Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cheney visits Oman, Kuwait politics a mess

Not a lot of news today.
Cheney visits
I wonder what they have to talk about? Of course, again we're forced to suffer the closure of the highways, as when it seems any so-called dignitary visits. Presumably on the agenda was Iran, the military bases, and general Intel stuff. But I'd rather we got a visit from Barack Obama!
MUSCAT — His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said gave an audience to Dick Cheney, vice-president of the United States of America at Bait Al Barakah yesterday evening.

During the audience, cordial conversations were exchanged and aspects of existing cooperation between the Sultanate and the US in various domains in the light of close relations between the two countries were reviewed.

The audience was attended by His Majesty the Sultan’s special adviser for external liaison, the US ambassador to the Sultanate and the delegation accompanying the guest. — ONA

Kuwaiti Ruler dismisses Parliament

Kuwait are having problems. The ruling elite don't get on with the parliament. Its one of the problems of the approach to democracy around the region that doesn't allow political parties. That makes it hard to run a Government. So the only thing the ruler can do is call for more elections. See
Times of Oman article

It the same here. The Shura are a collection of individuals. Parties are illegal in Oman. That makes it very hard for the Shura to really establish any significant oversight on the Government. But the problems in Kuwait will hardly be helping the trend towards elected representation in the GCC area.

So called Cement Blackmarketers busted

A couple of 'Asians' were imprisoned for selling cement at $3 a bag. Which is strange, as the Tribune reported last week that the market price was exactly that. This microeconomic attempt to addressing what is a macroeconomic problem (galloping inflation) is bound to fail. Its been tried before in many many other countries, and it just leads to a spiral of more intervention, to correct the mounting side-effects of the initial ones.

Where is the action from the MONE? Per Your Request, you really need to give these guys a hand...


  1. Jailed?! What is the set price of cement these days?
    Thanks for the vote of confidence, not sure I can do much though.

  2. They were selling it for $9

  3. Per,
    Apparently, the official price is around 1.5 rials. But the middlemen say that while they used to be able to sell a truckload per day with a 100-200 biasa uplift on wholesale, now they are restricted to 3 loads per month and the costs are higher, so they have to increase the margin.

    The Ministry is trying to control the natural effect of restricted supply and increased demand.

    Reader. Hmmm. Refer
    Tribune Article

    Are they wrong? What's your source?

    Two cement black marketeers caught
    By Khaild Al Amri
    Oman Tribune
    MUSCAT Two Asians were caught selling cement at an escalated price of RO3 per bag on Monday. The truck they used to transport cement was also taken into custody, a source at the General Prosecution said.

    The Prosecutor-General and the Consumer Protection Department have been taking coordinated steps to round up illegal traders and profiteers.

    Investigations revealed that the two persons had bought the cement for RO1.3 per bag and offered for sale for RO3, the source said.

    Cement factories sell cement for RO1.3 per bag.

    The Prosecutor-General has given instructions to the General Prosecution Department to investigate all the cases related to price rise.

    The people have been asked to report incidents of price manipulation to put an end to profiteering, the source said.

    I'll do a proper blog about this later this week.

  4. I think it's absurd to assume that political democracy is a perfect model. An individual's politics will be coloured by their family and tribal affiliations, their income, privilege, assets, religious outlook and so on.

    In the USA, for example, evangelical Christians are predominantly conservatives who will vote for Republican candidates with right-wing views. Am I correct?

    Democracy, imperfect as it is, is a new concept for large parts of the world. The British left its former colonies in Africa with democracies when it abandoned Empire, and what happened? Many states fell into a violent chaos of tribal rivalries from which they are only now beginning to extricate themselves.

    For someone who claims to have been resident in Oman for eight years, I find it surprising that you don't seem to have grasped the importance of tribal networks in the Arab region. Huge tomes have been written about it.

    Also, evolution is infinitely preferred over revolution. You cannot change a mindset overnight.

    News reports about the recent Shura elections in Oman emphasised how voters indicated that they would vote according to tribal affiliations. You may counter claim that that was because there were no political parties, but I wouldn't mind betting that people would still have voted on tribal lines. That's how things are done - at the moment.

    Remember, any subject of the Sultan is allowed to bring a case before him.

    What is a political party but a 'tribe' of unrelated people who share common ideas and outlook? The main point is that governance is conducted according to rules of discussion and voting, and that the 'losing side' in a discussion has to go along peacably with a majority decision.

    These ideas are being introduced, at various stages, in the Gulf region. It may seem to be a charade to you, but it is at least an inch-by-inch progress towards public participation. Admittedly, tribal structures are more likely to support the present regimes of autocratic rule.

    As for Kuwait, the country is usually regarded as having the most advanced parliamentarian system in the Gulf. Women were allowed to vote from 2005. The ruler Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, dissolved parliament last Wednesday, calling for fresh elections. The results of these elections are thought unlikely to resolve a growing impasse between the ruling family, which has been unable to carry through legislation, and parliament which accuses the ruling family of corruption. Extreme positions are coming to the fore.

    However, voting will be conducted under electoral reforms which are reckoned to have weakened the power of tribal elements.

    Given that the preference in Kuwait, as I believe it would be in Oman, is for conflict management, I would expect the state to find its way through without recourse to violence.

  5. "In the USA, for example, evangelical Christians are predominantly conservatives who will vote for Republican candidates with right-wing views. Am I correct?"
    Yes you are!

  6. Hey, thanks for the comments Sue. A few responses to set the record straight! (If you're going to put words in my mouth, please make them good ones) ;-)_
    - I don't assume that political democracy is a perfect model. GW Bush being a perfect counterpoint to any illusions on that score. And oh, yes, I know how tribal Oman still is - that's why perhaps one way around that would be political parties based on ideas and policies rather than just tribal affiliation. The downside of parties would be the likely creation of an extremist Islamic party however, which would not be wanted at all.

    In fact, I'd have to say the best political model is a benign dictatorship. Which is why Oman is so lucky, and why they have avoided so many bad things that are evident regionally. The problem with that system is it is highly dependent on the qualities of the benign dictator! Oman again are fine as long as it is someone with the dedication, intelligence, ethics and vision of HM. But the system is very vulnerable to corruption and I would not like to see Oman stick with this as its system for the extreme long term, as HM is a very, very, rare quality of leader, unlikely, IMHO, to be repeated. That is exactly why HM is working (as fast as he can) to prepare the ground for a more representative system.

    "These ideas are being introduced, at various stages, in the Gulf region. It may seem to be a charade to you, but it is at least an inch-by-inch progress towards public participation." Again, no, I don't think its so black and white. But in Kuwait it highlights the core problem right now integrating a 'bottoms up' pseudo-voting system with a top down autocracy.

    The ruler of Kuwait might have been better advised to dismiss the Government, rather than the Parliament...

  7. It was the Kuwaiti cabinet that resigned in the first place.

    "Under the Kuwaiti constitution, the emir may either accept the cabinet's resignation and form a new government or dissolve parliament and call for early elections. [ ] A number of MPs welcomed the cabinet resignation saying it could help to resolv[e] the emirate's crises."

  8. Sue,
    It was the Kuwaiti cabinet that resigned in the first place.

    Yeah, but I would have liked to see the ruler pick that 'first option' and invite the existing parliament to form a new Government. I suspect more elections will just prolong the problem.

  9. You might like to read a summary of Kuwaiti bloggers on the issue at Global Voices.

    They don't necessarily entirely agree with you. Apparently, the government (cabinet) has changed more than once.


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