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Kuwait’s ‘special’ public sector 30, August 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait.
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The General Inspection and Control Department of the Interior Ministry has reportedly summoned a police officer — a Lieutenant Colonel — for receiving his monthly salary on a regular basis although he has been absent from work for 18 months.

Is anyone surprised? Anyone? No; thought not. Just checking.

Saudi’s economic problems 30, August 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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While in Carrefour this week standing at the checkout there was a burkad up woman in front of me with her 10-ish year old child. For seemingly no reason other than boredom (the queue was taking ages) the girl started to cry those pathetic, ‘I can’t really be bothered to put my all into it, I just want some attention’ type of crocodile tears. Any parents, those with experience of younger siblings or ten year old children will know what I’m on about.

In response, the mother thrust a Galaxy chocolate bar into the little girl’s hand: she continued to cry. A second Galaxy bar was offered: no dice. Then a king size Lion bar and a Galaxy chocolate drink carton were offered. A moment of indecision swept across the little girl’s face: should she relinquish here clearly superior bargaining position for just two Galazy bars, one king sized Lion bar and a Galaxy drink, or ought she push straight onwards and upwards…a kilogram or two of Cadbury’s, a gallon of Coke, a hectare of Choco-Choco Puffs or a Porsche Cayenne…clearly it was all within her reach. But, magnanimous in her humiliation victory, she accepted her bounty, the non existent tears stopped welling and a brooding scowl resumed its place.

This atrocious parenting (yes, I said it) is a mirror image of Saudi Arabia’s recent policies. In its desperate desire to appease the youth (in particular) in the Kingdom, the government has given out all the Galaxy and Lion bars in the land. Hunger sated for the moment and the restlesness in the Kingdom subsided.

But just as the parent in Carrefour will likely be reaping the whirlwind of such short-termist decisions for years to come, again, so too it is the same for Saudi. Indeed, the headline grabbing snippet from a recent article in Foreign Policy notes that Saudi will need an oil price of $320 per barrel of oil by 2030 if its ever more distended budget is to be balanced.

Aside from this acutely alarmist and selacious figure, the article is full of interesting snippets suggesting just how screwed the Kingdom is challenging the coming years will be.

  • Government spending now rising at 10% per year
  • Add to this the great $130bn giveaway of 2011
  • Funding the counterrevolutions around the Middle East – many billions
  • 1/3 of budget spent on defence – rise versus the supposed growing Iranian threat?
  • A crushing growth in domestic oil demand
  • “One of the world’s least energy-efficient economies”
  • OPEC competition from a revatilising Iraq, a post-revolutionary Libya and possibly Venezuela
  • The growing spectre of non-OPEC oil supply growing

The good news is that these problems coming home to roost are some way off. If Saudi Arabia takes bold and decisive action now, it may well be able to find a suitable and sustainable long-term footing. The bad news is that this will never ever happen. So the Kingdom will rumble on, spending ever more wildly beyond its means until it eventually tries to chronically hike up the price of oil. When this fails or forces meaningful diversification (of supply or from oil) then one needn’t be a savant with clairvoyant talents to work out just how bitterly the powers that be will root for their own survival.

Hat tip: Abstract JK




The Arab Spring Map 29, August 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ (even if the author doesn’t know much about Qatar and Abu Dhabi).

Hat tip: Mike Stephens

Author: alphadesigner

Arab sentiment towards Iran 28, August 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran.
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For some time now I’ve waffled on about Arab views towards Iran (x x x). Fear not, I’ll not bore you again with the same old stuff.

However, I have stumbled across what is perhaps the perfect cliché of ‘Arab’ sentiment towards Iran.

Not for one second would I say something as daft as ‘all Arabs’ view Iran in this way. Those on this side of the Gulf are, needless to say, on a spectrum ranging from those that are aware of, for example, the lack of evidence of Iranian perfidy in Bahrain to those on the more lunatic fringe as perfectly encapsulated by Khalif Al Habtoor’s sentiments.

Where exactly most locals on this side of the Gulf are located is, of course, the million dollar question. The best that I can do is to lackadaisically and imprecisely note that most people, in my humble estimation, lie somewhat nearer Habtoor than not. Should anyone have any mystical way to quantify this unquantifiable issue, do let me know; it would be most appreciated.

Hat tip: AS

On Iran and the GCC 22, August 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain, Iran.
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The Guardian have published an article of mine on the GCC fixation with Iran. Despite a bit of butchery with the editing robbing my opening sentence of its mojo, it is still, I feel, worth a read!

Human Rights logo 17, August 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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An international competition is currently underway to design a symbol which is hoped to become the internationally recognized symbol for human rights.

Think of peace or CND, for example, and this sign is synonymous.

Yet human rights has no such  automatic association. To attempt to devise such a universally recognized symbol for human rights seems, to me, to be a rather dignified and noble aim. Have a squizz at the website and judge for yourself which are the best ones thus far and get voting.

On Japan 16, August 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Japan.
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So I’ve just returned to sunny Doha from two wonderful honeymooning weeks in Japan.

From Tokyo to Osaka via Mount Fuji, Kyoto, Nara, Koyasan and Hiroshima. Needless to say, it was all super stuff. Here’s a quick list of probably pointless observations gleaned and dragged back from near-forgetfulness for your perusal.

Tokyo: what a place. I am an exceedingly big fan of sprawling, noisy (Asian) cities and Tokyo clearly is the daddy of them all. Aside from the typical variety of typical reactions to it (busyness, oddness in places, etc) my overarching thought was that it was awesomely noisy with Cicada-type bugs. They make a helluva a racket: Tokyo’s theme tune for me.

Fuji: easy (ish) getting up; a bitch going down (when you go the wrong way…). But I saw my first sunrise and it was wholly stunning.

Hiroshima on the 6th August: quite a moment to be there, on the anniversary. A carnival of peace atmosphere and a beautiful ceremony setting adrift thousands of little boat-cum-lanterns in the evening for those that died. At a gallery where survivors talked about their experiences, the chap who noted that what happened to Hiroshima was a terrible thing but ‘Japan too did terrible things during the war’ was the very personification of dignity and humility.

Kyoto: Temples and more temples and more temples and more temples and more temples. ‘Scuse me if I’m a pleb (which I surely am) but…well, clearly they’re stunning (golden one and an orange one in particular), but…well…seen one…

Nara: largest/oldest wooden structure still around: ’nuff said. Seen to be believed.

Koyasan: there for the 13th – Obon – the festival of the dead. In an amazingly atmospheric cemetery which was the perfect cross between Sherwood forest (i.e. all Robin Hood and that) and that Ewok planet, there were thousands of candles lit for the souls of the dead. Very beautiful. Trumped, however, by the temple of 10,000 lanterns, a fairly self-explanatory temple/building that is quite probably the single most stunningly beautiful and impressive sight that I’ve ever seen.

Osaka: can’t beat a huge Asian city.

– Food: wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Though beef, sushi and especially tempura is now, of course, ruined forever more. Or until I return.

Conclusion: visit Japan.