Tag Archives government

It’s coming…

Bahraini smart identity card

Regardless of anyone’s apprehensions regarding the Smart Card, the PR machine in its regard has been accelerated of late to shove it down our throats with various PR pieces and laws as well as whole governmental divisions being enacted.

How is all of this going to affect us in Bahrain is anyone’s guess. My private guess is that it is going to be detrimental to our freedom – at best. Not because the card itself is a bad idea, not at all, things are moving in that direction the world over anyway. It’s failure in Bahrain is the almost complete absence of its supporters simply because of the people who have been assigned to oversee it, and the clandestine organisation that is pushing it.

No project can succeed if it lacks the basic necessity of trust. This one, for all the potential good that it can otherwise bring, is destined to doom. Bahrainis simply lack the necessary trust to make it successful. Oh they will go and get that card issued, to be sure, because as we have seen with the CPR card that preceded it, no earthly transaction could be completed in this country without it.

What’s left to do but tell those who care to simply “brace brace brace” as this thing will come crashing down, or at least will never reach its full potential.

Unless of course full transparency is adopted and those who have hijacked this project for nefarious deeds are removed.

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Making sense of nonsense

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Whenever I feel down, out of sorts, bored, whatever, and I need a lift-me-up boost, the Bahrain News Agency never fails to provide a copious amount of fun!

Like this:

CLAMP ON BOGUS COMPANIES
MANAMA, AUGUST 12 (BNA) — A COMPANY REPRESENTING BOGUS COMPANIES IN BAHRAIN THAT PROVIDE SERVICES OVER THE INTERNET HAS BEEN CLAMPED ON BY THE INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE MINISTRY IN COOPERATION WITH THE CENTRAL BANK OF BAHRAIN (CBB).
THESE UNLICENSED BOGUS COMPANIES USED THE BAHRAIN-BASED COMPANY AS A CENTRE FOR COMMUNICATIONS, A MINISTRY STATEMENT SAID. INQUIRIES BY REPRESENTATIVES OF THE MINISTRY AND THE CBB SHOWED THAT THE COMPANY PROMOTED FOR 13 BOGUS COMPANIES WITH FINANCIAL, COMMERCIAL AND INVESTMENT ACTIVITIES THAT REQUIRED LICENSING FROM THE CBB, IT SAID. THESE COMPANIES ARE A THREAT TO THE RIGHTS OF CLIENTS AND THE STATUS AND REPUTATION OF BAHRAIN, THE STATEMENT ADDED. THE MINISTRY WARNED CITIZENS AND RESIDENTS AGAINST DEALING WITH SUCH COMPANIES AND URGED THEM TO PROVIDE AUTHORITIES WITH ANY INFORMATION THAT COULD LIMIT THEIR SPREAD.
bna – 12 Aug, ’07

If your head is not spinning yet from the ALL CAPS or the not-so-important fact of making no head nor tail of the above bit of news, then you should really quit drinking and flush that joint and start concentrating.

My take on this is that the Central Bank was caught with it’s collective pants down; they licensed a company which probably went bankrupt but stashed a whole load of cash in their own untouchable accounts and left all the investors struggling for breath and to fend for themselves against creditors or with worthless paper.

THE CBB SHOWED THAT THE COMPANY PROMOTED FOR 13 BOGUS COMPANIES WITH FINANCIAL, COMMERCIAL AND INVESTMENT ACTIVITIES THAT REQUIRED LICENSING FROM THE CBB

And the CBB has the temerity of “protecting the face” of those companies by not naming them? Because, ehm, we don’t do that sort of thing. Haram wallah, a shame and it should be hushed as it might be construed that we are going “against national norms” and all that sort of thing. Brilliant.

THESE COMPANIES ARE A THREAT TO THE RIGHTS OF CLIENTS AND THE STATUS AND REPUTATION OF BAHRAIN

I read this as covering the tracks of the thieves and who would do that unless that old idiom “thick as thieves” stands true in this situation?

THE MINISTRY WARNED CITIZENS AND RESIDENTS AGAINST DEALING WITH SUCH COMPANIES AND URGED THEM TO PROVIDE AUTHORITIES WITH ANY INFORMATION THAT COULD LIMIT THEIR SPREAD.

Ah, I get it now. The government is encouraging us citizens to sharpen our divination skills in telling fortunes and reading coffee sludge as well as the art of Advanced Government Gobbledigook Interpretation in order to ascertain and divine the names of the companies and individuals involved. So if we fall into their traps again, who is to be blamed other than ourselves? The government after all has made it amply clear that we should not deal with these unnamed bogus companies.

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The results of accountability surfacing?

Chapter 1:

A botched up series of events starting with an inaccurate call to the emergency line alerting an operator that a woman was in trouble and needs immediate medical help led to a delay in dispatching an ambulance to the concerned area.

Ultimately, it took the medical emergency personnel to arrive three hours after the initial call, but only after another doctor intervened and personally called a resident doctor in the Emergency Department at Samaniya Medical Centre.

But it was too late. Ms. Nalli Mariamma died.

Her body was also left unattended for another hour after she was pronounced dead by the medical personnel after which they left the area and the police investigation department who were then the responsible government organ to take possession of the body took another hour to arrive to claim the body.

Such is the respect of our various government departments for human dignity.

Alas, we can look at the positives in this regard in that a report has now been published by the medical authorities and real changes have been undertaken as a direct result of this botch-up. The report just released now carry adopted recommendations that ambulances should immediately be dispatched to the general area they are required and the dispatcher will continue to try to ascertain exact addresses and inform the ambulance driver of that address once known. As Bahrain is rather small, it is hoped that even without a precise address, people will guide the ambulance to where their services are required. All in all, this will allow – I hope – a faster response time which might save some lives.

I also hope that another thing that the report apparently did not consider should be done about inter-governmental communication, especially between emergency and police services. Or is that what the much talked about “Emergency Response Centre” is supposed to do? If it is, then why wasn’t it involved?

Further, if I may suggest, the authorities should bring out and severely action a law which immediately fines/imprisons all those inconsiderate drivers who do not immediately get out of the ambulances and fire engines’ way as well as those who take the chance of those vehicles passing to chase after them at a rate of knots because the way is now open!

In any case, something good has come out of this situation; so thank you Ms. Mariamma, your life – we hope – has not expired in vain.

Chapter 2:

humaidan-aali-papers.jpg

Some reportedly already entered papers into the Ministry of Labour’s computers have been improperly disposed off. The story is still sketchy but it appears that a driver was given a bunch of reams of unemployed people’s application forms to take to a storage depot in Hamad Town but on arrival at the destination they were refused to be received because of improper paperwork. Acting on his own recognisance and switching on his immense creative genes, he decided to dump those papers in a garbage can in the village of A’ali which lies in between both destinations!

Those papers were discovered, the local MP was called for perfect picture opportunities who reportedly has called an under-secretary from the Ministry of Labour to the scene to show him the discovery.

Uncharacteristically, the under-secretary owned up to the feat and offered an immediate apology and promised a transparent investigation into the incident and ordered the papers’ removal for proper disposal. The report was supposed to have been released today so I hope to read its findings tomorrow.

The upside of this incident of course is the discovery that even officials (now) actually do own up to their Ministry’s errors without having to resort to the age-old-tried-and-tested method of Bahraini derrière coverage.

The other upside of this is that the sanctity of private information has once again come to the fore, and that the government and parliament should put in place proper laws to protect our valuable data and hopefully criminalise its abuse. Maybe the parliament can also turn their collective sights on the so called “Smart Card” and include its embedded data under a new and well rounded Data Protection Act.

This two unfortunate chapters have the real potential of being excellent news as they demonstrate that officials have now started to realise that they are under the public sights and are required to do something tangible and immediate about infractions and mistakes perpetrated by their organisations and that taking proper and immediate actions are far better methods of damage control.

Well done to both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour on their actions. We hope to see more ministries following in your footsteps.

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The Housing Problem

Bahrain 2030 Master Plan by SOM

The topic du jure is housing. My friends Tawfiq Al-Rayyash is livid that one of his ex-colleagues at Al-Wefaq political society has suggested that Bahrainis should go vertical – we should be content enough to live in flats rather than houses – but in the process, Tawfiq also shares with us some juicy details of the inner workings of Al-Wefaq!

Mohammed Maskati is teed off too, but from the angle that the Ministry of Housing has now put procedures in place that only those who earn less than BD900 in combined salaries (working couples) are now ineligible for subsidized government housing, and as he is fortunate enough to earn much higher than that limit, he feels that he is left unfairly out although Bahrainis are constitutionally guaranteed adequate housing and jobs.

Guys, I understand your frustration but although I am thankful that I own a house, financed through sheer hard work over 15 years in business I was able to save the required down payment and plonk it down to buy it. It will be a while before I pay the off the loan, but I am happy enough to do so.

The inability to buy a house of my choosing and the lifestyle that I wanted were actually the chief reason for me leaving Gulf Air all those years ago although I was earning much higher than the current BD900/1200 limits, I saw that “a salary” will never allow me to live the way I want to live. So I opted out and started my own business and that has been difficult to be sure, but the reward at the end is worth it.

I am no where near the goal of self sufficiency and I am already seriously looking into ways to double my income. There is no way that I could do that by holding a job.

My advice? Manage your finances and create and abide by a personal priority list. Read Ammar’s excellent pointers on managing your finances and start implementing them now. If you feel that you don’t have time and want to have that house NOW, then maybe you should think of creative business ideas (which are full time, part time for this just doesn’t work) and start making your “serious” money! But that’s just a pipe dream as businesses can very easily fail and do carry various risks. There is unfortunately no easy short-cut for you to take.

Either way, I would rather not wait for a hand-out from the government – even though it is my constitutional right to have subsidized housing provided for me – and go out there and get it myself and that’s exactly what I did.

But let’s put things in perspective: the housing provided by the government and its subsidies for this housing/land purchase/building/renting etc is meant specifically really for those with limited income and those who earn BD900 and above could hardly be called limited income! Those are well within “the middle class”. The issue then transforms into that person’s inability to buy a house or land to build on because of the prices involved. Well, let’s look into that: Bahrain Credit asks for 25% as down payment and they would be happy to finance for 15 years.

I know in other societies, first time buyers are encouraged to buy small and then sell and move up the scale as their financial abilities become better. Taking this principal in mind, an average first-time house or flat would be in the range of BD50,000 – 75,000. The down payment required (BC KFH) would be in the range of BD12,500 – 18,750. If a young couple both work and save BD500 per month from their combined salary they would need just 25-38 months. That’s a reasonable timescale I think.

If you would rather wait until you can afford to buy a BD500,000 house then you’d probably be ill-advised in doing so as the waiting period is far too long for most people and all that time you are waiting you’re paying rent which does amount to a considerable sum.

The above, I think, is not the real issue though – but detractors are latching on to it because it is an easy to understand issue, they know the level of frustration associated with it and they also know that their audience will be receptive to what’s coming next, the real issues they want to tackle: absence of social justice, unequal distribution of land and wealth (pdf – 8.6MB – arabic), etc.

Unfortunately, doing it this way brings passion into it and it becomes an emotive issue which robs it of its importance. These entangled issues should be separated and explained in a concise manner to people so that they can be realistically identified and addressed to seek resolution. Continuing to shout that “we don’t have affordable housing” and then point at the vast tracts of undeveloped land while the Ministry of Housing continuing to maintain that all but 3% of the land is available to it to develop for the public good (97% in private hands) just mushes up the issues.

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Fishing, in numbers

Bahrain and the sea

People can’t really measure the impact of the fishing industry’s destruction in this country because they don’t particularly know the numbers, nor – most probably – do they have a direct contact with those affected to actually know the levels involved.

Enter a report released today by the Oxford Business Group to put things in perspective:

Bahrain is still a net exporter of seafood, with the overseas trade worth an estimated $1.35m in 2005, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s International Trade Centre (ITC). However, this was well down on the $13m export total for the year before, a direct result of the collapse of shrimp stocks in the waters around the kingdom. Shrimp and shellfish exports fell from $11m in 2004 to just $95,000 in just 12 months, ITC figures showed.

One of the main threats to Bahrain’s shrinking fish stocks is the fall out from expansion, both of the economy and of the country itself. Dredging to deepen shipping access routes around Bahrain’s islands and reclamation projects to extend the amount of waterfront land available for development have affected some of the ecosystem.

Does it make sense now? Do you see how 4,000 fishermen’s families are suffering because of this desperate situation?

Help is at hand, though, but only because of the local press, Al-Wasat Newspaper specifically, highlighting these issues. Since they first published the picture of those hundreds of dead fish washed up on the shores of Tubli bay and subsequently followed up on that issue, did the government actually wake up and try to do something about this devastating situation.

Now, as the OBG report states, the government is considering compensating those fishermen whose livelihood has been affected by the environmental impact of dredging, development and waste treatment by the end of this year. They are – thankfully – also considering creating new artificial reefs to encourage fish to breed and hopefully compensate those that have been driven from what was a very rich environment in Tubli bay.

Let us also hope that with the concerted combined efforts of the press and the environmentalists to highlight the degradation of the environment and present their findings in an appropriate way so that people understand the impending danger in a tangible way and for us to then adopt these issues at a grass roots level which will definitely force the government and law makers to put in place legislation and plans to rescue our rather limited environment.

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Interdependencies

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I found this really sad:

An Indian man, who had life-saving brain surgery at the Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC), has gone missing, it was revealed yesterday.

The guy most probably needs further medical attention but because his stay in Bahrain has become illegal and he obviously continues to want to live and work here (maybe doesn’t have a choice but to do so) and as he knew that the hospital administration is required to hand over illegal aliens to the authorities, he chose to escape, even in his condition.

This is just sad and demonstrates the desperation that migrant workers get to in this country. Look at the current vehemently opposed law which requires outdoors workers to down tools for several hours at mid-day, although the construction barons oppose this law because they are looking after their bottom lines, it appears that some of the workers themselves are against this law because they will lose on the opportunity to earn some overtime pay.

These labourers generally cost contractors around BD1 (US$2.65) per day – this includes their pay, accommodation, sustenance, clothing and even end of service annuities and travel back to their countries. A large contractor I know – who employes some 6,000 of these labourers (the figure above was from him) – suggested that the forced siesta in July and August translates into additional costs which would lead to “huge losses for the country”. I think that statement is a gross over-exageration, but I agree with his suggestion that the forced break should have been based on the apparent temperatures rather than specific months in the year; otherwise, he argues, that all outdoors workers should have been included in the ban, including the police, drivers, etc.

That is just one example of the migrant workers’ suffering. The government has stepped in to protect them and naturally it found some resistance. I am not sure whether the government also considered the lost earning opportunities to the very people they are trying to protect, though.

On the positive side, this situation actually sets a long needed precedent, inadvertently – I grant you, but a good precedent – in that if laws were left to the business owners, they generally will take care of themselves first and foremost and some will do whatever is required to ensure a fatter bottom line at the expense of his or her employees. Therefore, standards must be set by governments which should encourage businesses to rise to a new level, then move the bar still higher and get them to catch up once again. This, if managed correctly, can improve our country’s competitive and efficiency standards which will be good for everyone.

What pushes government to put up these standards is either the community or a requirement to abide by international treaties and external pressures. Evidence of this is present aplenty, especially in the last few years. Look at the public outcry in the various environmental and political issues it have faced, in each one of those situations the government has had to respond by generally bending to the pressure and making good moves to respond to the demands.

The government now should continue to raise the bar and encourage businesses and the community to rise to the challenge. How it does that must be through complete transparency and accountability and the insurance that it will only select contractors based on non-traditional metrics like employee care, environmental and social responsibility. This will of course mean that the government itself will cease to base its contract award decisions on the lowest bidder principle and will accept that the cost of its contracts will necessarily be increased. That increase will only be justified (and encouraged!) if the company invests some of its profits back into its employees benefit programs as well as within the community.

The knock on effect of these programs are manifold; one of their benefits is situations like Mr. Arumugam’s would start to disappear.

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Red taped social responsibility

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As a human being, when you see a rock on the road that might impede your neighbour or fellow human being and you could move it to the side, I am sure that the majority of people will just move it spontaneously. If they can’t, they’ll try to warn people about it and maybe try to get the municipality to come and remove it.

If you see a bird stuck in a net, you would untangle it and set it free.

If you saw a thirsty dog, I am sure that a lot of people will stop and try to find it water.

If you saw a person lying on the ground dying, or in pain, you would at least try to call an ambulance to help.

You would do all of the above on the spur of the moment. There is no need to think about what you are going to do, for the most part you would just get on with the job of helping, then deal with any other surrounding circumstances (call the BSPCA to collect the dog, investigate why that net was there in the first place, find the cause of why that rock was there and try to ensure that doesn’t happen again, etc.).

But what if your own society is suffering, sick and dying? Would you not try to get to the cause of that ailment and try – as an individual and then group – to do something about it?

All of the above falls under the social responsibility of the individual and group. None of the above should require a permit to perform good and ameliorate pain. For in those actions you elevate the individual and society.

My personal belief is that I would not seek a permit to do good for my society or for humanity on a larger scale. I would just go ahead and do it – and I have – and encourage every person to do the same. For if we hesitate, the situation might very well turn to the worse very quickly.

So why does a workshop on Truth and Reconciliation face official sanction and red tape? I would have thought that something as important and much needed as this which is a good step toward national reconciliation would be welcomed with open arms, and all resources made available to it to ensure its success.

But the ministry whose mandate is purportedly to elevate the individual and society thinks otherwise.

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Reforming Education

I attended the official launch of the “Implementation of the national Education Reform Initiatives” this morning at Al-Hedaya school in Muharraq, the home of formal education in Bahrain which started in 1919, where I listened to various officials explaining the steps to be taken almost immediately to reform education in Bahrain in the clear belief that:

The Bahraini people are our nation’s most valuable resource. Investing in education helps to develop our people and is one of the most important commitments we can make as a country. A well educated population is the best guarantee of Bahrain’s future success.

In implementing these initiatives which touch on all aspects of education; the government has sought expertise and council from various educational specialists and institutions from around the world, specifically from The National Institute of Education from Singapore and Nord Anglia from the UK on the schools program; The Department of Education from the State of Victoria in Australia and Polytechnics International New Zealand (PINZ) for vocational programs and the Australian University Quality Agency to benchmark and act as a quality assurance agent for the Higher Education program.

What this actually means (and I’m continuing to largely quote from the booklet I received at the conference) for teachers and principals is the expectation of better training and will be given the credit and prestige they deserve. Students and parents can expect a marked improvement in the teaching methods which should stimulate them to better learning experiences which in turn will prepare them for higher education in a to-be-built polytechnic or university with the clear vision that they are being prepared for the job markets.

Continuous educational monitors of both schools and students by a Quality Assurance Authority – which is said to be an independent body – will give the community better confidence in the education system and its graduates.

Employers can expect that their new recruits are better suited – educationally – from what we currently are used to; while for the country these initiatives are an investment that will greatly aid in the further development and expansion of the economy.

These are very high standards and are well thought out; therefore, I do hope that now that the theory is in place, execution will not be the whole plan’s downfall. And as you know, the devil is in the details, details that I am not privy to of course, but do hope that they have been taken into consideration.

There is no doubt that the man overseeing these initiatives, Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak, is more than capable of managing this huge project. With his vast experience in helping run the country since independence, he has handled quite a number of as big if not bigger projects which have flourished under his guardianship.

I have no doubt either, in the man behind all of these reforms who is as able and has amply demonstrated his capability of thinking outside the box; aided by excellent people at the EDB.

What I do worry about; however, is that it will largely be the very same people who are entrenched in the Ministry of Education who will largely be tasked to run such a project! The main objection there is that this is a “new company” with a “new mentality” and “goals”, all three are very foreign to the way the Ministry’s demonstratable thinking!

Let’s review what we know (as a community) of the Ministry:

  • Its minister has a doctorate in military planning and strategy, rather than education, that doesn’t mean that he is incapable of understanding what needs to be done at this stage, nor does that reflect badly on his position within the ministry, but I would have thought that with a project like this, the ownership would have been given to a more appropriate person who has the necessary experience at this critical juncture. A name that pops to mind is Dr. Al-Hashimi who originally ran the polytechnic and then the university.
  • For the large part – let me repeat that, for the large part – those who become teachers are the drop-outs, the bottom of the barrel 50 – 70-percenters average local university graduates whose only tenuous connection with education is the requirement of a job to keep the growing family fed. They – again, for the large part – probably constitute 75% or more of the educational cadre! Pray what are you going to do with those people? Unless the government is prepared to fire them then there is no hope in these initiatives. Retraining them – while commendable – will probably be a waste of time. They should get more motivated educators and pay them handsomely to replace the dead-wood.
  • The Ministry has had decades running the educational establishments, one would be forgiven to think that if they had anything in them, anything good at all, it would have come to the surface already. And now they are a key partner in “this investment in education which will be well directed to produce quality outcomes and will underpin the economic expansion that is vital to the future of the Bahraini people”? Gimme a break, what they most probably will do is what they have done over the past generation; and that is produce indifferent outcomes who will continue to be jobless and clueless as to what the country’s economy requires.

I suggest that if this program is to really succeed, it would be folly to depend on a decrepit ministry whose methods and methodology is distilled in keeping kids off the streets until the age of 18 then releasing them to uncertain futures.

Of course they cannot be ignored! I am not suggesting that these initiatives should run completely independently of the Ministry of Education; nor am I suggesting for an instant that it is completely void of good and caring people! It is practically impossible to run these initiatives without the direct cooperation with the Ministry, what I am suggesting is that the leadership of these projects should never be given to them, they should be given to independent educational institutions rather, or even the private sector, with the QAA overseeing the whole process. Starting almost afresh is better than trying to retool an already decaying machine.

I would say that the EDB should probably take direct ownership of these schemes, they have demonstrated their acumen and professionalism countless times that I think them running this project will bode well to its eventual success.

Let me end this on another optimistic note; the following picture was taken a couple of hours ago on the way back to the office:

Bahraini government school wall

No, this is not a prison wall; it belongs to a local intermediate boys’ school. The wrought-ironwork atop the wall is a new addition – I watched them install it a few months ago. I’ll leave it to you to decide what its function is. But my contribution to these extremely important initiatives is my suggestion to demolish all school perimeter walls! Students should want to go to school and should want to stay at school of their own volition. If they choose not to be there then that situation must be treated between the school and the home and laws should be put in place to deal with truants.

Basically, the whole concept of education should be re-evaluated and be based on critical thinking, on non-regurgitating concepts taught and most certainly should not depend on the three-Rs to impart knowledge.

Good luck to the scheme. I fully support it, with the provisos and concerns I have listed above.

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Huh? It’s not OUR fault!

Such power and water cuts hamper the process of development, keep the leadership awake and bother the citizens, giving rise to a number of undesirable happenings that the government prefers to avert, the Premier said.

Say again? This just doesn’t make any sense and is probably just the standard copy-paste Google translation by the illustrious BNA of what was said by His Highness.

So let’s reference something related in Arabic just to attempt to find out what’s going on:

حمل وزير الكهرباء والماء الشيخ عبدالله بن سلمان آل خليفة، المواطنين ‘’مسؤولية انقطاع الكهرباء، وذلك بسبب الحمل الزائد على شبكة التوزيع’’، لافتاً إلى أن ‘’90% من أسباب انقطاع الكهرباء، تعود إلى عدم إخطار الوزارة بإضافات كهربائية جديدة يقوم بها الأهالي في منازلهم’’.
وأوضح الوزير في مؤتمر صحافي أمس (الأربعاء) أنه ‘’حسب القانون، يجب أن يأخذ المواطنون إذنا من الوزارة عند أي إضافات كهربائية حتى تأخذ الوزارة إجراءاتها’’، معتبرا أن’’العام الجاري، هو أكثر الأعوام تجاوزا في الإضافات الكهربائية ولو تمت محاسبة المتجاوزين لأصبحت هناك آلاف القضايا بالمحاكم’’.
وأضاف أن ‘’شبكات التوزيع، تتحمل جهدا معينا، حسب الخطة التي وضعها مهندسو التخطيط حيث يتم إنشاء شبكة توزيع لكل 20 بيتا، ولها طاقة استيعابية معينة مع ترك 20% كجانب احتياطي’’.
ولفت الوزير إلى أن’’ الانقطاعات لم تكن موجودة في فترة الشتاء، لأن استخدام الكهرباء يقل عن الصيف’’، مشيرا إلى أن ‘’شهري مايو ويونيو من كل عام، هما الأكثر في حدوث الانقطاعات، حيث يبدأ المواطنون استهلاك الكهرباء، وتكتشف الوزارة أن هناك أحمالا زائدة على شبكات التوزيع’’.
ونفى الوزير، وجود مشكلات في إنتاج الكهرباء وكذلك في شبكات النقل، منوها إلى ‘’وجود مشكلات في التوزيع’’ نفى وزير الكهرباء والماء، تشكيل لجنة تحقيق في انقطاع المياه بالشمالية، منوها إلى ‘’وجود تحقيق حول ما إذا كانت المياه مقطوعة بالكامل أو ضعيفة، وبالفعل وجد أنه ليست هناك مياه مقطوعة في أي منطقة بل كان هناك ضعف في المياه’’.
إلى ذلك، لفت الوزير إلى أن ‘’استهلاك الفرد في البحرين من المياه 4 أضعاف الاستهلاك العالمي، حيث وصل إلى 126 جالونا في اليوم، بينما دول الخليج 100 جالون، والاستهلاك العالمي 40 جالونا فقط’’.
وأضاف ‘’لا توجد مشكلة في انقطاعات المياه، كما صورتها الصحف المحلية حيث كانت محطة الدور والتي تنتج 5مليون جالون في صيانة لمدة أسبوعين، وهذا لا يؤثر على وضع المياه’’، منوها إلى أن ‘’الوزارة تتسلم 7 ملايين جالون من محطة ألبا، فيما يبلغ إنتاج وزارة الكهرباء والماء 110 ملايين يومياً’’.
وأشار إلى أن ‘’محطة الحد تنتج 30 مليون جالون ، قبل أن تتحول إلى شركة خاصة، وتم الاتفاق مع الشركة بتزويدنا 12 مليون جالون من المياه منذ أول إبريل، لكنها لم تلتزم ‘’.
وتابع ‘’تم خفض كميات المياه التي تتسلمها الوزارة من محطة ألبا إلى 3 ملايين جالون أي أن الوزارة فقدت 9 مليون جالون من المياه بسبب صيانة محطة الدور وانخفاض كميات المياه بمعدل كبير من محطة ألبا وتزامن ذلك مع صيانة محطة الدور’’.
وشدد الوزير على أن ‘’الوزارة عالجت الوضع بتشغيل محطة الدور أمس الأول، ووصل إنتاجها إلى 5 ملايين جالون، كما سنحصل على 12 مليونا من محطة الحد خلال أسبوعين وستصل إلى 60 مليونا في نوفمبر المقبل’’.
وأوضح الوزير أن’’ الوزارة ستعمل مع نهاية العام الجاري على ربط شبكات المياه في جميع المحافظات، على أن يتم التعامل مع النقص في أي منطقة بكل سهولة’’، معتبرا أن ذلك ‘’سيساهم في تنظيم نقل المياه ومراعاة النقص في بعض المناطق مع مناطق أخرى’’.

Oh boy. We’re really, but I mean really in for it this summer!

Shall we attempt to analyse what’s actually going on here? But before doing so, let me put in my application to the right honourable minister to seek his approval to add one, just one 60W bulb to my study at home and as a concerned citizen who does not want to overload the perfectly designed electricity generation and distribution grids I promise to only make use of it in non-peak times, ie, from 9pm to 10pm. I don’t want to be that straw that breaks the camel’s back of course, so I’ll just use it on even days in the month too. That should stay within the perfectly designed 20% margin the engineers design into every distribution scheme.

Okay, I’m making a big deal out of nothing. It’s only that in a modern country with multi-billion dollar developments (Bahrain Financial Harbour, Bahrain Bay, Durrat Al-Bahrain, Amwaj, Riffa Views, etc) you would think that power availability would have been the very first consideration on the minds of governments. And it is this that should have kept them awake. Alas, that insomnia doesn’t seem to have produced anything but frayed nerves and shoveling the blame onto others.

Let’s take a page out of Dubai’s book in this regard and see how they are handling this issue, considering that as far as I remember they only had one major brown-out (not black-outs as we have experienced and will continue to experience until the mode of thinking changes.):

Electricity-hungry Dubai is planning to build one of the world’s largest power and desalination complexes, a multibillion dollar plant that would produce nearly as much power as New York City’s total generating capacity.

The new plant would be capable of producing 9,000 megawatts of electricity and 600 million gallons a day of desalinated water, Dow Jones Newswires reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the project.

Dubai’s planned mega-complex will sit next to Dubai World Central, intended to be the world’s largest airport, and the giant Jebel Ali port and free zone _where most of the emirate’s power generation capacity of about 5,000 megawatts is presently located.

homework by candlelight by Michele

Back to the present, we find the Minister of Electricity is somewhat abashed in the last few months with no real plan to come out of the magic (kerosene-powered) lantern; someone asserts that there is rampant corruption in his ministry and instead of looking at the fire and puts it out, he blows away the smoke by taking the accuser, an elected member of a municipal board, to court for defamation. Now we find that rather than admitting to shortages in his ministry and its main products, he is putting the full blame on power black-outs squarely on the shoulders of citizens for “not notifying the ministry of additional electrical services installed in their homes” which is the major cause – quoting the figure 90% – of electricity black-outs. He declared further that these transgressions on the law are at their maximum this year.

The minister also made a very important observation which we should stand at and consider, as within it the truth most definitely lies; he said, and I translate:

The minister noted that “black-outs did not occur during the Winter period because electricity usage is lower than in the Summer period,” further explaining that “most black-outs occur during the months of May and June of every year as citizens start using (more) electricity, and the ministry discovers that there is an increased load on the distribution network.”

No kidding! Really? I would never have guessed really. But I am to blame of course as I am from the privileged few who up sticks and leaves this furnace every summer to climes more amenable to my constitution. The summers I know are those of Cannes and St Tropez and Monaco and Marbella and if I really really want to go local there is always Gloucester road in London!

Okay, fair warning your excellency. You have absolved your ministry from responsibility, we won’t hold your ministry from any forthcoming black- brown- or any colour-power-cuts happening this summer, or during any time of the year. It’s not your nor is it your ministry’s fault.

Water! Water! Yes, water. Some of those people have been complaining that they didn’t have water in their homes for days, whole districts, neighbourhoods, towns and villages have complained of the same, but the stupid sods don’t know the difference of the water being cut and not having any pressure. Pfah! Those beoble. They should have at least bothered to call the emergency response line (no S) at the ministry to be educated on the difference, so once again, I would like to thank the right honourable minister for taking the time to explain things as they are to us, and once again you will forgive me for translating his missive:

The minister refuted the formation of an investigative committee by the Northern Municipal Council into water cuts (in the Northern District) stating that “the investigation around whether water was completely cut or was delivered with low pressure. In fact, it was found that there were no water cuts at all in any location, but the pressure was low.”

We’d better go dig up all the “supposed” dead and check their pulse again. The stupid-ass doctors didn’t understand that in fact their patients actually were not dead at all, their hearts did not actually stop working, but just had low pressure!

God have mercy.

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لا تبوگ و لا تخاف

Bandarite Attiyatallah - courtesy Al-Wasat Newspaper

He’s still unperturbed.

Unrepentant.

And completely without shame.

Whatever.

Another favourite idiom that comes to mind in addition to the above, which by the way translates to “don’t steal and don’t be afraid (of being caught)” is من أمن العقاب أساء الأدب which loosely translates to “if you secure immunity from punishment, you will do as you please”.

So why should Ahmed Attiyatallah be afraid? He shouldn’t and he probably has never come across that feeling in his life, at least the fear of breaking the laws of this country and being held to account for it. It appears he not only secured himself immunity against punishment, but has the full backing of the government in addition to more than half our elected parliament fighting tooth and nail to allay him the discomfort of facing questions about financial irregularities which he himself has admitted to in black and white.

Not only that, but he brazenly puts out a very wordy statement last night the Arabic language of which is poetry! I never thought he was capable of such literate and poetic language before, but I raise my hat to him, if it indeed was written by him in the first place. I had to re-read it a couple of times to try to get to the gist of it as it is teaming with idioms, lore, advice, castigation and flowery prose.

Poetry though does not exonerate one from perceived crimes, and putting out statements rather than facing questioning in committee in parliament as set in the constitution and parliamentary bylaws is once again a transgression that no minister should consider.

So, Ahmed, advice from me, if you do want to clear your name and exonerate yourself from those heinous accusations, do yourself a favour and present yourself voluntarily for questioning by parliamentary committees as I am sure you would not want to restrict the questioning simply for financial irregularities, but face your accusers also for your perceived role in the Bandargate affair (which the gutless press can now write about directly without having to go round the houses as the court has made its decision in that case, so that ban has automatically been lifted).

I am glad that someone had dissected the minister’s statement for me though, so thanks go to Adel Marzooq whose analysis of that statement in today’s Al-Wasat rips the respected minister another orifice.

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