Monday, July 28, 2008

New Ferrys, No more visas for Indian mechanics, and a visit by Sudan

In the news yesterday:

New Ferry - No crews or Facilities ready in time
Firstly, we now have taken delivery of the first fast ferry, aimed at providing a great fast connection to Musandam (and Salalah and Masirah). They look pretty sleek, and it is a great idea. But it was interesting to note that the ferry project has been on-going for 4 years, yet there are still no Omani crews trained, no dedicated jetty facilities started, no finalized regulations or procedures, no fare structures… IE the typical 'couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery' from the Omani side. Even worse, a source close to the project tells me the fuel tanks are apparently too small to last the full trip from Muscat to Khasab, so there will have to be a refueling stop on the way, at a jetty that hasn’t yet even been built. Ah well. Once they eventually get it together it looks like a nice trip.

No more visas for Expat semi-skilled workers announced
The Ministry of Manpower announced their latest cunning plan to boost Omanisation, with the policy to deny new visas for expat workers in a swath of employment jobs: including car repair, workshops and even commercial cleaning services. In the long term it seems a good idea, plus in the short term it should increase the salaries of those expats here already, as most employers will not be running out to hire Omanis in these roles. But worryingly, the edict specifically excludes large companies, so presumably the Bahwans, Zubairs and the other big family companies have essentially been given exemptions. Which is bizaar, as these larger companies are exactly the firms best placed to implement long term training and are making enough profit to support the higher wages this policy will demand. Better get your hair cut fast...
Ban on visas for several professions
Sunday, July 27, 2008 10:58:36 AM Oman Time
MUSCAT — The Ministry of Manpower has announced that it has stopped issuing visas to companies engaged in the following activities: Import and export, cleaning, barber shop, laundry, electronic repair, garbage cleaning and selling, textile shops, mobile GSM shops, health clubs, workshops in aluminium, iron, wood, car repair and all related activities, tailoring shops and beauty parlours.

As per the new rule, companies engaged in these activities will not be eligible for visa clearance. Accordingly, existing companies cannot bring in new expatriate recruits, nor can new companies be set up. However, those currently employed in these activities can renew their visa. Ministry sources say the objective of the move is to enhance Omanisation and bring more local talent to the fore. “There is plenty of local talent but there’s very little space available for them,” said an official. Ministry sources also revealed that the visa restrictions apply only to small, grade 3 and 4 companies and not to those that have been awarded the ‘green card’ for compliance with labour laws and Omanisation targets.

Genocidal Regime visits Oman
And finally, Sudan delegation arrives in Oman to start bolstering its support in the region, in the light of the ICC genocide charges against several high ranking Sudanese, including its President Al Bashir. As Sue Hutton pointed out in a comment on the previous post on this topic, Oman has long had a foreign policy founded on friendly relations with basically everybody, as befits a small country. But it still doesn't require supporting these idiots in the face of the horrendous actions taken for many years against civilians in Dharfur, supported by the government of Sudan in support of the Chinese oil extraction efforts. Dipolomancy is indeed often a distasteful business in the pursuit of National interest.

Interesting to note that The Times of Oman seemed to come out in support of the recent arrest of Radovan Karadzic for genocide by the ICC. How ironic.
Sudan envoy arrives with message for HM
Sunday, July 27, 2008 11:54:13 PM Oman Time
MUSCAT — Moosa Mohammed Ahmed, assistant of the Sudanese president and his envoy, arrived here yesterday on a visit to the Sultanate during which he will convey a message to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said from Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir. Moosa Mohammed and the delegation accompanying him were greeted on their arrival at the royal airport by Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamoud Al Busaidi, secretary-general of the Foreign Ministry and the Sudanese ambassador to the Sultanate.

The Guardian article of a couple of weeks ago gives a nice summary, including the reaction of Sudan's principal supporter and arms dealer, China.
This morning China – Sudan's biggest arms supplier and a leading investor in the country – said it had "grave concerns and misgivings" over the ICC's decision.
"The ICC's actions must be beneficial to the stability of the Darfur region and the appropriate settlement of the issue, not the contrary," a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Beijing, Liu Jianchao, told reporters.
When asked whether China would use its position as a veto-wielding UN security council member to obstruct the court's actions against Bashir, the spokesman declined to rule this out, saying: "China will continue consultation with other members of the UN security council but, as for the outcome, that I don't know."
China are being somewhat disingenuous, as they voted (along with the rest of the UN Security Council) to allow the case to be refered to the ICC in the first place.
The interesting part will happen if the ICC do actually issue an international arrest warrent for Al Bashir (at the moment he's still essentially on trial in absentia), although that's unlikely to happen in time to nap him in September if he visits New York.
Sudan's ambassador to the UN, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed, said Bashir planned to visit the general assembly in New York in September and warned that any attempt to arrest him there would be seen as a declaration of war.

For those who agree with the Times of Oman that Al Bashir is innocent, consider what he has been allegedly organising against the civilian African people in Dharfur:
...The plan was put into action, in the form of killings, mass rape and ethnic cleansing, after a revolt broke out in Darfur in 2003. "His motives were largely political. His alibi was a 'counterinsurgency'. His intent was genocide," Moreno-Ocampo said.

Three years ago a UN commission on Darfur ruled that the killings, despite their scale, did not constitute genocide. But Moreno-Ocampo argued that Bashir's guilt was far greater now because forces under his control had pursued the 2.5 million Darfuris made homeless in the conflict into the relief camps.
"Bashir organised the destitution, insecurity and harassment of survivors. He did not need bullets. He used other weapons: rape, hunger, and fear. As efficient, but silent," Moreno-Ocampo said.
"They are raping women, raping girls, raping in groups - raping to destroy the communities," he told CNN.

I know, its not black and white. The insurgency in the south started back in the 1980s, and the initial response of the Sudanese Government to arm and support the Arab Tribes was probably reasonable. But they've gone a long way from that now, with Government aircraft used repeatedly against unarmed women and children, and the GOS operating regularly in conjunction with the Janjaweed Arabs.

See these for some actual data on what's been going on in Darfur...
US State Dept Report
Médecins Sans Frontières
Boston News


  1. Along the same lines at - who wondered about the lack of Omanis at a very well established food company’s team of high flyers (management I assume) who enjoy the same privileges as Bahwan, Zubair et al of an entrenched employment position that disadvantages new companies who try and enter into the same market

  2. Will they ever be able to devise a better way to kill Omanis owning small companies?

    I have few small shops, which i opened almost two years ago. I do not want visas because i want to exploit cheap labour. I want visas so i can provide a real technical service in the market. I have tried and have been tolerating the bad work ethics of my countrymen, but there simply aren't enough Omanis out there, even if i want to keep them as 'showpieces' in my shops.

    This ministry decision is a direct assault on small shop owners like me. It clearly is a Wasta decision.

  3. Oman - nice observation, and not very unusual.

    Anon - First, can you at least make up a nickname. Second, you're absolutely right: it seems to be a fundamental attack on the business model of many of the SMEs in Oman. Probably made in error, not deliberately, but the exemption sounds wasta driven. Its hard to know how much the Chamber of Commerce represents SMEs, but I suspect not very much.

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  5. Anon:Spot on ! Apropos to what the Government thinks, Oman is not yet ready to stand on its own feet if foreign labour is blocked.
    However in times of economic recession, it is a common practice to restrict legal migration by foreign workers. Raising the barriers to legal entry, however, tends to have only a temporary or limited effect, and turns the flow of would-be migrants towards illegal channels.

  6. The plan for the high speed ferries is to use them from Shinas to Khasab. The service from Muscat to Khasab will only be until the jetty in Shinas is ready by June of next year. Once it's ready they will spend the Muscat journey and it will become a daily service from Shinas whereas currently in Muscat it's going to be only twice a week.

    This is just an explanation, it doesn't forgive the fact that a car ferry currently can't carry cars, or that a ferry that was ordered 3 years ago arrived before the infrastructure for it was ready.


If you wish to post anonymously, please pick a nickname by selecting the Name/URL option, or at least sign off your comment with one! I will delete comments I find objectionable or needlessly inflammatory. Sorry for the word verification.... OMG the spam has gotten BAD these past 12 months... trying to avoid making one log in...