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New Colours

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Michael is out of it. So I suppose it’s high time I should be out of my sulking at his departure and get re-involved in the sport I love. Time to snap out of it!

I’ve been prevaricating as to who should gain my support henceforth, the Prancing Horse has always been my favourite since I got an interest in F1 simply because of the great strides they have had when Schumi joined the team all those years ago. I didn’t know anything about F1 before then, I didn’t have much interest in cars before then for that matter, I still don’t consider myself a “petrol head”, not by a long shot, but I do enjoy the roar of the engines and the intense competitiveness of every part of an F1 team and event, and that it is not simply the driver who makes the difference, but every single part of the team that does.

The teams, especially with the new rules of engine capacities and single-source tyres this season, have not much difference between them; however, there seems to be a resurgence and shuffling between the teams technically and through their personnel too. The team grabbing the headlines as the “best improved and promising” now seems to be McLaren. I would like to think that their improvement owes a little to Bahrain in owning 30% of that team!

Is that involvement just vanity, though? Or is it based on real business cases which might benefit the country? A report in the International Herald Tribune suggests that it might be a bit of both, with more emphasis on the latter:

“It is in the non-FOne aspects of McLaren that we saw the value,” said Mohammed. “In addition to that, of course, Formula One has incredible networking opportunities and we’re already talking to a lot of the McLaren partners on helping to grow their businesses within the region, and looking at opportunities, in whatever field.”

[…]

“Our goal strategically is to capture more value within the country, create high-skilled jobs for the people,” said Mohammed. “Through McLaren and others – and McLaren is one of the key partners – it provides us access to DaimlerChrysler or other manufacturers, where we can work with them to produce components for automobiles.

This is good. Once again “the young leadership” is demonstrating that it is thinking out of the box, unrestricted by old-world methods and practices, but charging ahead putting stakes in the ground with the vision that the return on investment will be reaped in multi-faceted ways and over both medium- and long-term periods. It’s not a hit-and-run affair, but these kinds of investments are being put in place with a strategy of dragging this country by its scruff of the neck into areas we have not thought of yet: manufacturing and its support services which requires a skilled, determined and well-educated workforce. Maybe none of which is present at this particular moment, but the longer-term perspective suggests that given a chance, this is where the country is being taken by the young leadership.

What concerns most people I think is not understanding that plan. That is a failing in communication that must be fixed by the very same young leadership. In order to translate this vision, and explain their very brave non-linear plan, it must be effectively communicated to Bahrain in order for us too to take ownership stakes into the new national plans and get the opportunity to play a part in their success stories.

Most people don’t appreciate non-linear methodologies, they need held by the hand and steps explained to them in defined linear, easy-to-follow steps for them to grasp the idea. Once they do, you will probably find that they get to be fully on-board with you. If you don’t grasp a concept, it is very easy to conclude that these disparate and seemingly disconnected projects are simply put their for elitist pleasures with no immediate or medium returns to the country. And, it shouldn’t be frustration that explains these things in easy to follow concepts, but should be an integral part of the marketing plan.

I think the recent interview with the crown prince certainly dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s:

Is it fair to calculate the cost of building this circuit based on its profitability? he said.

As an example, does Bahrain Airport take into account the cost of building its infrastructure while calculating its profits? he continued.

Is the value of the agreement of the promotion for this grand event calculated as part of the loss or the profit of the organisation? he said.

Our aim is promoting Bahrain at a time when our neighbours spend tens, hundreds and even thousands of millions to promote their countries, Shaikh Salman added.

Put this way, of course it is not fair to expect profitability from such an infrastructural project – I would prefer to call it an enabling project – but he more than anyone knows that even airports the world over are operated by private enterprise where they are not only expected to make profits, but required to. So maybe another way of thinking about this enabling project should be pursued. Or at least explain the non-linearity of this project to people in a simpler way. So far, not a lot of Bahrainis are “on board”. They don’t have ownership, they simply do not understand.

I think everyone agrees too that the circuit should be run in a much more transparent manner too, and that any management infractions should be dealt with by enabling them to do their jobs unhindered, but with enough over-sight built-in so that they know that it’s not a free for all.

The public face of the circuit has always been its indefatigable general manager Martin Whitaker who is doing an excellent job. But while I hold immense respect for the gentleman and require him to do even more, the board needs to seriously think of how to get the people of Bahrain invested in that project too. I don’t think having immense advertising budgets financing banners and road-side hoardings is enough, there are other things missing that must be identified and enacted.

Maybe the buying-in into McLaren is one. The building of industrial and theme parks around the circuit is another. But even those are missing the human perspective. Bahrainis need to be involved and involved fast.

Good luck to everyone this afternoon. I hope the race goes very well for all involved.

I for one will be watching, and this time will be switching my colours to McLaren, to support not only an emerging team, but my country too!

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Perseverance

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Bahraini looking for a job plastered his certificates on his car

I got this picture in an email from a friend this morning; the picture shows a car, the significance of which is that its owner has plastered his various certificates on it, and has even put a caption on his read windshield saying “Unemployed National.”

I’m not sure how to take this; is he making a political statement or is he genuinely looking for a job?

It is creative, for sure, I’ve never a “looking for a job” done like this before; regardless, I think that the level of its effectively is lacking due to various reasons:

    1. There is no obvious telephone number to contact him to offer him a job.
    2. As he is unemployed, he’s going to be hard pushed to buy petrol to cruise around the island advertising his wares.
    3. If petrol money is not available, then people who will know about his plight are most probably of his environs, and they probably know about him anyway. Therefore this is a wasted exercise.

The saving grace of course is that he got shot simply by coincidence by a passing motorist who has emailed the pictures around. Without that particular link, the whole effort might have been wasted.

The other conclusion of course is that he is making a political statement. Which begs the question if he actually submitted his papers to the Ministry of Labour or the EDB’s employment programs and what he got out of that activity, if any, especially that the Ministry of Labour now declares that the unemployment rate in Bahrain has dropped to a very respectable 3.8%.

I hope that the guy gets a job, sincerely, as he has at least shown perseverance and has peacefully used his constitutional right to demonstrate against an issue he obviously feels very strongly about.

Good luck to the guy, whoever he is.

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Happy Easter!

Saudi Sand Storm

Sorry for the late greeting, just back from Riyadh where I was all day for a business meeting. Came back through a set of weird weather: a huge sand-storm for about 100kms from Riyadh mixed in some parts with rain! Then a lull of a couple and then into a thunder storm galore for the rest of the way to Bahrain.

Quite an interesting drive.. people did slow down a bit; they were going a little less than the speed of sound!

Anyway, happy bunny day. Leave some chocolate for another time, don’t consume everything at once!

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Billionaires

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There are 30 billionaires in the Arab world with a collective wealth worth of $125.3 billion, Forbes in its 2007 list of the world’s richest people has announced. The world’s total number of billionaires totalled 946 with a collective net worth of $3.5 trillion, a significant increase from the 2006 figures of 793 billionaires with a collective net worth of $2.6 trillion.

The 34th issue of Forbes Arabia, published in April 2007, also reports that the number of Arab billionaires increased 25 per cent in a single year, compared to a 19.3 per cent increase of billionaires worldwide, however the collective net worth of Arab billionaires only increased by 15.4 per cent, compared to a worldwide increase of 35 per cent.

Saudi Arabia offered 13 out of the 30 total billionaires, and Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud topped the Saudi rankings with a net worth exceeding $20.3 billion. Seven Arab newcomers debuted in the 2007 world’s richest list.
Bahrain Tribune

Yeah, okay. Good for them.

But, if you remove the ones from royal families or their entourage, how many would be self made?

Put another way, Bill Gates is worth fifteen Arab billionaires… does that tell you something?

Any other questions?

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Long weekend

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Happy Prophet’s birthday! May it return to us with health, happiness and remembrance of a great man.

Bahrain, once again is celebrating this auspicious day by announcing it as a holiday, but as this time it will fall on Saturday and as Saturday is already the second day of the normal weekend, public sector employees will be compensated and given Sunday too as a holiday!

Nothing new there. It’s a de facto standard.

But not so for our friends in the UAE:

The UAE Government announced in a circular today that Sunday April 1st 2007 is a working day for the Federal Ministries, according to a WAM report.

“As Saturday will be a public holiday to mark the Prophet’s birthday, Sunday will be a normal working day and there will be no compensation or extension of the holiday,” said the statement.
ArabianBusiness.com

Once again, the UAE is leading the Gulf (especially) in forging ahead and breaking with tradition. Good for them. Maybe, just maybe, this will rub on us too before too long.

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Gulf Broadcast now does video!

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Shameless plug warning!

Based on the wealth of experience gained over the last 16 years in consulting, supplying and providing services to regional and international radio and television stations and high-end production companies, we at Gulf Broadcast are proud to announce that we have now joined this illustrious group of luminaries by adding a media production capability to our repertoire of services.

We specialise in the production of documentary, promotional, instructional, and advertising videos for industrial and corporate markets and deliver final products in any format and quantity the client requests.

We have access to a number of experienced creative talent from producers, directors, cameramen, sound technicians, editors, graphics artists and of course actors, actresses and models who are available to make your production a success.

Our post-production facility is based on the premier in film and television equipment from Avid Technology. For production equipment, we match the job at hand to the best possible acquisition equipment and peripherals the shoot dictates.

The actual projects we can undertake are varied, so please do contact me to discuss any ideas you may have in this regard. Just as an example of the projects we can be involved in include the production of a documentary of the construction of a building or a whole city, we can shoot a product launch or a board meeting, a seminar or workshop, staff training or staff appreciation sessions, create a promotional video for inclusion in your promotional material provided on CD, DVD and streamed on your internet site or broadcast on television.

The projects we can be involved in are many in the industrial and corporate sectors, so do please contact me to discuss your requirements. I shall only be too happy to oblige.

Thank you very much indeed to taking the time to read this and I hope that I have not imposed too much on you with this announcement.

I look forward to be of service to you in the near future.

Spread the love guys! Let people know that my company is now available for industrial and corporate video production. Much thanks.

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Improving the Investors’ Centre

The idea of having most of the relevant government ministries or their representatives in one location where an investor might go to register a company to establish a business in Bahrain is a fantastic step. One no longer has to spend days driving from one ministry to another to get a transaction done, now all one has to do is drive to the Seef Mall, pick a number and then go from one cubicle to another to finish an application or add an activity to a commercial license.

That can be improved of course. This came to me as I spent 2 hours and 45 minutes to simply add an activity to my commercial registration! I started the process at 10:14 this morning, and by 2pm when they shut down their systems my transaction did not conclude. Admittedly, only a couple more rubber stamps remain which I hope to finish within 15 minutes tomorrow morning.

Most of that time was waiting for my turn to be announced, but once I got to the assigned desk it was a matter of seconds before that part of the transaction got concluded, which is a testament to the professionalism and the training the staff their received. The centre should most definitely be emulated in all government (and private) offices.

Some cubicles were more busy than others of course. Throughout the time I was there, there was virtually no one seeking the services of the Ministry of Health, Immigration nor the Ministry of Information’s desks and staff there were obviously under utilised. Had they been also available to render services, things would have moved a lot quicker.

Which brings me to my suggestion: people at the Investors’ Centre should be trained to do all the jobs of all of those desks and all the information from the various ministries – the parts that they need to make decisions – should be made available to them too. That means that staff should become multi-disciplined so that if an investor wants to conclude a transaction, she should be able to finish all the requirements at a single desk, without having to hope from one cubicle to another. This undoubtedly speed up the transactions process but the staff will have to be trained in all the functions and should be compensated accordingly.

I’m off tomorrow morning again to spend some time there, but I hope that I won’t have to spend the whole morning chasing papers and that my transaction will be concluded in good time.

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Mickey & Minnie coming to Bahrain!

Welcome to Bahrain, Disney World!

Al-Waqt was the only paper this morning to carry the story that Disney World might be coming to Bahrain, and a collection of investors including Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, the Kuwait Finance House and a collection of Bahraini companies and investors putting up 3 billion US$ Bahraini Dinars (US$7.95 billion) to build it over 6 years. The government of Bahrain’s equity in the deal is the provision of land, 16 million square feet of it.

The proposed location seems to be the coral reef of Fasht Al-Jarim, the once disputed location between Bahrain and Qatar which the World Court asserted Bahraini sovereignty over it. The Fasht Al-Jarim area covers about 42 million square feet, the project would cover 38% of the area. How that is going to affect the area environmentally is anyone’s guess; especially when you consider they’re proposing building a causeway to the mainland, so the damage is not going to be localised into the shrimping and fishing-rich area alone, but will affect the whole route coming back to the main island or Muharraq.

I am sure that this project will create countless opportunities for Bahrain and Bahrainis – if it in fact comes to pass – but I cannot but continue to think of the major change to Bahrain’s environment and coastlines. What are our children going to inherit?

I can’t make up my mind whether this is good or bad…

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Insisting on a wrong

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I’m curious, what makes the Muharraq governor Salman bin Hindi so adamant on insisting on a wrong? And now he’s even supported by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. What’s going on?

It just does not make sense, unless of course this is another “test balloon” being released by the government to see the reaction of people if (when) they produce laws to divide Bahrain into cantons housing specific sects and not allowing any intermingling between them.

This is not just stupid, but extremely worrying.

Why isn’t anyone responsible from government come out and immediately refute these claims and tell bin Hindi that he over-stepped his mandate? I know that a member of Al-Wefaq has tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister of the Interior in this regard, and I hope that the minister will be good enough to unequivocally answer the question, rather than pass the buck along to another ministry or department; thus, allowing this farce to continue.

We’re supposed to be one people and one country, right?

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