People and Business: Camel racing is a winner for Tarmac

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The Independent Online
BUILDING CAMEL racetracks is set to become a big revenue earner for Sir Neville Simms' Tarmac. The British contractor is just putting the finishing touches to a state-of-the art track, 23 kilometres long, just outside the city of Dubai.

Apparently the appeal of watching up to 30 camels ridden by teenage jockeys romping around a track is growing fast in the Middle-east. The sport also has a loyal following in Australia and the US, according to a Tarmac spokesman.

More than 200 workmen from the Al Futtaim Tarmac team have spent three months levelling hundreds of sand dunes and shifting half a million cubic metres of sand to create the track on behalf of the national cultural heritage department of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.

So, any chance of camel racing replacing the 2.30 at Kempton Park back home, I ask? "I don't know about that," said a Tarmac spokesman at its West Midlands head office.

"Although it looks like there are already a couple of camels running at the Wolverhampton races."

ALAN GREENSPAN's visit to Hong Kong for a central bankers' conference got off to an acrimonious start yesterday as local critics of the government questioned why the chairman of the US Federal Reserve gets paid less than a quarter of his Hong Kong equivalent.

Mr Greenspan gets $137,600 (pounds 83,394) a year. Joseph Yam, head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, trousers over US$1m (pounds 606,000) a year.

Yet while Mr Greenspan is responsible for the health of the world's largest economy - and indirectly the whole world economy - Mr Yam oversees the almost automatic Hong Kong currency board system that merely pegs the local dollar to the US dollar.

"Yam makes seven-times Greenspan's salary. It's ridiculous," said Sin- ming Shaw, a columnist and one of the few Hong Kong people ever to raise the issue publicly. Mr Shaw, head of Shaw Investments, thinks Hong Kong people are reluctant to offend so powerful a figure as the monetary chief.

By comparison, Eddie George at our own Bank of England struggles by on pounds 227,000 a year. Wim Duisenberg's reward for being president of the European Central Bank has not yet been made public. Perhaps Mr Yam should copy the European Union's example and keep vulgar topics like top people's pay under wraps.

A VETERAN of British Leyland's worst years of strikes and union mayhem in the early 1970s has been appointed to run Europe's most productive car plant.

John Cushnaghan is succeeding Sir Ian Gibson as managing director of Nissan's Sunderland plant. Mr Cushnaghan served as senior industrial relations officer at the Cowley assembly plant in 1974 before becoming one of the Japanese company's first British recruits in 1984.

The Widnes born and educated rugby fanatic recalls there were several strikes while he was manning the front line at Cowley, a job he got as "part of my management training". "It was a time when industrial relations at Leyland plants were at an all-time low," he says.

When he joined Nissan with Sir Ian, however, they were given "a blank sheet of paper. There was going to be absolutely zero demarcation - everything was going to be flexible," he says.

Outside work he is a rugby nut, having played scrum half for Widnes Rugby Union Club - "although that's a long time ago now," he sighs. Like British Leyland.

ERIC BARNES, joint deputy chairman of Great Universal Stores (GUS), the home shopping and Argos giant, has joined the board of Nottingham Forest.

Mr Barnes, 66, lives in the Nottingham area and is head of Experian, GUS's information services arm, which is also based in the city. Mr Barnes will be helping the club's manager Ron Atkinson in his attempt to lift Forest from the bottom place in the English Premiership.