bid contracts and now under Congressional scrutiny for both the quality of its work and billing practices, Halliburton is moving its headquarters from Houston to Dubai. The company together with its KBR unit has been the Pentagon's largest contractor in Iraq.
The move is being met with outrage on Capitol Hill. Senator Patrick Leahy (D. Vermont) and chairman of the judiciary committee voiced his anger, "This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years".
Halliburton's chief executive David Lesar told reporters, "At this point in time we clearly see there are greater opportunities in the eastern hemisphere than the western hemisphere". Halliburton did say it would maintain its legal registration in the United States. You see, that's not altogether unimportant if you want to continue doing business with the Pentagon.
And where exactly are Mr. Lesar and his band of brothers moving to? Let me quote from an article found this day on BBC News by one Masud Alam a reporter from BBC's Urdu service under heading "A Pakistani laments Dubai":
"Dubai has always wanted to be something different from what it is. It has metamorphosed from a tiny fishing village to a modern city, then a shopper's paradise, a playground for the rich, a tourist's haven and a lot more in just over half a century... The city's skyline is made up of cranes."
He then goes on "One aspect that hasn't changed in all these years is Dubai's fixation on 'quality expatriates'- a euphemism for White Europeans, or the rich and famous, or in particular the rich and famous white Europeans".
Continuing, "I used to work for newspaper here that paid different salaries to employees of different qualifications and work experience, based on their ethnic origin. Whites topped the list, followed by Arabs, Indians and Pakistanis, the Filipinos, the Bangladeshis...This bias seems to be institutionalized now.
"The Asians, who make up the entire labour force that builds these fancy structures, are still the worst paid workers, forced to live in out of town labor camps away from their loved ones for years at a stretch because they cannot afford to travel back home or bring their families to live in Dubai.
"A recent newspaper survey found that the labourers pay and benefit packages have not been revised in more than a decade whereas the cost of living has doubled or trebled in sectors like housing, healthcare and utilities."
A company's values come from its leadership and its traditions. Maybe we should simply bid good riddance to Halliburton. But somebody on Capitol Hill should look into their continuing registration as a United States company.