Like most of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is suspected of underpaying its workers and otherwise mistreating them. Human Rights Watch and scores of other non-government organizations keep busy detailing the abuse of migrant construction workers in the region.
Governments there do all they can to keep foreign organizations from studying the construction sites; police ban every journalist who sets out to interview workers. Commonplace headlines keep appearing along the lines of “Domestic Workers Trapped, Exploited and Abused in the UAE,” but they tend to be quickly forgotten.
By all accounts the workers (most of them from south Asia) are among the wretched of the earth. They are there to send money home for their families, which means there’s no chance to build savings. Just to get the job many go into debt at the beginning for a recruitment fee of about USD $2,000. They can’t leave till they pay it back, which makes them prisoners. They find that police take only one side, the employer’s.
The involvement of Gulf states in cultural enterprises and the welcome they get from institutions in the West raise moral questions. Should museums collaborate with the dubious practices of Gulf government? Should artists?I would answer no to both questions, but it is clear, to paraphrase a familiar line, that "money corrupts, and Gulf state oil money corrupts absolutely."