Traffic of a different kind

13 04 2009

Yup, Human trafficking.

Last year there was quite a lot of hulabaloo on a US State Dept report that somehow stated that our beloved law-enforcers had not done enough to stop human trafficking. Mr. Times of Oman as usual had a front-page opinionated article about that and the pros and cons of the affair were discussed, really and virtually.

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For instance, there was this news report, which is pretty representative of the general opinions raised.

Gulf countries, mentioned in the US report which accused 16 countries of human trafficking, have unanimously agreed that the information included in the human rights organizations’ reports is inconsistent. The Gulf countries stressed that they took many necessary measures in recent years to protect the rights of their citizens and those of the residents, and that their countries are always open to human rights and judicial organizations.

In Oman Sultanate, the president of the General Union of the workers Abdulaziz Bin Abbas al-Bahrani said that: “Human trafficking and forced labor do not exist in Oman, these issues do not exist at all. However, the liberties, the right to demonstrate, to strike and the freedom of worship are guaranteed to all by Omani laws.”

An annual report issued by the US Department of State the day before yesterday accused Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Burma, North Korea, Cuba, Guinea, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, The Sultanate, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Syria & Venezuela of being the worst countries in combating human trafficking.

The report included three tiers; the first tier includes the countries who comply with the minimum of US standards. The second tier includes the countries that make intensive efforts to comply with these standards while the third tier includes the countries that neglect to comply with the minimum of the US standards to fight human trafficking or to make tangible efforts to improve their records.

Either in relation to that, or independently, we saw some activity in this regard by the proper authorities. Wikipedia says:

Despite criticisms … the U.S. State Department’s 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) notes that Oman is making “significant efforts” to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking ... The Omani government has undertaken a number of positive actions to combat these challenges.

Oman has taken numerous actions to prevent human trafficking, such as increased military and police patrol of borders to prevent illegal entry into the country, increased resources to improve monitoring of maritime and land borders, and introduction of a special visa regime applicable to particular countries to “thwart the international sex trade.”[2]

In addition, Oman responded positively to the Special Rapporteur of the UN‘s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and extended an invitation for a visit in 2006.

Bilateral relations were also used with convenient sources of trafficked-humans to better improve the situation. In November, when the Indian PM was here, bilateral MoUs were signed “to check illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

On the 25th of November 2008, Royal Decree No 126/2008 was passed which increased the penalties of people convicted of human trafficking to up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 R.O. Also occurring at the same time was formation of the NCCHT (National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking headed by Lieutenant General Malik bin Sulaiman Al Ma’amari, Inspector General of the Omani police) which comes under the purview of the autonomous National Commission for Human Rights, set up in November 2008, following a clean chit given by the United States to Oman on the issue of human-trafficking.

BUT, there is something amiss here. The 2008 Human Rights report of the US State Department (which purpotedly gave us a clean chit) has again used ‘words’. And the Trafficking in Persons report for 2008 is not flattering either (~p. 67).

Now these reports are, seeimgly, not inline with what other reports have been coming out of the US. And then there are the efforts and the NCCHT and the NCHR working. But the tier graph in the TIP looks something like a waterslide to be installed at the under-construction Dubailand project.

Maybe the exit passes will help? 😦

-TFK

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Oman # 50 in NRI 2008-09 (2)

7 04 2009

Day before yesterday, I posted about Oman’s readiness in the Network Readiness Index. Today, after re-reading it at MC’s place, I started to comment. And as it often happens, the comment blossomed into this post.

50th is a good place to be, atleast overall. After all, it is a ‘Global’ survey. But there are little things that bug me. E.g. scale of things. India is 54 but look at its size. Balloon Oman to a billion people and then where do we stand? Does the report that that into account? Even if the economies of scale are not in use here, what about the economies-of-having-oil-money-and-being-a-rich-country? Similarly the fact that being 50 out of 134, if worthy of mention, will be celebrated, rather than considered a starting point to improve upon. 96% mobile penetration is good, but 13% internet penetration? Does that tell us about the user-level or Internet prices?

And then there are the highlights. Inidvidual things that make me go aargh.

(Report Consideration point followed by Oman’s ranking in that aspect out of 134)

Number of procedures to enforce a contract, 2008*: 127

We are worse-er than 126 countries when we need to enforce a contract! Does that mean our contracts are more secure since they are oh-so-whetted and checked and cross-checked? How many of you have even defended your contract in a legal battle? Isn’t the house rent contract a contract? Do I have anything in my defense? Has MM managed to stop my landlord from raising the rent from 300 to 500 rials for the same 3-bed apartment?

Availability of new telephone lines: 88

Huh?? Its 2009.

Quality of math and science education: 83

Explains why Omanis are being forced into being drivers, shopkeepers and barbers (planned).

High-speed monthly broadband subscription, 2006: 79

I was expecting worse, wishing for better.

But then there are good things:

Burden of government regulation: 7
Extent and effect of taxation: 7
Total tax rate, 2007: 11

Makes me pity my friends who were earning more in the states when they were illegal!

Residential telephone connection charge, 2006: 18

Government prioritization of ICT: 46
Gov’t procurement of advanced tech products: 22
Importance of ICT to government vision of the future: 21
E-Government Readiness Index, 2008: 76

Who they asked that from?

Makes me scratch my head, go arrgh, praise the govt. and say I-told-you-so at the same time.

-TFK





Oman # 50 in NRI 2008-09

5 04 2009

The NRI (network Readiness Index) is a ranking of market, political, regulatory and infrastructure environment; individual, business and government readiness for ICT and individual, business and government usage of ICT.

It also involves # of PCs, mobiles, information communication freedom (uh-oh), internet connectivity and other things.

Oman is ranked # 50 out of 137 countries.

The list is headed by (as usual) Denmark, Swededn and the US in 1,2,3. The whole report can be seen here (pdf).

(src: News Int)

-TFK