Tag Archives government

Water Emergency Desk on holiday?

no_water.jpg

Over the last two or three days I noticed that don’t seem to have enough water in the tanks. I went though the usual investigation process throughout the house to ensure that there are leeks. I checked the garden and the route of the line from the municipality and everything seems to be okay.

Logically, the only thing left to check is the municipal line, but as they do not allow anyone but approved Water Department employees to touch the line, and rightly so, we have to contact them to send someone out to do the checks.

I’ve been trying to ring their Emergency Response Number (17814111) for a while now and other than being put on hold for 10 minutes at a time (with no music to entertain me while holding!) there is never a response!

Do these people only work office hours? What’s the deal? I thought that emergency services like these should be manned continuously and telephone calls to them should be answered immediately. God forbid that there is a huge problem which might affect a whole village or town. Do they have to wait for the offices to resume a normal week to be able to contact the emergency desk?

update 12:00 finally got through! They promise to send someone over… let’s hope they come with a fix.

update 2: I’m impressed, the repairmen arrived at the door within about an hour of talking to the emergency line. They did find the fault with the meter restricting the flow. Now we’re just waiting for the fix. The meter was inoperative for the better part of a year with all our bills “estimated” on previous consumption patterns due to the ministry not have any of these meters in stock! Whether they have received a batch for them now to come and change it, or find alternative fixes is anyone’s guess.

update 3: It took them 44 minutes and 19 seconds to answer the phone! I was on hold for that length of time to the Water Emergency Telephone Line, this is ridiculous. That must be evaluated by the ministry and they either have to put more people to answer calls, or outsource it to a proper call centre. Waiting for someone to pick up the phone on an emergency line for three-quarters of an hour is just ludicrous. God forbid that an actual emergency occur!

update 4: It’s fixed! The guy just left after installing a brand new meter, and the water pressure is appreciably better than it has been for months! I hope that now at least I will be able to have a shower without worrying that the pump will go off due to the water level in the tank being too low! (no I don’t stink, thank you very much! :angel:)

Well done water guys, but for goodness sake fix your help line!

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Libel case going ahead

Unfortunately the mediation between the minister of municipalities and agriculture and myself to resolve the dispute and perceived libel has not been successful. I have demonstrated my good will over the last few days by amending the original article, but that it seems is not enough for the right honourable gentleman.

The minister wants to pursue his legal right and extract his pound of flesh.

I re-iterate that I do not believe what I published was libelous in any way. The intention was never to besmirch his person, but rather I was criticising his ministry, an executive body which not only should accept criticism, but also welcome and encourage it with open arms.

He now wants to take me to court. So be it.

I enjoy the support of a large body of people and also have a lot of human rights and freedom of expression lawyers and advocates standing by me to offer real and direct support in defending this case.

I didn’t want this as I still feel that it is a frivolous case at best, which now will probably turn into a benchmark that will further sully Bahrain’s reputation internationally. You can be sure that this case will now be included in all the press indicies for 2007 as a black spot against this country, thanks to a minister who cannot take criticism.

A press release from the Bahrain Journalists Association will follow shortly. Again, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone who stood and will continue to stand by me at this time.

I have restored the article to its former and original glory.

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Subsidies Subsidies

Bahraini Prime Minister

I’m still a bit confused from reading various reports yesterday of the government subsidising basic necessities to the tune of BD500 million (US$1.326 billion) a year. Of that staggering figure, we know that BD12 million are spent on subsidising meat, poultry and flour.

Okay, that is good in that it keeps prices of necessities low, it’s not good economic sense I don’t think, there are other more effective ways to get these subsidies to the people who need it most (ration cards of coupons would do better I think) as these blanket subsidies offered would apply to multimillionaires and rock-bottom poor people too. I think it would be much more effective actually to raise the education level, work ethics, and provide jobs. The old adage “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life.” should be taken to heart and implemented.

Apart from that, a question begs to be asked: where does the remaining BD488 million go? And if only 12 million suffices for providing reasonable prices for the basic necessities, what else is actually subsidised? Lipstick? Deodorant? Soap? Alfalfa?

What constitutes a dire necessity that the government takes away that huge figure – which is almost equivalent to the total infrastructure projects budget the government got approved but never fully used in 2005?

I know I’m no economist, but simple maths is all that is necessary here. When HH the PM declares that staggering budget but only specifies how 2.4% of the total sum is applied, a multitude of questions are raised, and it behooves our parliamentarians to seek their answers. Apart from those present at HH’s majlis, included the press, who should have questioned HH even just a little bit to get him to explain these figures a bit more.

I hope that parliament will correct this situation by tabling a question to HH’s office to seek a full explanation of the subsidies strategy adopted by the government and what actually constitutes a basic necessity deserving of this subsidy. I wonder too if this figure is actually approved in the national budget, because if it had and no red flags were raised, then we do have a problem on our hands.

I feel that this must be a mistake in recording the figure or that it has been taken out of context, but none of the papers I read this morning so far offer this avenue of escape. Half a billion Dinars on subsidies? This is insane!

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The importance of education

I think almost everyone will agree with me that education is important, and the higher you get in the echelons of education, the higher standing you might expect in your job and career. This is quite naturally accepted worldwide, and that is why education is the highest priority for parents when preparing their children for life, it is in fact a gift I shall never forget for my own parents who have sacrificed an awful lot to allow me to continue my education in private establishments to ensure that I get the best education they can afford. This single factor, more than anything else, has so ingrained the importance of education in me.

Knowing the limited resources my parents had, I insisted after finishing my high school that I should find a full scholarship program to lessen the load on them, not that I had of course, I still had my demands: car, more spending money, etc, while I was at pursuing my higher education, but at least I managed to get and retain a full scholarship program which at least paid the education fees and allowed me to have a regular monthly cheque.

I eventually graduated and held a good job, I daresay due – again – to the investment my parents had in my private education. I was always able to excel in my studies and ultimately my job. The world was open for me, even though I came from a very “regular” working-class background; my dad’s sole income at the time was his government school teacher’s salary. There was no other income for the family.

This conditioning created a huge respect for education and academic accomplishments in me. I would happily starve myself, sell all my assets, and do away with all the pleasures in life in order to ensure that my children have a good education.

They attend one of the better schools on the island and have done so since kindergarten. I still struggle to pay the bills, and still dread that school fees invoice which now exceed BD4,000 every single school term. I pay it; however, as I see it as my duty to my children and their future and I don’t wait for the government or anyone else to hand me the required money to do so.

I must confess that I find it absolutely disgusting of the finance department of St. Christopher’s school’s threatening and uncivilized manner in which they demand payment if I inadvertently become late in satisfying their invoices. This is especially true since they moved into that multimillion Dinar facility in Shakhoora and since their accounts office was taken over by a new finance manager. She has no qualms whatsoever – for a school that is supposedly not-for-profit organisation – to issue a letter to expel the children if I become inadvertently late even though all of our children have spent all their lives there! Talk about consideration. It is as if after all the investment we have put into that school, we would choose not to pay an invoice. They can rest assured that we will, every, single, heart-wrenching, time. We do not and will not take chances with our children’s education.

Still. As disgusting, humiliating and completely un-understanding as I find that, I guess in a business it is their right to expect payments on time. And they wouldn’t care for legitimate excuses that the government owes me money since November last year which has not yet been paid due to last year’s budget not being rotated to this year’s. Let my family stew, let my children suffer, and let my blood pressure soar. What is it to them. It is just a peon pushing paper who decided not to get the payments done on time, and no matter how much cajoling and begging for your own seriously overdue money you do, their only response is that ubiquitous inshallah; I word I have come to detest as it usually means a delay and an abrogation of responsibility.

Little did I know myself that education, as far as the government is concerned, is immaterial! Look at the state of their schools, look at the state of their ministries, look at the state of their services. Are those things not evident enough?

No!

As the press have shown us today, that even a position of undersecretary – a position which according to reports is only available for those who have at least completed their Bachelors degree – is in actual fact available to bogus degree holders! And not only that, if an undersecretary actually goes out and gets a ready degree from an unrecognised university, that will be more than sufficient to secure him the very high position of an undersecretary, a position second only to the minister!

The report tells us that this particular undersecretary not only got that position by using his apparent bogus certification, he abused the power of his undeserved office to harass and retire another person who is more qualified for the position than the usurper is! Not only that, the lowly correctly educated person discovered the superior’s bogus certification which rattled the said superior so much that he engineered a campaign to remove him forthwith! With no apparent official repercussions for that massive abuse of power.

Fortunately, the wronged person did not take this lightly and took the matter to the judicial authorities and the fireworks have already reached their zenith in this case.

If this is in fact correct – that is, an undersecretary must have an accepted university undergraduate certification to attain the job, what does it take to acquire the ultimate job of minister? Or is it as that position is purely political, does it even matter? In fact, would it be acceptable to the government to have a minister who did not even finish primary education?

I do hope not. But do educate me if otherwise, stating sources of job description and required qualification if possible please.

Where did all of this hubbub take place, I hear you ask? The Ministry of Municipalities and Agriculture!

Ah, I see that you are not surprised.

Nor am I.

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Skewed Tenders

Tell me something, if you had a project worth over BD250,000 that you are bidding for, would you advertise it only 2 weeks before the closing date? Would the lead person for that project refuse to meet potential suppliers for more than 5 minutes? Would the organisation refuse to let potential suppliers at least have a look at the venue the equipment for which is being tendered? If it is a complete integrated system that you are tendering for, and if you are not looking for consultancy, would you not at least expect that the tender document would have engineering and architectural drawings of the locations? Would you not expect to have an electrical functional and schematic diagram of the required system?

If you then receive official letters from two of the local suppliers asking for an extension of four weeks to prepare the tender response, would your rules not insist on granting that extension?

The University of Bahrain has released tender 40 of 2006 to build a theatre, media centre, and television studio at a minimum cost of hundreds of thousands of Bahraini Dinars, yet they are not prepared to grant the extension and the lead on that project refuses to meet with potential suppliers for more than 5 minutes… because “he’s really busy with the exams.”

What do you call this other than signed, sealed and delivered?

Now you know a potential answer for why the University is suffering on more fronts than one.

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Insisting on a wrong

Posted on

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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Make a loss and attribute it to being a culturual institution!

BIC Main Grand Stand at Night

For something that cost more that BD150 million, making a profit revenues of just over BD5 million in the 2nd year of operation, racking up a loss of BD49 million representing 65% of your paid up capital while giving away BD1.2 million in free tickets must have quite a few warning fog horns blaring. Is anyone listening though? I sure hope so….

And if they are, the first thing that should be done is fire the whole board of directors with the top management and replace them with 6th form kids as I’m sure they won’t be able to screw such an investment up so much and then claim that, hey, this is really a cultural institution and we don’t have to make money! For God’s sake, I think the hardly-visited National Museum probably makes more money that the illustrious Formula One Circuit, and that is a cultural institution!

Quite sad really, but I’ve seen it go down the pipes for more than a year now and I am not at all surprised by what the Transparency Report has found out so far, yet I’m sure that there are quite a few other bits and pieces still hidden even from their view. The report cited quite a few irregularities at the circuit (that even a cultural institution is required to avoid):

    1. Non compliance with bid tendering regulations and awarding bids directly or single-sourcing without proper justification,
    2. Holding far too much spares, some unaccounted properly,
    3. Giving away tickets worth BD 1.2 million,
    4. Improper, imprecise and irregular financial reporting procedures,
    5. Not collecting on sales worth BD2.8 million since 2005,
    6. No connection between the sales and accounting systems,
    7. No discount strategy, discounts are given haphazardly

And I’m sure many other aspects… here are a few that could be added or at least answered honestly if they could:

    1. Why is the circuit still renting large screens from a German company rather than buying these things outright?
    2. Why does the circuit not properly tender the rental of these screens in an open manner?
    3. Why does the circuit still does not have very much required experienced broadcast engineers and an experienced broadcast manager to take care of their huge broadcast investments, rather than depending on someone with just PR experience to manage the whole infrastructure?
    4. Why aren’t the broadcast equipment even put on maintenance contracts with their supplier in order to prolong their useful lives and protect the investment?
    5. Why did the circuit allegedly buy some 30 Holden cars through single sourcing the bid from a person whose company was bankrupt?

I can spill a lot more beans about the circuit and how badly it is run, but the above should suffice for now; let’s see how they try to justify their existence now.

Full disclosure: my company supplied a number of the circuit’s broadcasting capabilities in 2004.

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Holiday!

(you HAVE to sing the title of this post in a Madonaesque voice, do it again, go on, do it in a loud voice so everyone can hear you in the office!)

A reader sent me an email asking for the upcoming holidays for the private sector a few moments ago and although I am not an official information service, the question prompted me to dig a bit. I fortunately remembered that one of my Bahrain Young Businessmen Committee’s colleagues at the Chamber of Commerce (thanks bu Abdulla!) already did just that in listing the forthcoming holidays from now until the end of January 2007; I guess to show the number of days off we will suffer as business owners, and for private and public sectors workers to look forward to and enjoy!

Here’s the list:

[TABLE=6]

Count them. We will have half a month’s holiday in just 5 weeks, how good is that? I am sure you will be even more surprised if you thought of the holidays in this context – especially if you are a business owner – over the full year, add to that the productivity lost in Ramadhan for instance, and it is a wonder really that we are still in business!

Why couldn’t we just adopt the “Bank holiday Monday” principal and just have two or three long weekends in the year, and a good 3 or 4 days for the “big” Eid and be done with it? The long weekends for us would be a day off on Sunday regardless of when the occasion falls, and as far as Eid is concerned, well, we can’t control that, but in any case, the government should most definitely stop this “compensation” business. If a holiday falls on a weekend or coincides with another holiday, why should we have to pay for it?

Long holidays are pretty boring anyway, so we – business owners – are doing our employees a huge favour by allowing them to come to work and exercise their brains and talents rather than laze around all day at home picking their noses or suffering hang-overs!

Happy holidays! 😀

Update 14 Dec @ 0741: corrected the Ashura holidays entry, thanks to Yonis for spotting the error.

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New cabinet announced

And as expected, the line up is disappointing; briefly:

    1. We have THREE more ministries created in this cabinet, there were 21 ministers in the past, now we have 24 (including the prime minister).
    2. We only have 5 new members: Jawad Al-Urayyedh (3rd deputy premier, been in various cabinets before), Nizar Al-Baharna (foreign affairs), Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa (takes over the newly amalgamated Justice and Islamic Affairs), Mansour bin Rajab (Muni & Agriculture) and Mohammed bin Abdullla Al-Khalifa (takes over a newly created ministry of defence affairs.)
    3. Two ministers left the cabinet: Abdulla bin Khalid Al-Khalifa who was the 1st deputy premier in the previous cabinet and Minister of Islamic Affairs, as well as Mohammed Al-Sitri who was the Minister of Justice.
    4. 19 remain at their positions
    5. Mohammed Abdulghaffar had the Ministry of Foreign Affairs remove from him and given to Nizar Al-Baharna. Abdulghaffar (unfortunately) remains as the Minister of Information. I would have liked to see the dissolution of this ministry as I still maintain it is unrequired.
    6. The best news of this reshuffle however is that the Ahmed bin Attiyatallah remains in the cabinet, which means that parliament led by Al-Wefaq will have a lot of fun immediately Parliament convenes and they can sharpen their teeth with an immediate questioning demand levied against Attiyatallah and I suspect that they will ask for his head very quickly indeed. So he will provide a lot of fun still!

For a complete list of cabinet ministers, please look at this page I’ve just created.

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