The Guardian: How did a great English city sell its history and soul to oil money and the Emirati elite?

London – “Arabic Jerusalem”:

The Guardian newspaper published an article by commentator and journalist Aditya Chakraborty, in which he referred to how Emirati money has taken control of the most important British cities besides the capital, London.

He said that London is seeing a big silent play this summer. Just look at the politicians and journalists, eager for the excitement, and the political negotiation over who will be the next leader of the Conservative Party after the departure of Boris Johnson.

But if you want the truth about the role of power and money in the UK today, forget about Rishi Sunak and Liz Terrass competing for the Conservative Party leadership and premiership, and go to Manchester: “Yes, Manchester: the resurgent city who replaced textile mills with skyscrapers, and are now praised.” The Financial Times and the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. The city that taught the world so much about industrial capitalism 200 years ago now offers another hard lesson about financial capitalism for the 21st century.”

The author suggested to those going to Manchester to walk a few minutes east of the city center and tour the area of ​​New Islington and the area of ​​Ancots. One block after another will see newly built or converted apartments and houses, many next to a beautiful marina that glistens in the July sun.

“You can rent or buy these places for now, as long as you don’t mind that some of them look like stacked student boxes and are expensive. This is what a post-industrial renovation looks like, built of red brick. But note something: About 1,500 of these houses come from just one developer, and therein lies a serious story.”

Announced in 2014, this is Manchester Lay, which is believed to be a “£1 billion deal” between the city council and the owner of Abu Dhabi’s Manchester City Football Club.

The local authority has set aside parts of land for construction and Sheikh Mansour, the club’s owner, is one of the richest men on the planet. Thus, cooperation between local authorities with wide powers and a disproportionate wealth of heritage, the result is to build houses for the people who need them most, in addition to generating money. The council’s then president, Richard Less, promised “a world-class innovation model”.

Human rights groups have warned Manchester Council about its powerful new business partner. The owner of the investment fund of the Abu Dhabi United Group is Sheikh Mansour, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates

Meanwhile, human rights groups have warned Manchester Council about its powerful new business partner. The investment fund of the Abu Dhabi United Group, although it is officially separate from the state, but its owner Sheikh Mansour is the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and brother of the current president of the Emirates.

In April, journalists in the German magazine Der Spiegel published documents indicating that Abu Dhabi facilitated payments to Manchester City.

The investment fund is at least closely related to what Amnesty International has described as “one of the most brutal police states in the Middle East”. Dissent in the UAE means rot in prison, in a system with proportionally more political prisoners than anywhere else in the world. Human Rights Watch says that babysitters or low-paid migrant construction workers are considered “forced labor”. However, such facts did not prevent the leadership of the workers’ council from moving forward.

The author says: “This was a big step forward for Sheikh Mansour, who only half a decade ago, in 2008, bought a struggling football club. Now his investment fund has entered into a joint venture with the British state (albeit at the local level), enabling him to seize vast property and shape the geography of the city itself. Those of the oligarchs under Vladimir Putin who bought parts of London could never have dreamed of such a shiny prize do not have.”

As one of the rulers of an authoritarian kingdom with a terrible reputation for oppression and addiction to oil revenue, Sheikh Mansour stood to gain a lot from this partnership. It was the council that held almost all the cards: hectares of state-owned land, the planning system and public subsidies.”

However, according to new research shared exclusively with the Guardian and written by academics at the University of Sheffield, it was Sheikh Mansour who made almost all the gains.

The report says nine Sheikh sites were sold for a fraction of their value, much less than other nearby plots achieved, although the council says it used independent experts using standard valuations, although it gave no further details. .

These lands were leased for 999 years, which is far above the norm. The fund transferred public assets to companies registered in Jersey.

This road along the canal from New Islington to Ancots passes through swathes of privatized land owned in an offshore tax haven, yielding millions to a key member of the wealthy elite who run a watchdog state on the other side of the world. “One of the world’s greatest cities has sold itself in a cruel tyranny to a celebrity – and cheaply, too.”

“This is the devastating effect of the first comprehensive study of the Manchester Life scheme, the product of months of research into the company’s accounts and license applications,” he says. And the city council has sometimes been keen to criticize its critics rather than hear what they have to say: Richard Less, the council’s leader for 25 years until 2021, responded to those demanding affordable housing with “middle-class idiots and I hate them .” So let’s drop any personal attacks: “The experts have all lived in the city for decades, and I’m one of the independent, unpaid advisors on the advisory committee, and this is a report squarely in the public interest .”

And in a government that is still struggling with how to strike some kind of balance [بين المناطق الفقيرة والغنية] Manchester is presented as a pioneer, Conservative administrations have praised Manchester’s Labor leadership, while Osborne has described its chief executive, Sir Howard Bernstein, as a “star of British local government”.

Bernstein ran the board for nearly two decades until 2017, when he was appointed to the Manchester Live board. However, its success came at a high price for the city’s poor. Not only were the assets they owned sold cheaply, but they made little money. The nine developed sites do not contain social or affordable housing, which council planners have justified with statements such as: “There is already a high level of affordable housing in the area.” The same council admitted earlier this year that nearly 4,000 city children sleep in temporary housing every night.

In the Manchester Life flats, a two-bedroom flat is a bargain at £369,000 – a price that puts it out of bounds for middle-paid full-time couples. As for the taxes, the amounts paid to the treasury seem ridiculous. One of the main subsidiaries earned more than £26m in the five years to 2021, but researchers found it paid less than £10,000 in tax – at a rate of just four pence on every £100 of income. The author quotes Manchester Life as saying that its subsidiaries “pay all UK corporation or income tax due on rental income and dividends”. However, it will not reveal how much tax you pay or how much income you have.

“It is true that New Islington and Incoats are much nicer than they were five years ago – but the big question is who has benefited from the redevelopment and who has lost. It’s hard to put hard numbers on that when so much information about Manchester Life – a business using public assets and public support with public authority – is kept strictly confidential.”

I asked the report writers to calculate how much the board could have earned from this deal. Looking at examples of land deals and other local councils, their conservative estimate is £33m, plus up to £1.7m a year in rent. Both the board and the joint venture described this amount as “speculative”. The board also said it expected more money through a surplus or profit-sharing arrangement, although it did not provide details of this agreement and it was not recorded in public records. But by comparison, £33m is more than the city pays in one year to accommodate families in temporary housing.

Presumably Sheikh Mansour knows exactly how much Manchester Life makes – and can look forward to 10 centuries of rental income from land in this great city. He seems pleased with the arrangement. A few months after Bernstein stepped down from the board, he was appointed senior strategic adviser to City Football Group, owned by Sheikh Mansour. When the author asked the council what procedures it followed in the subsequent appointment of Bernstein with such an important business partner, he got no answer.

Perhaps Manchester Life’s most beautiful development is the Morris Mill, the conversion of one of the world’s first steam-powered textile mills into flats. Located in the heart of Ancots, off Bengal Street. “My family is originally from Bengal, a region that once spun the finest textiles in the world, and muslin so soft that the French worshiped the material that was the East India Company’s gateway to the riches of South Asia.”

“Looking at these names written on the bricks, we remember how Manchester and Britain achieved its industrial wealth and its global supremacy, from slave-picked cotton and through the destruction of foreign industrial competition, to the criminalization of the sale of Indian textiles. But today it symbolizes something else: a country that celebrates its receipt of capital from other countries under the strictest terms as a victory. The difference is that the Indians had no illusions about what happened to them.”

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