Inflation: Down, Reserves: Up

27 04 2009

Oman has lots ‘o’ money. Which is good, ‘coz inflation drops. And it did (bottom half). As for the budget surplus, I really can’t tell what to do with it. Medical services is one field that comes to mind. I’m still being harangued by these private medical clinics whose interest lies more in the bottom line rather than sick people. I really do think that education (specially higher and professional education), medical services and emergency/civil services are very much no-go areas for private companies. NO, at all costs. Since in these areas the quality of service provided HAS to be dependant on nothing, not something as stupid as the bottom line, comparatively. A person’s knowledge level/mental treatment, physical treatment and saving lives has no value. Private entities are going to squeeze you for it. Who can easily stop using a medicine or forego the fire brigade just ‘coz he/she can’t pay for it?

Anyhooo, we have a surplus. Maybe we can get a govt-run hospital where expats are allowed? Allowed peace of mind?

This should be apicture of a newspaper clipping!

This should be a picture of a newspaper clipping!

Menafn reports that Oman’s inflation index has decreased from 9.4% to 7.9%. They say this is due to lower prices of crops, fuel and other thingies. The break down of the General Index is interesting:

Jan 2008: 9.4%  v/s  Feb 2009: 7.9%

Jan 2009: 8.1%  v/s  Feb 2009: 7.9%

Foodstuff, soft drinks & tobacco:  -1.7%

Crops & Products to:  -2.1%

Meat & Poultry:  -1.5%

Oil & Fats:  -2%

Fisheries:  -5.3%

Milk & Products:  -2.7%

Transport & Communications Group:  -0.1%

Personal commodities & other service:  +4.9%

Textile, readymade garments, shoes, medical services & education services: +-0%

House leasing, electricity, water and fuel:  +0.2%

Furniture & Households:  +0.4%

Recreational & Cultural services:  +0.2%

Go Fish!


Omani Blogger Trial – Released

25 04 2009

Ali al-Zuwaidy has been released. Gulf News managed to get a few words out of him:

“I have mixed feelings,” Ali told Gulf News later but pledged that he would continue Blogging albeit with some more restraint.

“The judge in his judgement did say about freedom of expression but also added that it must come with responsibility and authenticity,” Ali said, adding that henceforth he would be more guarded.

At the same time, he added, he would not hesitate to criticise.

Ali said that the trial period was tough and yesterday morning before the verdict, his blood pressure went up considerably. “I am relived now and have already posted an entry on Sablat,” he revealed.

He said that he was unlikely to appeal his conviction. On his acquittal, he said he was happy that the judge exonerated him. On possibility of Omantel or Dr Al Woahibi appealing against his acquittal in the first charge, he said that he doesn’t see that happening. “Dr Al Wohaibi is no longer the Omantel CEO and I think the matter has ended here,” he reckons.

He, however, wondered about the true identity of the Blogger Booz Allen, who posted the entry accusing and criticising the Omantel CEO. “I have feeling it was some insider and close to him and with excellent IT knowledge,” he believes. The authorities’ efforts to trace his IP address led them to Berlin as the Blogger had cleverly masked his IP.

“When the post was first blocked by me I was reminded of my belief in freedom of expression by the other Bloggers and I ran it,” he says about the post that put him in prison for 11 days and had to endure the trial period.

So much for listening to others. Carry on kiddo!


Ultra-Secure Security

23 04 2009

ATMs are appearing a lot. This is good. Generally. But not when those bank people have to construct a structure just for the ATM. Why not incorporate it in a building? A standalone structure is fine where is is space and requirement and no adequate building nearby, e.g. Petrol stations. (However, even there, BM mananges to put them inside an available convenience store.)

The Khimji’s store in Wadi Kabir has one such eyesore sitting smack int he centre of the building facade. That ATM has, for security purposes, a surveillance camera pointed at the transactor. Here is how it looks like:
(sorry for the quality, it was quite dark there)

WK_KhimjiATM This thing is wrong on so many levels!

– The camera is pointed at the ATM. It sees the transactor and the transaction. Cameras are supposed to see the transactor only. Why can the bank people see my PIN number as I key it in? They already have access to my account #, personal details and other things. Only my PIN # was mine!

– Notice the wonderful security arrangements wherein the camera cable is exposed! Anyone can approach from the camera’s blind side and snippity snip. Tamper away!

– The physical placement of this ATM room is atrocious.

– Are so many lights really needed on an ATM machine?



Omani Blogger Trial – Verdict

23 04 2009

We have a verdict. As expected, no news in the local papers. As expected, the international media knows more than we do. As kinda unexpected, websites are copying the same news article (1) (2) (3) (4)etc.

Anyway, the verdict gave us mixed results. On the two counts that he was indicted on, Ali was found Not Guilty of defamation in the allowing-the-anonymous-post case. It might not be easy peasy, but it is certainly not very impossible to get hold of the anonymous poster who posted that post (eh!). But I don’t think the effort and amount of work justifies the target. He was acquitted, right.

In the 2nd, kinda into the mix mixed case of the leaked Ministers Council memo, Ali was found Guilty, albeit it was Lightly Guilty since he was fined 200 R.O and 11 days in prison. And on top of that he was allowed to walk since he has already been in gaol for 11 days previous following his arrest.

Whilst the defamation case was brought on and tried because it was a legal case filed with the Public Prosecutor’s office, the memo case was not legally filed by anyone. Or maybe it was filed in a high-level phone call. And since the Omantel CEO has left office, maybe the case was allowed to fizzle out. But a statement needs to be made about leaking memos and tryna make things transparent! What were you thinking Ali??! I was of the impression that we competed with SA and Kuwait for media freedom, but after Muscati and a review of the stories their press publishes, I stand corrected. They even can give headlines like “Woman Beheaded for Killing Hubby“.

Not much of a Hubby if you not only kill, but behead him, eh!! *shudder*

Edit: There’s a comment thread going on at Muscati’s blog. My comment has ballooned so I’ll post it fully here.

Suburban says:Words fail to describe how dissapointed I am with the government, and the MOI in particular, with this case. I really thought we were different from Saudi, Egypt and China. I fear this is the thin end of the wedge.

I don’t think so. After all, we ‘are’ talking about Oman here right. Its not as if this was some landmark human rights case where the rights of ‘journalists’ was on the line. It was more of a strict scolding from Big Brother on the little one getting out of line. “Didn’t delete the post? Make that a option next time. Leaked the memo? Bad Boy! 2 spanks on the butt”

While I’m not downplaying the importance all this holds, but you really can’t hinge rights, principles & laws on majorly (kinda) impromptu trials, sporadic trial sessions and vague ambiguous laws that are open to interpretation both ways. Obviously Big Brother is going to get the final say.

Of course, it would have been landmark & groundbreaking if we knew that no matter what Big Brother’s preferences, if the verdict based on facts was pointing against BB, it would be announced and the case decided as such.

Since I can’t go through the al-Shabiba article without crutches, moral support and a bottle of Tylenol, so I’ll just use Google Translated version here.

Before sentencing the judge said in a speech addressed to the presence of most of the writers and literary freedom of expression in the country, stressing that the laws that have been developed not to stifle freedom of expression, but to regulate [it].

Now, can someone tell me what regulation does to freely expressed speech? Stifles it? “Corrects it to be socially and morally acceptable”?

Alkiomip smile and have a lawyer at the Zweidi satisfaction of government as a victory for freedom of expression and said that this demonstrates the impartiality of the judiciary Oman.

The lawyer smiles Alkiomi that it expected the patent to the first charge and the second was expected with a conviction, noting that the judge did not disappoint them to defend it

The General of the Omani writers and literary in a statement issued yesterday that the rule of Oman through the elimination, and with full transparency, the high awareness on the Elimination of Oman and is based on the deepest understanding of the spirit of the law, and a genuine vision of the breadth of many of the texts.

Of course! Why not! Obviously!


Our North Northerly Neighbours

20 04 2009

Iran. The bad boy to the Western hemisphere. The injured and wounded but resilient, emerging and on-the-cusp-of-power  nation to its people. The country that the world is wary of. Whilst Iran has no overt friends, Pakistan, Lebanon and Syria tend to display a soft corner. But not the Arab League. But then again, Oman was represented at the Head of State session by deputy Prime Minister Oman Sayyid Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al-Said. Local coverage was also low-key.

Post-summit, diplomatic cross-linkings are going on. The Iranian FM visited us back in March. Lieutenant-General Malik bin Sulaiman Al Ma’amari, IG ROP visited Iran. The official statement noted the cooperation of both the countries in curbing illegal immigrancy.

Our ambassador in Iran then met the Iranian Deputy FM, groundwork was layed, followed up by the visit of our Minister for Foreign Affairs visiting Iran this week. He met the Iranian President and Iranian FM. Again, local papers are wary of covering this piece, instead Iranian and other news agencies are reporting on the same.

The ongoing Egyptian stand against the Hezbullah is something over the top for the region. Egypt’s miniscule, but far-reaching activities, like closing the border, allowing/disallowing refugees, prohibiting imprmput markets along its borders etc etc are like small squeezes and nuances in the diplomacy and internally (within Arab League) varied levels of support for the Palestinian cause. Iran, of course, retaliated.

Bu now we see SA being its usual self, aloof. Egypt tried to make a move, but currently nothing is coming out of it. Iran; I get a mental image of an Australian rugby player; continues on it’s path. Obama is reconciling and I think the American/Iranian journalist could be freed in a reciprocal manner being the Iranian reply to Obama’s green signals, that is, IF Iran wants to give a green signal. Oman, doing good in its own way in this matter. After all, with all due respect, our North Northerly Neighbours better than our Notherly ones.

-The Fark Knight


19 04 2009

Happy Birthday to Me.

pic_12343280402075For some odd reason I feel melancholy. Birthdays (for me atleast) are a boisterous affair, with me actually calling up my friends and asking them what they are getting me! I even suggest things when there is a chance of a clash or a repetition of gifts.

Yesterday, at the stroke of 12, I got a Most Wonderful gift from dearest Wifey (or is it Honey? as opposed to Hubby). Made me realize how lucky I am, how lucky I shall be. Talking to her, enjoying the not-so-warm breeze that was blowing at around 2am-ish, I had an epiphany that I had all the tools and pieces to die a happy man. It is just a matter of arranging them so.

May God Bless all those who have a part, no matter how tiny in making me what I am.praying-girl

May God Bless all those who shall have a part in making me what I shall be. What shall not kill me will only make me stronger.

May God Bless my Parents.

May God have mercy on my ancestors.

My Wife Rocks! God Bless Her.


Just Noticed…

16 04 2009

This is not new news, maybe a new review of an old news, but still not new, just something I noticed now. Better late than ever, eh.

This site has an article that is pretty pointed about the Doha Summit that took place recently. Whilst I shall not comment on the other things, this statement strikes me as pretty odd:

This year’s Arab League summit meeting, held in Doha, capital of Qatar, was intended to promote Inter-Arab reconciliation following Israel’s violent invasion of Gaza at the end of last year. A united front was also sought to take a stand against the spread of Shi’ism sponsored by Iran.

Huh?! A united front against spread of Shi’ism? Why? Is religious freedom wrong on an Arab level now? Or is it just that Shi’ites are a particularly nasty brand of  species? Searching for appropriate texts on the Doha Summit, I could not find any news that corroborates this statement. Of course, I could go and try and read through the transcript of the meeting, but not now.

Still, are such things still discussed at head of state level meetings? “Oil, Economy, Israel, and oh yeah, lets also do something about this 15% of the population”. Okay, our brotherly northerly neighbours have had an official stance against these people. Saddam also officially took offence. Persecution of Shi’ites is nothing new, but still.

*shaking head in wonder*