Tag Archives government

Ministry of Information no more?

Posted on

According to this, it looks like the good lady has had her way.

The Ministry of Information & Culture neé Ministry of Information has now transformed into the Ministry of Culture with the information part devolved into an authority under the leadership of Shaikh Fawaz Al-Khalifa, the ex president of GOYS. Shaikh Fawaz will also inherit the main departments of the erstwhile MoI: Radio & TV, Artistic affairs (?), Foreign Press, the Bahrain News Agency and Press & Publications subdivided under new sections headed by assigned director generals. Although not named yet, if these DGs are the old undersecretaries (who effectively ran the ministry) then we can safely say that no real change will be forthcoming. Sites will remain to be blocked and the freedom of information will continue to be at their whims.

But, let’s wait a few weeks to find out how the chips will fall in that erstwhile ministry.

Another thing which will be closely watched by those inside and outside BRTC; however, is what will happen to those very highly paid Lebanese “experts” who were inducted in droves by Shaikha Mai Al-Khalifa at the complete chagrin of everyone there. Will they remain in their vaulted towers to continue to dictate how “the locals” run their affairs by forcing in obsolete and expensive methods and incomprehensible technologies at odds with the broadcasting world norms, or will they, like her excellency be given the boot?


Pigs Flu Jabs Inaugurated in Bahrain with Minister

The Minister of Health was the first to receive the H1N1 vaccine in Bahrain yesterday
The Minister of Health was the first to receive the H1N1 vaccine in Bahrain yesterday

As the caption says, our Minister of Health Dr. Faisal Al-Hamer together with top “influencers” including businessman Farouq Al-Moayyed, ex-MoH undersecretary Abdulaziz Hamza and a bevy of other personages too were the first to be given the H1N1 vaccine in Bahrain. About 200 according to this piece from Al-Wasat this morning:

دشّن وزير الصحة فيصل الحمر أمس لقاح انفلونزا الخنازير في مركز حمد كانو الصحي بحضور وكلاء الوزارة تحت شعار «التزامك بلقاح H1N1 يحمي أسرتك».

وكان أول المطعمين خلال التدشين كل من الوزير ووكيل الوزارة السابق عبدالعزيز حمزة ومسئولي وزارة الصحة ووكلاء الوزارات الأخرى وصاحب الأعمال فاروق المؤيد وعالم الفلك وهيب الناصر، وبلغ إجمالي المطعمين خلال التدشين أكثر من 200 شخص من بينهم عدد من الأطفال.

وقال الوزير الحمر في كلمته «بلغ مجموع حالات الإصابة بانفلونزا الخنازير المثبتة مختبريا في البحرين 888 إصابة حتى الرابع من نوفمبر/ تشرين الثاني الجاري من أصل 3074 حالة تم اختبارها، وبلغ مجموع الحالات ذات الأعراض الشبيهة بالانفلونزا 15 ألف حالة، وسجلت البحرين ثمان وفيات من جراء المرض من بينها أربع حالات لمواطنين، وحرصا من الوزارة على سلامة المجتمع كافة تم التعاقد مع كبار الشركات المصنعة لاستيراد مليون جرعة من لقاح انفلونزا الخنازير ستصل على دفعات».
Al-Wasat – 8 Nov 09

GDN version here (English)

The minister also confirmed that we have 888 cases of proven H1N1 cases in Bahrain resulting in 8 deaths out of a suspected pool of 15,000 cases out of which his ministry tested 3,074 in the lab. The common lore suggests multiples of that actual figure of course, but who’s counting? They want to jab-happy the whole population.

Our friend Alia Al-Moayed – a known nutritionist and health expert – doesn’t support this jab-happy approach. She was actually reprimanded (and threatened to have her license revoked) by the same ministry for “spreading untruths and panic” to her suggestion to the adoption of the healthier lifestyle as a natural antidote to this Swine flu malarky. I’ll call them somehow getting one of her uncles to be jabbed right after the minister a simple coincidence.

Regardless though, I’m not really interested in either point of view. I’ve heard enough now to be completely confused. For the moment; however, I’ll defer to the side of Alia than I would with Faisal.

Now, with that, I shall declare a little Mtv-style competition open and that is for the best caption on the picture above – not sure what I’ll offer as a present though, maybe to try to get the winner to the top of the queue for a jab? 🙂

Have at it guys!


Shame – 20% of Bahrainis are under the poverty line

Shame – 20% of Bahrainis are under the poverty line

"High Costs Aid" benefiting 98,000 Bahrainis press announcement
High Costs Aid benefiting 98,000 Bahrainis press announcement

In a country that is awash with multi-billion dollar projects and where these kinds of projects are announced almost on a daily basis, we get a front page snippet advising us that 98,000 individuals in Bahrain – most of them probably representing a family each – will be receiving a monthly stipend of BD50 (US$132) from the government as an aid to allay the effects of sky-rocketing prices of basic goods and services in this country.

Can you believe this? What is this country coming to? Isn’t the government responsible to every one of its citizens to provide them with adequate housing and jobs as is enshrined in the constitution? What does it mean when we are faced with pictures such as this in the national papers?

Bahraini woman looking through the trash in the mid-day heat
Bahraini woman looking through the trash in the mid-day heat

Is this picture not a resounding notice of the abject failure of the government in its various duties? And are these alms they are giving fully one fifth of our Bahraini population – most of them indigenous I should think – enough to raise their standard of living and allow them to surmount the poverty line they have been living under?

Things like this and the various “makramahs” or Royal Gifts, although very welcome I am sure, should never be the modus operandi of a government. It surely should enshrine and inculcate basic rights to its citizens and be prepared to be held responsible for failures such as this. Giving out a stipend such as this should not absolve it of its basic responsibilities.


Shaking up BRTC

Posted on

The employees at the TV station are threatening a strike tomorrow and if that doesn’t get their demands, they’re threatening an en mass resignation. They’re not happy with the new BRTC CEO Ahmed Najem.

I suggest to our good friends at that illustrious institutions to forgo the first threat in their due process and just go directly to the second. I am sure that I can get another friend to come in with a pickup truck and transport the newly destitute to their various abodes, free of charge.

But destitute they aren’t. A little birdie tells me that quite a number of them became fat cats; suckling at that milch cow with abandon.

For instance, some of the production personnel have reportedly sprouted well-equipped home studios using pirated software on cheap enough computers where they habitually receive conveniently farmed out jobs in order for the poor souls to supplement their unsubstantial stipend.

Ahmed Najim, BRTC\'s new CEO
Ahmed Najim, BRTC's new CEO
They’ve apparently become quite innovative in surmounting the unusually high cost of acquisition and playback production equipment by utilising the station’s own; at the same time demonstrating their sheer technological advancement by simply shooting material then digitising it using the station’s own editing systems directly into external hard disks which they then take home to edit the program. When the time comes to lay their edited material back out to tape again, they simply bring back that external disk and output it through the TV’s expensive tape machines and Bob’s your uncle!

Other less technologically aware – but equally industrious – individuals won’t be crowded out at the trough. Those apparently simply farm out whole jobs to judiciously selected production and post-production houses for which their efforts would be amply rewarded.

So it doesn’t surprise me one iota to read the following in this morning’s Alwaqt newspaper:

علمت ”الوقت” أن عدداً من موظفي هيئة الإذاعة والتلفزيون يعتزمون تنظيم اعتصام صباح غد الاثنين وذلك احتجاجاً على قرارات الرئيس التنفيذي للهيئة أحمد نجم، وقال مصدر فضل عدم الكشف عن اسمه ”إن الاعتصام قائم. إلا إذا تم فتح قنوات للحوار، حيث يأتي هذا الاعتصام كحق طبيعي نمارسه للتعبير عن مواقفنا”.
وأضاف المصدر ”هناك امتعاض من الأسلوب الذي نعامل به، التلفزيون والإذاعة من صنع هؤلاء الموظفين الذين أمضوا حياتهم داخل أروقة الهيئة، وفي حال عدم استجابة المسؤولــين لنا، سنضطــر آسفين إلى تقديم استقالات جماعية في القريب العاجل”.

Alwaqt Newspaper

Who wouldn’t fight tooth and nail to keep a personal milch cow amilkin’?

Well done Ahmed Najem (and the minister who selected you for the job). Go forth and conquer. What a wonderful feeling it is to have a clean site unhindered by dead wood and avaricious dead-beats whose only reason to be in that edifice in the first place was to have known – or been related to – the right person!

It is high time that both Bahrain’s radio and television stations regain their senses and output something that we can both be proud of and want to watch of our own volition.


The government’s solution to sectarianism

Posted on

bombIs to create a over-sight commission headed by the Minister of Interior and includes representatives from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Information to oversee whatever is published in the papers or electronic websites as well as whatever is said in the Friday sermons, and if any is found to be sectarian motivated, well, the news report doesn’t specify the punishment.

On the other side, the public was invited to sign a petition and a code of ethics promulgated by the liberal National Action Democratic Society (Waad) against sectarianism. A 100 signatories already penned their name on the document which will also be available as an electronic petition for the rest of the public to sign, should they wish.

That’s it. The problem is solved now. We can rest and recuperate.

But wait. I am really uncomfortable with the government’s solution as I don’t think it will really achieve anything as they simply do not have the required credibility with those named for the committee already have been noted in that “nefarious report.” And as the government itself does not recognise the existence of the Bandargate scandal, let alone acknowledge its central theme of systematic marginalisation and discrimination against those who constitute the majority of this country’s citizenry. I fear that they will use this committee to justify further spying and to hatch more nefarious schemes. I might be too pessimistic, so forgive me if you feel my suspicions a bit over the top.

The second thing is this petition; while it is a much thanked for step in its sincerity, but just like the much respected “Code of Ethics against Sectarianism in the Press” which was signed by the vast majority of journalists and their publishers, we have not witnessed any reduction of such discriminatory poison in the press – generally – on the contrary, we have seen a clear increase in the dissemination of hatred perpetrated by at least one paper which has mitigated the latest mass demonstrations we saw last week, which in turn prompted these steps by the government and society.

So what’s the solution in my view then? Well, I don’t think that anything will work unless there is a clear and comprehensive anti-discrimination law which punishes anyone and everyone who practices any form of prejudice which is against human values, ones which this government has already accepted and signed in international treaties.

Signing papers and forming committees just don’t cut it any more. In my humble opinion.


Collective punishments

Posted on

There are a few things that suggest that our society is in a desperate state. The indicators are probably best exemplified by the exclusionary standards our parliamentarians and their electorate take. Both are quick to condemn whole peoples, nations and even civilizations due to isolated incidents without taking one second to reflect on our own shortcomings and our non-exclusive ownership of basic human values.

Some might attribute this collective psyche as a result of the insular lifestyle attributed to island communities, but the irony is that people of these islands until very recently were an awful lot more tolerant and receptive to other cultures than its current breed is.

What happened? Why is it that the more open to the world they get the more insecure they become? What could explain this other than in terms of a severe inferiority complex?

If you talk to Bahrainis fortunate enough to have lived in the 70s and before, they will categorically tell you that they have never experienced anything like this, they will confirm that they didn’t give their neighbour’s race or religion much importance. They will further tell you that they habitually interacted with each other in various ways; they visited, conducted business and even fought the British occupation together by forming and maintaining a cohesive multi-cultural front that crossed confessional divides. The common denominator was their Bahraininess which surpassed every other consideration. They celebrated their differences, rather than diligently work at finding the chinks to exploit in each others’ armor.

The stark contrast between that era and now could not be more evident. What we now have is an acutely insular society with impenetrable walls propped up by suspicion and hatred of the other. This “us and them” atmosphere is condoned by the government – regardless of how many denials we hear from their higher echelons – evidenced by the selective employment policies, the conditional awards of constitutionally guaranteed citizen benefits and the disparity in economic circumstance.

It has unfortunately become our way of life. So much is this in evidence, it is no wonder to witness the parliamentarians’ reactions; whether it be the condoning of the use of chemical weapons against their own society simply because in the current state of affairs demonstrations are mounted by the opposing sect, or their continued theft of their electorate’s personal freedoms or even their demand to expel and ban whole countries’ nationals due to the isolated incidences of the few.

We are all shocked and saddened by the unfortunate and violent recent demise of Mr. Dossary, as we are of Mr. Abbas Alshakhoori and the others who have fallen victims of unusual circumstances, but those incidents, painful as they are, hardly illicit the demand for the application of the collective punishment demanded by a major political society. Identify and punish the criminals by all means and make examples of them by fairly and fully applying the law, but those incidents should never be allowed to colour our psyche to the extent that we allow our own elected representatives to exercise their myopic beliefs without even a smidgeon of objection. And it is even worse when the government itself acts in such an unwarranted and unstudied kneejerk reaction as to impose such a ban on its own recognizance without any regard for its international obligations or even basic diplomacy.

Let us remind them that their role is to ameliorate differences and protect the national unity, and not diligently and wantonly work at exacerbating them. The demand to expel and ban Bangladeshis because of the unfortunate result of a single person’s moment of anger is tantamount to our agreement to the entrenchment and even encoding xenophobia as our main Bahraini trait.


M.Report – S01E04

In this one, I introduce my initial experience with Zain, my new broadband supplier, I talk about the government’s decision to rescinds its order requiring decent transport to be provided to workers and Filbert makes an appearance!


The Handouts Culture intensifies

Posted on

I think I am like a lot of people who cringe every time I feel that people are just getting handouts; regardless if those handouts are actually deserved, the act itself is demeaning, especially in an area of the world which is supposed to be rich. Alas, it seems that I am in a minority in this feeling as it has not only become the norm, but government, parliament, and society regularly just dish out money as the panacea to all poverty ills. Not many of those giving stop for a while and consider that it probably is best if they at least got the people receiving the largess could at least be made to feel that they earned it.

Yes, I know that to the poor, ego might take a backseat to the normal drudge of existence, but the government and parliament have become so blazé, even blatantly so, in their “giving”.

Two headlines made me cringe in today’s papers; the first is the intention of MPs to open “supermarkets for the poor” in which subsidised foodstuff will be sold and the second is MPs again want to give the Ministry of Social Development BD5 million ($13.2m) to help it cover paying the extra 3,000 needy families whom were added to its rolls of the poor over the last two years, although the minister only asked for BD3.5m ($9.25m), I guess they want to demonstrate their generosity.

The reasons for my cringing in the first instance is that there are proven methods in which the poor are assisted in various societies around the world, one of those methods is a food stamps program in which the needy are given stamps or cards which they can use in any market to help them buy their foods. The vendors then redeem those stamps with a government agency. That program obviously is not free of criticism, but the fact remains that it negates the need for the establishment of “poor shops” which could very well be abused (as could the stamps program, I know) and also allows for the provision of unified prices for foodstuffs which are subsidised only to those deserving that subsidy. I have no idea why our MPs and the Ministry of Social Development ignored this tried and tested method of helping those in need.

The other instance of course is the seemingly willy-nilly way in which parliament is handling the national budget. Here, a party asks for a specific studied budget for one of its programs and we find that for inexplicable practical reasons the parliament – whose one of its main roles is the protection of public funds – gives out additional 30% for no reason whatsoever! What guardianship of public funds is this?

Further, in the report referred above, no one seems to have asked the very important question of why in this age of economic boom do we have 3,000 families descending into poverty?

Maybe I should send them a link to explain to them in simple terms what their agenda should be to combat poverty:

5 factors of povertyThe simple transfer of funds, even if it is to the victims of poverty, will not eradicate or reduce poverty. It will merely alleviate the symptoms of poverty in the short run. It is not a durable solution. Poverty as a social problem calls for a social solution. That solution is the clear, conscious and deliberate removal of the big five factors of poverty.