Azzaman Journos sent to jail (again)
The 2 journalists from Omani newspaper Azzaman, who were found guilty of insulting the Minister of Justice last October, had their convictions and draconian 5 month jail sentences upheld by the Omani Court of Appeal a couple of days ago.
This should not have come as a surprise, as in a legal sense they were clearly guilty - the law is so broad and is very easy to breach - plus, lets face it, when taking on the Ministry of Justice on a matter of law the odds are pretty stacked against you!
Arabian Business.com, by Claire Ferris-Lay Monday, 2 January 2012 Oman daily vows to appeal journalists’ jail terms.
Omani newspaper Azzaman has pledged to appeal a five-month jail sentence given to two of its journalists for insulting the Gulf state’s justice minister, it was reported Monday.
The court of appeal on Saturday confirmed the jail terms given to journalists Yusef al-Haj and editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Maamaria for an article published in May alleging corruption in the justice ministry, newswire AP said.
The court initially ordered the newspaper suspend its operations for a month but decided not to enforce the ruling. Another justice ministry employee was also given five months in prison for telling the journalists that a ministry employee had been denied his salary and benefits by the justice minister without valid cause.
Azzaman’s board of directors in a statement complained against the court’s failure to respect an agreement to acquit the pair in exchange for apologizing to the minister, the newswire said.
I expect a royal pardon soon to get past this trivial issue. Having this case drag on means we get named in the company of really nasty places like Iran and other Middle East countries who are really imprisoning journalists by the bus load.
High Oil prices support Oman Economic 'Growth'
Meanwhile, Oman's Government continues to pump the extra cash from the high oil prices into the economy, with massive fiscal injections - Government spending is up by almost 20% in the last 10 months of 2011.
Regarding the Public Finance, the State General Budget for the fiscal year 2011 was approved with a total expenditure amounting to RO 8,130 million and a deficit amounting to RO 850 million and was based on the assumption of the oil price at $58, note that the average price of the Oman oil in the year 2011 amounted to about $102.
During the year, additional financial allocations have been approved that amounted to RO 1.8 billion, most of which was concentrated on the current civil and security expenditures bringing the deficit of the budget to about RO 2.6 billion. However, and as a result of the stable global oil prices at a higher level, the actual budget is expected to achieve a financial surplus that may reach about RO 1 billion, where an amount of RO 700 million will be used as a part of the means of funding for covering the deficit of the budget of the year 2012, while the remaining surplus, if any, in light of the final closing for the accounts of the fiscal year will be used to strengthen the financial reserves of the State.
The windfall from high oil prices is helping Oman to protect the domestic economy from the ongoing crisis in the Global economy, and to pay for all those extra Government jobs needed to keep the peace in Sohar and Salalah following the protests. It doesn't do much to diversify the economy, but hey, it's better than nothing.
Oman is still totally dependent on oil and gas exports, directly as oil and LNG, and indirectly via exports of either refined gasoline or the highly subsidised energy heavy exports of aluminium & methanol. This is why the reports from the Ministries of 20% growth in 'non-oil exports' is very misleading.
The preliminary forecasts of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) suggest that the national economy in the year 2011 will achieve a growth of (7 per cent) exceeding the growth rate achieved in the previous year (2010) that amounted to (6 per cent). This growth in national economy is based on the added value of the non-oil activities that are projected to achieve a growth rate of (10 per cent) compared with (2 per cent) for the oil activities. This is also attributed to the increased domestic demand as well as the increased non-oil exports by (20 per cent) compared with the year 2010.
Oman still actually manufactures fuck all. Food imports are rising, and there is precious little to buy in the supermarkets that comes from within (as per the rest of the Middle East). Most non-Governmental services are provided by predominantly expat labour. Especially construction, which is perhaps the biggest real thing being made in Oman, GDP-wise.
Thus, the money from the extractive energy sector continues to hide the underlying malaise in Oman's 'real' economy, and job growth remains a matter of increased Government sector spending, either hiring directly (more ROP officiers) or indirectly from employment related to infrastructure projects funded by the State.
Eventually the Piper will need to be paid.
In Other News
We arrested and will deport 1,243 illegal workers around Seeb and Muscat, all doing nasty manual labour jobs Omanis don't want.
... "We caught 174 [all but one Bangladeshis] illegal workers from a single farmhouse in Baushar during one such raid," he said, and added that the Mawaleh Fruits and Vegetable Market was also raided by the teams to root out illegal workers from the wholesale market.
Al Badi pointed out that among the arrested there are 417 absconding workers, 525 released workers and 162 infiltrators.
According to him, most of the apprehended workers were mostly engaged in farm work, construction industry and restaurant businesses.
Killing ourselves by driving on the roads continue to be a real growth industry, with official deaths up 25% in 2011.
Muscat : Traffic accidents continue to be a big worry for Oman, with almost a 25 per cent increase in deaths during 2011, according to Lieutenant General Hassan Bin Mohsin Al Shraiqi, Inspector-General of Police and Customs.
Presiding over the second meeting of the National Committee for Road Safety at the Police Headquarters in Qurum on Saturday, the top police officer in the country said: "The 1,051 fatalities and 11,322 injuries in road accidents [last year] in Oman is a worrying trend, even though the Sultanate is not considered among the countries with high rates of road crashes."
"...not considered among the countries with high rates of road crashes". LMFAO. This is such typical Omani Government bullshit. As I reported earlier, these ROP stats only count those adults that die at the scene of the accident - to get a more representative number you can double the official one to take account of children and later deaths in hospital. With over 2100 road deaths a year in a population of ~2.5 million, we are killing close to 1 in a thousand, every year. Local blogger Muscat Mutterer posted about the reasons in an excellent rant.
At least the ROP border guards at Al Wajaja had an awesome New Year's eve,
Cheers to that.
So here's to a good 2012. Feel free to recommend a facebook 'like' of Muscat Confidential to your friends!