Monday, February 23, 2009

Mayor of Paris visits Oman

In a follow-up to the recent visit of French President Sarkozy, yesterday Oman, was visited by Bertrand Delanoe, Mayor of Paris.

It is perhaps not surprising Bertrand and Sarkozy didn't come together, as the debonnaire Mr. Delanoe is tipped as a likely Socialist candidate to run against Mr. Sarkozy for the next Presidential Election, and they do not get on with each other very well at all.

His visit will be seen by many as connected to his build-up to run for the French Presidency in 2012.

Bertrand, pictured here at last year's Paris Gay Pride parade, is (to quote the UK Times newspaper) the first senior french Politian to openly declare his homosexuality, which he did on a TV show in 1998 before his election.

The rather dashing Mr. Bertrand Delanoe, Mayor of Paris
Photo Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen, Wiki commons

He has also done a pretty fine job of running Paris, being re-elected soundly last year, and someone who has worked hard to improve the livibility of Paris. The beach he had built on the river Seine being especially popular.

He is on a short tour of the region, having gone on to the UAE on his way back to Europe, but I would expect that a visit to homophobic bigots Bahrain will not be on the cards.

However, Mr. Delanoe has long had very close ties with Oman, especially since becoming Mayor in 2001, and clearly has a strong affection for the Sultanate and tremendous respect for His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

He met HH Fahd, and did a round of the great and good. I must say I was surprised that the Oman News Agency did not report him meeting with His Majesty.

Oman also shares informal family ties with France, as several senior Cabinet Ministers are married to French wives.

I must say it was tremendous to see Mr Delanoe receive such a welcome here in Oman, and it serves to demonstrate why Oman is more sophisticated, open-minded and mature than the other GCC states.

Now, if only he could convince the Muscat Municipality to hold a Gay Pride parade here in Muscat...

Fahd, Paris Mayor discuss ways to boost cooperation
ONA Sunday, February 22, 2009 12:01:07 AM Oman Time

MUSCAT — His Highness Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said, deputy prime minister for the Council of Ministers, received here yesterday Bertrand Delanoe, mayor of Paris, who is currently on an official visit to the Sultanate.

Sayyid Fahd welcomed the guest and the delegation accompanying him, reviewed the march of the growing good relations between the two friendly countries and horizons of future cooperation, which were established on mutual trust.

During the meeting, the conversations were focused on relevant means to support and promote cooperation between the Sultanate of Oman and the French republic in a number of spheres. Current issues at the international arena were also reviewed during the meeting.

The guest expressed his delight and that of his accompanying delegation to visit the Sultanate whose leadership is widely respected by the international community for the growth achieved at the domestic level and for its leading role with regard to its external relations, thanks to the wise vision of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

He underlined his country’s interest to enhance the strong relations with the Sultanate, which was crowned with the latest visit of President Nicolas Sarkozy to the Sultanate and its positive outcome in achieving interest of the two friendly countries.

l Sayyid Al Muatassim bin Hamoud Al Busaidi, minister of state and governor of Muscat, also received in his office Bertrand Delanoe and his accompanying delegation.

During the meeting, the Paris mayor expressed his admiration of the economic development and construction boom witnessed by the Sultanate in general and Muscat governorate in particular. He hailed the pioneering role persuaded by the Sultanate’s government under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said in pushing forward the development wheel in the country and establishing cooperation and friendship relations with other countries.

During the meeting, the two sides exchanged cordial conversation on the existing relations between the Sultanate and the French republic, as well as the tourism, historic and cultural potentials of Muscat governorate. The meeting was also attended by Ahmed bin Nasser Al Mahrazi.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tethys gets Swedish investors to invest $1.5mln in Oman oil exploration

Good news for Oman in this current climate. Swedish listed company Tethys Oil, a minor European O&G company, are sufficiently confident that the owners are investing an extra $1.5mln to pay their share of some drilling in blocks 3 & 4 in the Oman Mountains' southern foothills.

Don't know the terms of the fiscal deal they have, but I do hope they are successful. Their partner Greek based mega-ME conglomerate Consolidated Contractors Company Oman got involved in the fantabulously incredible Omagine! project for a whopping $50 mln to buy 12% and the right to be General Contractor. Ooops. (still, that was back in 2007)

Tethys Oil raises SEK13m through private placement
The Board of Directors of Tethys Oil AB has resolved to issue 1,300,000 new shares at a price of SEK10 through a private placement directed to approximately 10 Swedish and international investors.

The private placement is done with authorizations from the AGM held on May 8, 2008. The private placement is fully subscribed and the proceeds will amount to MSEK13 (approximately MUSD1.5) before issue costs.

A total of 1,300,000 new shares at a price of SEK10 corresponding to approximately 5.4% of the number of shares outstanding will be issued. After the private placement the number of shares in Tethys will amount to 25,280,086. The share capital of the company will increase by SEK216,667 to SEK4,213,348. The subscription price is in line with Tethys' current price on the stock market.

The proceeds from the private placement will be used to facilitate the ongoing work programme in Tethys' core area onshore Oman.

On re-reading these day the earlier press release for CCC's buy-in to Omagine! from just 2 years ago really paints a picture of the heady days when it seemed anything was possible real-estate wise.

Bank Muscat are project bank of choice.

Those were the days, eh?

NEW YORK, Dec. 18, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) --
Omagine, Inc. and its wholly owned
subsidiary Journey of Light, Inc. (the "Company") (OTCBB:OMAG) today announced that Consolidated Contractors International Company, S.A. (CCIC), an investment arm of Consolidated Contractors Group SAL ("CCG"), will invest nineteen million ten thousand Omani Rials (equivalent to US$49,426,000) in Omagine SAOC in
exchange for a twelve percent (12%) equity stake.

Omagine SAOC (the "Project Company"), presently being organized by the Company in the Sultanate of Oman, will design, develop, build, own and operate the Company's planned $1.5 billion plus tourism project -- OMAGINE -- which, when completed in four to five years, management expects to become Oman's prime destination for tourists, business travelers and the local population. An elegant and sophisticated integration of heritage, educational and cultural elements blended with entertainment, retail and hospitality elements, the Company expects that OMAGINE will set new standards. OMAGINE, and its jewel-like architecture, will be situated on the coast of the Gulf of Oman just ten minutes from Muscat; will boast over a kilometer of beach front; and will include commercial (retail, hotel, office) elements and over 3,000 matchless residences -- all in a stellar location.

Frank J. Drohan, the Company's president commented, "There is tremendous liquidity in the Gulf countries these days and we have been experiencing very extensive interest from a wide variety of investors anxious to invest in the Project Company. ...We believe OMAGINE will be the signature project for Oman and we and CCG are committed to the mission of delivering OMAGINE for our shareholders and for the people of the Sultanate of Oman."

Today's announcement follows the Company's news last week naming CCG's local Omani subsidiary, Consolidated Contractors Company Oman LLC ("CCC"), as OMAGINE's General Contractor, ... "Recent residential sales at other tourism projects in Oman have been extremely successful with very robust pricing levels occurring. Given the very energetic real estate market at present and the rapidly spreading knowledge about Oman's desirable tourism attributes, we want to be prudent and have our financial advisors and BankMuscat update our financial models and projections to current valuations to determine the amount of further capital, if any, required. ...

UAE Labour Ministry believes its own PR: New law will supposedly help Emirati to get work!

In a laughable and rather Orwellian press release yesterday, Mrs. Feddah Lootah, the acting director general of the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia), insisted the new law - making it even more impossible to fire Emiratis in private UAE companies - will increase Emiratis employability.

Debate over impact of Emirati job protection
February 20. 2009 9:30AM UAE / February 20. 2009 5:30AM GMT

Private-sector companies are more likely to employ Emiratis because of a new government policy that protects them from being laid off, a labour official said yesterday to counter claims to the contrary.

Feddah Lootah, the acting director general of the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia), said Emiratis would feel more secure in their jobs knowing they cannot be laid off. As a result, they will “increase their productivity, performance and loyalty”. Companies will become aware of that trend and will recruit more Emiratis, she said.

Mrs. Feddah Lootah, the acting director general of the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia), demonstrating how a protected job ensures increased performance.

Yeah, right. I'm sure everyone agrees with her that making someone unsackable makes them work harder and improves their productivity... That's why Government civil servants the world over are well known for being so hard working and productive I guess.

She clearly doesn't really understand the question, and in her reply simply emphasises that the law is the law:

...Responding to a question if Tanmia was worried if the new rule will make private companies shy away from employing Emiratis, Lootah said that “companies need to remember that there are Cabinet decisions that have enforced Emiratisation quotas and these rules must be respected and followed”. ...

It seems the comments around the UAE Business community that pointed out the obvious stupidity of the new law, in terms of actually contributing positively to the long term employment of locals in the UAE, were getting to be too much. IE:

In contrast, some business owners and analysts have described the guidelines, announced on Wednesday by the Ministry of Labour, as “counterproductive” and “inflexible”.

Paul Dyer, a research associate at the Dubai School of Government, who specialises in labour policy, said the new rules were “a worrisome precedent” that may serve as a disincentive to be productive.

“This kind of legislation sends strong signals to those who are not motivated from within, that they do not have to put much effort to keep their jobs, and therefore, reinforces a cycle that already exists within private businesses of not hiring Emiratis,” he said. “Hence, firms will resist much more than in the past from hiring Emiratis.”

"Now companies will think twice before hiring UAE nationals," said Hamed Buamim, Director General of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

"Any ruling imposing regulations on the private sector will have a negative effect on businesses. Companies will be more cautious in employing Emiratis. Such decisions might discourage employers from employing UAE nationals and encourage Emiratis not to give their best," he said.

Thus, the PR campaign to tell everyone how great a law it is has been started. Ever reliable UAE Government defender Gulf News even printed the following headline to help, even though the article itself clearly reinforces the notion that many in the private sector think it will reduce Emirati attractiveness as employees.

Private sector backs decision to regulate sacking of Emiratis
By Wafa Issa, Staff Reporter
Published: February 20, 2009, 18:15

Dubai: The private sector backed the decision to regulate the sacking of Emiratis, announced by the Ministry of Labour on Wednesday, but some warned that it could discourage employers from hiring Emiratis.

The National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia) said earlier that employers will think twice before sacking UAE nationals following the decision.

And they'll think 3 times before hiring another one, I'll tell ya.

Interested readers can find comments a plenty about this issue on the previous post.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dubai economy going tits up - the new ghost town

Everyone here who has just been overseas is talking about one thing: Dubai - and how it is totally gone dead.

As a dodo dead.

Crossing Maktoum bridge in the middle of the afternoon in 2 mins dead.

The airport is EMPTY. I was there last week and no-one was around except a lot of bored staff. It was spooky. Normally Dubai airport is like the space port in Star Wars. Full of every nationality under the sun and a few from nearby planets. (Think Men in Black for my younger readers).

But now....

Retail sales were already waaay down in November, and tourism and business travel globally have collapsed...

Dubai is in the shit. Construction and a booming global future was the whole reason d'etre of the economy. Even Abu Dhabi must be starting to balk at the liability on the downside.

This will undoubtedly have some knock on effect here, both in reduced buying of construction materials like aggregate, to less fish and transit goods, even overflight fees must be down. And less side-stepping tourists to nip across the border.

But all things considered, HE Mackie can rightly feel pretty good right now. Moodys have just given us a good sovereign rating and said some very nice things. The banks were not heavily into CDOs. And our currency link to the dollar has assisted greatly. The fiscal maintenance plus credit loosening is working. All local investor construction projects in and around Muscat are going ahead, and taking advantage of the cheap prices for cement and steel.

[Aside: although I'm reliably informed that work on the Minister of Tourism's new house extension in Qurm has been in suspension for some time. Strange. ]

Oman is definitely a great place to weather the storm. But hold on tight. A cold wind is howling, and the savings and low borrowing will only last so long. HE still needs an oil price uptick to >$60 by end 2010.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Russian Foreign Minister in Town

I guess you'll read about it tomorrow, but the Russian Foreign Minister,

Sergey Lavrov

is in town today for a couple of days. He'll meet Salim bin Mohammed al Riyami, and if he's sensible maybe score some free fishing and snorkeling.

Sergey is a professional diplomat (which I very much prefer to political apparatchiks). And a heavy smoker. Dude, you gotta love the ... ah fuck it! attitude of the Russians...

David Miliband subjected to 'F-word tirade' from Russian foreign minister Lavrov
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, was allegedly subjected to a tirade of four-letter abuse when he spoke to his Russian counterpart over the country's invasion of Georgia.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose that Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, reacted with fury when Mr Miliband and [sic UD] he spoke on the telephone. Mr Lavrov is said to have objected to being lectured by the British.

It was alleged that such was the repeated use of the "F-word", one insider who has seen the transcript, said it was difficult to draft a readable note of the conversation.

Mr Lavrov said: "Who are you to f------ lecture me?" He also asked Mr Miliband in blunt terms whether he knew anything of Russia's history.

The incident is set to add to pressure on the already strained diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia. [no shit, Sherlock - UD]

Mr Lavrov insisted that he had not sworn at Mr Miliband and accused the Foreign Office of trying to smear his reputation. He said that he was taking the "unusual step" of declassifying and releasing the Russian transcript of the conversation.

Excellent. When a professional diplomat tells you to fuck off, you really should start to look inward a little more I suspect. And lets face it, would you want Mr Miliband defending your corner in the big, bad world? Or Someone called Sergei who smokes and has been doing serious diplomacy all his life?

I'll go with the guy on the right. Perhaps not as a son-in-law, but as Foreign Sec? Yep. I want to go drinking with this guy. (I hate this British system of talented amateurs when it comes to important stuff like Foreign affairs)

Discussions here will undoubtedly NOT involve the F word, and will instead be immensely cordial, and will be focused on the situation in the middle east, Israel & Iran, Oman's interests in Kazakhstan and the wider FSU+ perhaps [like Belarus and Bulgaria], and opportunities for mutual trade, investment and cooperation between the two friendly nations undoubtedly [ref recent visit by uber-connected Mayor of Moscow].

My boys in the Foreign Ministry seem awfully keen to give him the super VIP treatment. Hmmmm? Maybe the Russians really want access to a fantastic warm water port?!!? I'm pretty sure a large investment into a place called Duqm would do wonders for Omani-Ruski relations right now...

Just a suggestion Sergei.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

UAE experiments with unintended consequences: illegal to fire Emiratis

Yes, those wacky Emiratis! Two interesting news articles in today's Gulf News.

First, UAE Labour Law
The Emirates seem determined to make locals as unattractive to have as employees as possible. A proposal to ban companies in the private sector from sacking Emiratis other than for labour law violations has been proposed.

The proposal to make new graduates in the UAE, like these fresh faced young ladies, as attractive to employ as a ball and chain.

After a UAE real estate development company decided to axe a few locals, what with the collapse of the real estate market, lack of credit and buyers, and a huge potential overhang of new apartments already nearing completion meaning work was rather thin on the ground, the disgruntled employees took their case to the Ministry of Manpower claiming arbitrary dismissal.

Fair enough, this sort of legal challenge to redundancy happens everywhere. But the response of the Labour Ministry is typical of the regional response to such issues: if there's a problem, simply declare the symptom of that problem illegal, rather than perhaps looking at what the root causes are, and addressing those.

So, the razor-sharp minds in the UAE Ministry are proposing to simply make it almost impossible for private firms to fire an Emirati. Brilliant.

The likely result of such a law will, I trust, be obvious to most readers. No-one who owns a private firm will want to hire an Emirati. Those that do, will - if they are clever - devise means around the problem, such as having a holding company with all the cash, and subsidiary companies that can hold the employees. When necessary, such a subsidiary might go bankrupt...

This is a stupid law. It might arguably "preserve the jobs of Emiratis" who already have one, but it will be highly damaging to employment prospects of future Emiratis.

Unfortunately, Oman has similar laws. In fact, the Government have basically told all companies in Oman over the past couple of months that they had better not be laying off any Omani staff in response to under the pretext of the global recession, as - of course - Oman is protected from these overseas problems. (Getting rid of Expats is fine, naturally, and with little in the way of legal protection).

The answer should be to make it more attractive to hire locals, perhaps by progressively taxing foreign labour, making it as easy to hire and fire locals as Expats, and having educational programs that turn locals into useful potential employees rather than work-shy holders of some useless qualification certificate. Unemployment insurance or social welfare needs to be put in place. Rules on minimum redundancy payments too. And pensions made transferable between companies.

Oh wait, that all seems like a lot of work. Much easier to just make the problem illegal and then state that Government has solves the problem!

Proposal moots job security for Emiratis
By Wafa Issa, Staff Reporter
Published: February 14, 2009, 23:12

Dubai: A proposal to ban companies in the private sector from sacking Emiratis other than for labour law violations is under consideration.

The National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia) has submitted a draft proposal to the Ministry of Labour under which cases pertaining to the termination of Emiratis working in the private sector are to be evaluated.

Feddah Lootah, the acting director-general at Tanmia, said the proposal aims to safeguard jobs of Emiratis in the private sector. "The main task of the authority is to preserve the jobs of Emiratis," he said.

The ministry is looking into the proposal but no time-frame has been given as to when a decision could be made.
The proposal suggests that the termination of Emiratis in private sector companies is to be considered arbitrary unless the employee has violated the labour law.

The violations which could lead to a worker's peremptory dismissal are outlined in Article 120 in the Labour Law.

Article 120 clearly mentions ten cases in which the employer is entitled to terminate a worker's contract. Non-performance of basic duties as set out under the contract and repeated violations despite warnings, professional mistakes which result in a substantial material loss to the employer, and clear disregard for safety instructions at the workplace are some of the clauses that can be brought against erring employees.

Last week, Gulf News reported that a group of Emiratis had filed a complaint against Al Futtaim Group for what they said was arbitrary termination. The case is still under review at the ministry after the sacked employees had sought immediate reinstatement.

The Tanmia proposal also stipulates that any company in the private sector forced to terminate Emiratis as part of restructuring policies aimed at increasing competitiveness, review of production costs in tough times, or in cases involving mergers between companies should duly inform the ministry of labour about such a move before any decision.

Also, as per the proposal, no company will be allowed to sack an Emirati before it has exhausted all avenues to find a suitable solution.

The proposal outlines a number of steps that a company should mandatorily satisfy before terminating Emiratis such as implementing a part-time system, repackaging salaries on the condition that they don't go below the minimum wage for Emiratis (which is between Dh3,000-Dh5,000 - depending on the qualifications), relocating them within the company or training them to handle other positions in the company.

Additionally, an employer in the private sector will also not be allowed to terminate an Emirati on the pretext that he/she does not have the required qualifications and skills, if the employee has completed her/his probation period.

Secondly, a disturbing Valentine's Day tale of a man who confessed and was convicted of forceably raping his defacto-wife's 4 female children over many years... The police got involved when one of the girls finally got the strength to go to the Police.

The result for the girls? All were sentenced to 80 lashes for "allowing" the man to have sex with them. And he was deported after a brief spell in jail, instead of being stoned to death.

Gee, I wonder why so few rapes are reported happen in the Arab world, compared to the morally corrupt West?

Death-row rapist deported after admitting to charges
By Bassma Al Jandaly, Staff Reporter
Published: February 14, 2009, 23:12

Ajman: A man who was to be stoned to death for raping his mistress's young daughters has been deported, Gulf News has learnt.

Abdul Aziz, a Pakistani, was sentenced for repeatedly raping the four Emirati girls, who were then aged between 12-14. Their father, an Emirati, was married to an Indian woman. When he died his widow then got into a relationship with Abdul Aziz. Gulf News earlier reported Abdul Aziz had married the Indian woman, but police investigations revealed they were not married.

"The woman who used to live in Al Ain, told police after her arrest in Ajman that she married Abdul Aziz soon after the death of her Emirati husband and the father of her daughters, but the truth is that there was no official and approved marriage contract between the woman and the man," a police official said. Abdul Aziz lived with the woman and her daughters for more than 12 years, claiming that he is their step father.

The girls and their mother gave birth to more than 12 children from him. One of the girls was eight months pregnant when they were arrested in 2005, according to police. DNA tests by Dubai Police proved that Abdul Aziz was the father.

The woman's youngest daughter reported the matter to police when Abdul Aziz tried to attack her. He was arrested and subsequently sentenced to death by stoning. Gulf News learnt that Abdul Aziz was later deported.

The accused admitted his guilt at all stages of the court proceedings. He told the court he was the father of some of the children, but some others "were not his."

The mother was accused of aiding and abetting him and forging the birth certificates of her daughters' children. She has also been deported, Gulf News has learnt. The four girls were sentenced to 80 lashes each. The girls were charged with "allowing" the man to have sex with them.

The victims, who are now aged between 23 and 28, told the judge, Abdul Aziz used to threaten them with a knife, forcing them to surrender to him.

Police said Abdul Aziz and the woman lived together for several years. Police said that when neighbours and relatives in Al Ain noticed something was wrong, the couple moved to Ajman.

The girls told police that some of their children were born in India and some in the UAE. Their mother used to tell people in the UAE that her daughters were married in India and she used to tell relatives in India that her daughters were married in the UAE.

Police said the girls and their children who are now being taking care of by their relatives in Al Ain are suffering psychologically. "They are naive and illiterate, They never went to school," a police official said.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oman Theatre Production premiere in USA next month

While we wait for the new opera house to be finished, The Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center (SQCC) in Washington DC is already serving as a route to develop Omani Theatrical talent.

The Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center (SQCC), named for His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said al Said, Sultan of Oman, was established in 2005 to provide educational resources and outreach programs that promote greater public understanding and awareness between our two nations, the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf Region. Building on almost 200 years of relations between the United States and the Sultanate of Oman, the SQCC celebrates the culture, history, and heritage of these regions.
SQCC is a program of the Middle East Institute of Washington, DC.

The centre has commissioned Debbie Allen (perhaps most well known for the dance school movie "Fame!") to develop a show about two young men sharing a room in a Military Academy. Called Oman O Man!, (no copyright acknowledged to Muscati) they take a "magical journey together through music, movement, song, and dance".

Here's Debbie. She's one of the best modern choreographers in the US (and I understand she's visiting Oman this week too).

Sounds like an interesting show. (I can't help but think it's slightly homoerotic, with a theme like that, but that's probably just my twisted imagination.) Catch it in Washington, March 12-15, 2009.

presented in association with the

Emmy winner and Kennedy Center favorite Debbie Allen is back with OMAN…O Man!, a world premiere Kennedy Center commission presented in association with the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center. Created and choreographed by Allen, this ground-breaking, dance-driven extravaganza explores the culture of Oman. It features young Omani performers collaborating with their peers from Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. to original music composed by Grammy-winning trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.

At the center of the work are two young men--one Omani, another American--who meet at a military academy with cadets from all over the world. Though their names--Joseph and Yousef--are similar, these roommates don't really understand each other. However, through music, movement, song, and dance, they take a magical journey together and discover the similarities and the differences between their two cultures, and learn much about each other. OMAN…O Man! will transport you from where the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea meet to where the desert dunes mystify, from the ancient past to the immediate present.

French President passes by to flog Oman Fighter Planes

Yes, Mon Amis, the reason the helicopters were out and the roads closed was the flying visit of Mr Sarkozy, President of France. HM apparently invited him.

Excellent Photo stolen shamelessly from: The Engish Sabla Mr Sarkozy: Surprisingly tall. Sans Wife (that's an Aid)

He did not. as far as I know, bring his totally hot wife. Woof Woof!!!

[for those who don't know the beautiful Mrs Sarkozy, see the British Press tabloid version. (OK, and for those of you who DO know the story,
this is probably what you want to see)

It seems while he was here, he really tried to
flog us some French Jets.

Didn't seem so far to have had much luck. We'll see.

Tough time to be selling new planes though, what with the global meltdown/crediti crisis. Maybe the French payment plan is totally great.

And how great for France that their guy is out there pushing product tho'. Work it baby, work it!

I'd say it'll be a while before we commit to spending that sort of money anywhere. There are at least 3 (OK, 6 if you want to be silly) options: British/German: The Euro Fighter. French: Rafale. And USA with F2099 (or what ever). Expect loooooong negotiations Mr Sarkozy!

I'd expect Oman right now could get jets not just on the never never, but on the "never never ever have to really pay" plan. They must be giving them away. Time to buy.

Maybe. Heh heh...


[Remember, the real payback for the supplier with this sort of kit is the parts, training, maintenance, etc. Its like the old 'shaver and blades' trick]

France offers Rafale fighter to Oman - sources
Wed Feb 11, 2009 1:45pm IST Email | Print | Share| Single Page[-] Text [+]
MUSCAT, Feb 11 (Reuters) - France is proposing that Oman replaces its ageing fleet of Jaguar ground attack aircraft with Rafale combat planes built by Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research), French diplomatic sources said.

The offer was made by visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a meeting and dinner on Tuesday with Sultan Qaboos bin Said on the second stage of a Gulf tour, they said.

Oman wants to replace a fleet of almost 20 Anglo-French Jaguars, in service with the Royal Air Force of Oman for around 30 years.

France is looking for a first export customer for the multi-role Rafale but is expected to face competition in Oman from rivals including the EADS-built (EAD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) Eurofighter.

Sarkozy is on a three-nation visit to Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, countries which tradiitionally buy strategic hardware from the English-speaking world.

"These are by tradition Anglo-Saxon countries -- fine, but France has its own cards to play," Sarkozy told journalists before meeting the Sultan of Oman.

"I am not going to leave here empty-handed. We are sowing seeds and then we will fight to defend our companies and bring back contracts," he said. (Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry, editing by Dan Lalor)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Abandoned Apartments in MQ finally torn down

A reader forwarded me these tasteful pics of Towells the Property Developer finally demolishing their swath of old flats in MQ, towards BSM from Costa Coffee. The imagery is quite artistic. The tenants were kicked out ages ago, and the flats have sat there, frequent home to the local Shibab [youths] and apparently had all sorts of horrible noises emanating from it late into the night.

HSE during the demolithion is, of course, non existent [this being Oman where NRIs and Pakistanis do such work] and the window breaking had to be seen to be believed. All 5 floors done with 3 or 4 guys with hammers and not a pair of shoes or safety glasses between them. No safety curtain either and both sites wide open to the public.

Some of the hoarding fell down with the recent high winds.

Yes folks, yet another housing development in MQ/Shatti/Qurm. Just what the market needs! Certainly construction costs (for materials) should be a lot better. I hope SinoHydro are putting in enough pipe for the high density housing going up in MQ.

No word on the height the replacement will be built too...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

ROP investigation states alleged sex attack at PDO Club did not happen.

News release today forwarded to me by a contact in Petroleum Development Oman [PDO], the big national oil company based in Qurm.

The ROP have formally investigated the report of a sex attack in early November at the PDO fireworks night and concluded it was made-up.

Still to be answered: why the hoax? And by whom?

Serious Incident Allegation at RAH 08-02-2009

Follow up Message on Serious Incident Allegation at RAH on the Night of the Annual Fireworks Display

Further to the note on 11th of November 2008, regarding the above subject, we confirm that the ROP has responded to PDOs request to conduct a formal investigation of the alleged incident at RAH at the fireworks display in November 2008. The investigation confirmed that the incident did not take place and the ROP described the allegation as (baseless) and (false).

While safety and security is primarily the responsibility of each individual, PDO management would like to give all staff and their families the assurance that their safety and security is taken very seriously. Any concerns in this regard should be raised through appropriate channels and will be followed up.

However, when concerns are widely communicated prior to establishing the facts, it can create unnecessary anxiety. In this regard, staffs are reminded of PDOs Business Communication Guidelines and PDOs Disclosure Procedure and are requested to refrain from spreading unconfirmed rumours.

Finally, I would like to thank all of those who contributed to the investigation. Their willingness helped the process take its course in an objective and transparent manner.

Mohammed Al-Ghareebi
Corporate Security & ER Manager

Breaking News: Blue City make big sale of Golf Course apartments

Just a quick breaking news story.

My sources tell me Blue City have just (this morning) managed to sell 120 individual units of the golf course apartments to .... Abu Dhabi Pension fund, and have received a crisp $20 million cheque as a deposit.

Nice one. Discount and price were not available, but it is a good source of confidence in the deal by a major external player (albeit one with shedloads of cash).

Blue City it may never become, well, unless the Government decide to decamp the Ministries to Al Sawadi in some future high oil price world... But Blue City resort will obviously be a go: i.e. some villas, apartments, hotels, marina and golf course. I hope they're sensible and don't cut the golf course down to 9 holes, as that would be penny wise-pound foolish as they say.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Blue City continued: AAJH Puts their side of the story to Bahrain press

As recently posted in a comment in the Blue City bonds story last week, here's an interview with the theoretically 70% owner of Blue City : AAJ Holdings chairman and chief executive officer Ahmed Abubaker Janahi. The tale puts out AAJ's view of their experience on Blue City with respect to their legal dispute with local Omani company Cyclone, preceded by (somewhat opportunistically) trying to say the case is representative of all GCC FDI. Hey, why not say that - its free world.

Anyone with the take from Cyclone's side, feel free to send me some info. I wonder when the ruling is expected?

Gulf Daily News interview.

Lawsuit 'is testing global confidence'

MANAMA: Global investor confidence in the GCC could be at stake in a protracted legal battle over the ownership of a massive development project, says a Bahraini entrepreneur.Bahrain-based AAJ Holdings is locked in a dispute with Omani company Cyclone over ownership of the $15 billion Blue City Project in Oman.

Cyclone took the dispute to the Omani Court of Appeal, after losing a case last March in which it accused AAJ Holdings of illegally acquiring a majority stake in the project.

AAJ Holdings holds a 70 per cent stake in the project, while the remaining 30pc of the shares are held by Cyclone.

But AAJ Holdings chairman and chief executive officer Ahmed Abubaker Janahi says his company has effectively been locked out by Cyclone since the ruling by the Primary Court.

Mr Janahi said the implications of the dispute were 'huge', with global investors watching to see how the appeal court rules.

"Lots of things are at stake here," he said.

"The investors injecting their money into the region during the past period are now awaiting the verdict in this dispute, in order to get the necessary comfort that their investments are safe in this region.

"From the moral point of view, justice in the GCC is under scrutiny and is now facing a major test. We hope that the ruling of the Omani judiciary will be fair as it has always been.

"There are international implications related to the financing of the project, which are overseen by international parties that have a right to protect their interests and intervene if they feel that matters are getting out of control."

AAJ Holdings had acquired its 70pc shareholding in the project company in two stages; 58pc on May 22 2005 and 12pc on October 17, 2005.

The legal dispute started when Cyclone instituted proceedings at the Omani courts claiming that AAJ Holdings and the two companies from whom AAJ Holdings bought the shares had violated the Commercial Companies Law in Oman, which states that partners in a company shall have the pre-emptive right to acquire shares that any partner in that company intends to dispose of to third parties.

Cyclone claimed that the terms of the sale offered to it to exercise its right of first refusal were not the same as the terms under which the sale of the project company shares was actually concluded.

The Primary Court in Muscat, however, rejected the case, confirming AAJ Holdings' shareholding in the project company and the validity of the share sale and purchase process.

Mr Janahi alleged that Cyclone had since rejected all overtures to start afresh and push ahead with the project, denying him and his representatives access to the company and the project.

"Following the issuance of the verdict in our favour, we reached out to Cyclone in an attempt to start a new page and preserve the livelihood of this huge project, particularly seeing as there are international parties which contributed to the financing of this project, in addition to the fact that the project companies and partners have made international and local financial commitments," said Mr Janahi.

"Unfortunately, Cyclone rejected all our attempts. Therefore, we are now awaiting the ruling of the Court of Appeal, hoping that the Omani judiciary will once more restore justice to its rightful owners.

"We do have rights; we own 70pc of the project's shares, and no one will take this away from us.

"Cylcone is continuing to prevent us from exercising our management rights as partners and board members and have even prevented us and our representatives from physical access to the company's premises in order for us to carry out our administrative tasks."

He said he and his representatives had been kept away from the project since the beginning of the dispute.

"Consequently, we are not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the commitments made and actions taken by Cyclone during the period in which we were shut out from the project," said Mr Janahi.

"After the issuance of the Primary Court verdict, I dispatched our professional representatives to gain access to the company's premises, carry out certain tasks and review the company's records.

"Sadly, they were thrown out of the company and prevented from entering. Until this date, we are still not granted access to the company nor its records, by Cyclone, without them actually having any legal backing for such actions."

He said his legal team had lodged an objection to the appointment of a new expert by the appeal court to examine the case, but this had been rejected by the court.

"We objected to the appointment of this expert right from the beginning, based on the fact that he is not one of the experts registered in the list of accredited and approved experts often utilised by the Ministry of Justice and does not have any experience in commercial adjudication," said Mr Janahi.

"He is an academic at Sultan Qaboos University and has no previous experience as an expert to the court, as this is the first task assigned to him.

"However, the court rejected our objections, which we found surprising, as a case of such magnitude and level should definitely be handled by a prominent experienced firm or an expert who has the necessary expertise, impartiality and professionalism."

He said his company had done everything it could to solve the dispute amicably.

"We did not leave any stone unturned in our attempts to reach an amicable resolution between the two parties," said Mr Janahi.

"Our position was clear right from the beginning; to preserve the interests of the project and the reputation of the region from the investors' point of view.

"The reason behind this is simple: we own a majority interest, and any amicable resolution will ultimately be to the benefit of all parties.

"We exerted all possible efforts, approached all officials and ministers, and conveyed messages to those of interest.

"Despite the fact that we were confident that we are in a position of strength in the case filed against us by Cyclone, we knocked on all doors out of our desire to preserve the Blue City Project, a desire that some interpreted as weakness and lack of confidence in our legal position.

"Unfortunately, such efforts to communicate were in vain."

Mr Janahi said the dispute had not daunted his commitment to engaging in further development projects in the region.

"This is an experience, and experiences only make you stronger," he said. "Despite the tough economic conditions experienced all over the world, including this region, I believe the effects of the economic meltdown are less substantial in the GCC, as governments are actively involved in the regulation of investment activities and many of the regions' central banks adopt a conservative approach."

Mr Janahi said he remained confident that justice would prevail.
"I'm fully confident that the Omani judiciary will restore justice and restore my rights," he said. "The case is quite clear and does not even require the appointment of experts, and I am confident that our legal position is sound."

Massive Cross dressing themed party planned for Muscat!!

Sometimes it's spooky how things coincide.

Yes, earlier readers will be relieved (I'm sure) to learn that Boxster doesn't have to do his drag-streak in City Centre to test the Sultanate's approach to the issue of cross-dressing ...

The legal status of a bit of face paint and a frock on a bloke will instead be tested handsomely at this year's annual (and famously awesome) ANZO Ball.

Theme for this year: Priscilla Queen of the Desert. A famous and quite excellent Aussie movie about 3 drag queens on a road trip in Australia (since remade in the USA, and a world-wide musical too).


I must attend this soire!!!!!!!! Oh yes. (I'll try and get tickets for you too Mr. T, if you and the misses want to have a very safe walk on wild side...)

I must say, keep the party low profile, it will be one heck of a party, and we don't want it spoiled by party poopers.

I actually hope this will truly demonstrate Oman's more sensible approach to such matters: if it's a private party, with no-one being silly, hey, why not? Its just those crazy Brits and their Colonial brethren: everyone knows how they like to dress up as girls.

The Rocky Horror Show. Wonderful. I'll be using it as inspiration for my outfit.

And lets face it, they are mostly here in jobs working hard to support the country, and it IS their culture.

So see you there. Tickets will be hard to get, so befriend an Aussie or a kiwi today!

Oh, and all the uptight readers should first treat themselves to actually watching the movie Priscilla Queen of the Desert before harping on and getting all worked up about something harmless and huge fun.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Unfortunately, a real security situation in Oman is developing...

Those who are regulars to Muscat Confidential will know I've long insisted Oman is a jewel surrounded by places that are generally bat-shit crazy and horrible places to live: Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi, Yemen, and the UAE....

(see for yourself)

Here's a story [The Economist] I thought contained some of the worst news for us here in Oman I've read lately: Many currently held in Guantanamo Cuba are about to be released.... back to Yemen. Where a rump of Al Qaida, Tabliban-saudi's and local Islamo-nutters have already established a bridgehead.

The new 'Pakistan-Tribal-Areas' in 2009 may be about to become the hills of northern Yemen, and those idiots will only have 2 ways to go: Saudi and us. Fortunately, its Saudi they seem to have a fixation on... but being next door to well armed, hardened psychopathic islamo-nutcases with a chip on their shoulder about the West isn't a nice thing.

I hope and trust the powers that be are prepared for a significantly increased threat from the south later this year, and perhaps a long-lasting cross-border conflict if no-one drains the swamp (and no-one has for 5000 years).

It may be time to shut-down the border again.

The Joke is... when offered to be released in freedom, to escape to the hills of Northern Yemen, 80% of the prisoners said they'd rather stay in Cuba where they had AC, TV and 3 squares a day....

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

The comments section in the article is worth a look. The best comment so far is posted after the extract from the Economist below...

Yemen and al-Qaeda
A nice safe haven for jihadists

Jan 29th 2009 | SANA’A
From The Economist print edition
When Guantánamo closes, many of its inmates will know where to go.

LAST March, al-Qaeda websites posted a message advising members to head for Yemen, the Arabian peninsula’s unruly south-west corner. The call, it seems, has been answered. The global terror franchise has released a video showing fugitive Saudi jihadists and their Yemeni hosts proclaiming a merger between their two branches, plus images of combat training in Yemen’s rugged mountains. Now other friends may soon be joining the fighters, by quite a different route. The Yemeni government says it expects most of the 100-odd Yemenis still held in the American prison camp at Guantánamo, where they now make up the largest national group of inmates, to be home by the spring. It is building a special camp where jihadist suspects will be allowed to live with their families, while undergoing reindoctrination to equip them for a peaceful return to society.

Yet, to the chagrin of the Yemeni and Saudi governments, as well as of an Obama administration that wants Guantánamo closed, the two Saudis in the video happen to be graduates both of the tropical island jail and of a vaunted Saudi rehabilitation programme. The Saudi authorities had freed them last year. Reunited with their families, they had benefited, as had several hundred other repentant jihadists, from state pensions designed to ease a return to civilian life. But the pair vanished a few months ago. In the video they vilify the Saudi counselling programme as a trick, and vow to pursue jihad. Nasir al-Wahishi, the new “emir of the Arabian Peninsula”, a Yemeni, to whom they have sworn loyalty, was himself one of 23 al-Qaeda suspects who escaped from a prison in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, in 2006.

With its rough terrain, weak central state and gun-slinging tribal culture, Yemen may prove a fairly secure redoubt for al-Qaeda. The group has suffered sharp setbacks in such places as Iraq, Lebanon and especially Saudi Arabia, where it has not mounted a serious attack since 2006. The relative quiet in Yemen, which some critics of its government ascribe to a secret amnesty whereby Sunni jihadists backed the state against a smouldering Shia insurrection in the country’s north, has been eroding. Waves of arrests, prompted partly by Western and Saudi pressure, have provoked an escalation of al-Qaeda attacks that culminated in a double car-bombing of America’s embassy in Sana’a last September; the attack failed to penetrate the fortified compound but left 16 people dead.

Though a Western diplomat in Sana’a describes al-Qaeda’s threat there as “very severe” and the government’s efforts to thwart it as merely “episodic”, it is Saudi Arabia, rather than Yemen itself, that is the group’s main target. The fact that al-Qaeda’s Saudi branch has been forced to regroup elsewhere, under Yemeni leadership, may be a sign of weakness rather than strength. As for Yemen, even if the danger of a few hundred armed jihadists is real, locals may well care more about other national plagues: the frightening scale of corruption, poverty, malnutrition, water depletion, Yemen’s plunging oil revenues, its ugly, four-year-old war in the north, simmering separatist sentiment in the south, constant tribal unrest and vicious power struggles among the ruling elite.

and the zinger (couldn't resist reposting, it struck a chord):

killremoval wrote

"You make little sense, as you are talking about something completely different. Perhaps you have nothing valuable to say?"

I was pointing out how ironic it was for you to claim that the Muslim community as a whole had a legitimate beef against the US or the west for attacks against other Muslims. In other words, it should be expected that a Muslim in, say, Frankfurt, would be angry and maybe even lash out in response to an attack by western forces on a Muslim in, say, Afghanistan or Iraq, even though these Muslims come from completely different cultures. If that is the case, wouldn't it make as much sense for a Christian in Oklahoma City to ahve a similar response to an attack on a Christian in Afghanistan or Iraq?

As for western Barbarism; you want to know what group is responsible for the most Muslim deaths world wide. Any guesses? It's other Muslims. If one were to provide an honest comparison of western vs Islamic violence anywhere in the world, they would have to ackonwledge that the Islamist forces frequently attack "soft" targets, or those that are less able to defend themselves. in other words, civillians. This makes sense from a strategic perspective, since the benefit of creating fear amongst one's civillian opponents (through the use of violence) carries much less risk than attacking the political opposition, which is often protected by some sort of formal security force. For example: say there is a village in Afghanistan that is hostile to the Taliban. They can cheaply and safely set off a bomb in that village. At the very least this would demonstrate to the people opf the village thier vulnerability, and it may well compel them to be more friendly to Taliban forces or less friendly to Coalition Forces. If the Taliban instead chose to engage conventional military ground forces, those forces could easily call in a B-52 to perform close Air Support. Within Minutes, that B-52 could very safely and very easily drop up to 25 thousand-plus pounds of guided and unguided munitions on their positions. That option carries a lot more risk, since they are probably going to die, while inflicting little or no damage to the enemy.

The whole intent of Islamism is not to defend against western imperialism, as you put it, but rather to replace it with a more Islamic version. It's also important to note than in many places what you refer to as imperialism is a natural function of popularity. To the best of my knowledge, the US Marines never landed in Pakistan with intent of forcing otherwise unwilling Muslims to watch american movies or drink Coca Cola. They do so because they choose to do so, and that choice represents a threat to a lot of conservative Muslims who view it as erosive to their own power. I'm sure you are familiar with Al Quaeda's long term question to re-establish the caliphate, reclaiming lost territories that have been westernized for hundreds of years, and christianized for even longer. That, my friend, is what I call Imperialism, and to my knowledge there are no comperable christian groups calling for another crusade to reclaim former Christian lands.

The US will always be disliked by much of the world, and although it's just my opinion I suspect it has a lot to do with her success. The far left has always despised the US becuase it was proof that capitalism and free markets were vastly superior to the alternate systems of communism, anarchism, and socialism. I imagine it's pretty hard to sell Marxism when one of the world's greatest success stories in the diametric opposite. Islamism, which may be the logical heir to communism, may suffer a similar dilemma. You would have to be very creative marketer to successfull sell a system that to a large degree vilifies science, knowledge, and enlightenment, while embracing and legitimizing ignorance, oppression, and suffering.

Anyway, I'm probably an ass for feeding the troll. My apologies.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Aside - UK House of Lords debates WTO and mention's Oman using WTO todrive through economic reform

Wonderful thing about the internet and free speech, combined with Hansard.

Here's a transcript of a debate in the UK's esteemed House of Lords, where on the topic of Europe and the WTO, Oman came up.

The expert being questioned describes (second hand) how Oman used the WTO to help the Government in driving through business reform, under the banner of joining the WTO - as reportedly voiced by someone from the Oman Export Development agency.

Chairman: Thank you very much. Ms Francis, I am conscious that we are trespassing on your time. If you have another five minutes, Lord Haskins has another question and I would like Lord Trimble to ask a question.

Q364 Lord Haskins: It seems to me the gist of what you are saying all the time blah blah blah...

Ms Francis.....A country like Ethiopia coming into the WTO is a huge step in the right direction for the private sector because all of a sudden there are obligations which have to be put in place. I recall at one of our annual meetings there was someone there from the Oman Export Development Agency and he said that joining the WTO was the greatest thing because it was an excuse to move forward on all of the business environment things that they had had on the agenda for a long time. Before they had been blocked but because the government had to sign up to the agreement, had to step up to the table on all of these issues and sign off on them, it then allowed the private sector to push and cause these things to move faster than perhaps they would have.

Chairman: I think that is phenomenal. We have seen that with people joining the European Union, in fact... blah blah blah

Nice to know, and makes sense.

I'm as usual curious: Does the Majlis in Oman do any of this - ie Issue transcripts of (some) debates as a public record? I think Hansard has been publishing UK Parliament debates etc for centuries.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

No Pantomimes for Dubai I guess… Cross Dresser given 6 months

The UAE is so full of hypocracy its hard to fathom sometimes. A man was fined 1000 rial (US$2600) and sentenced to 6 months in prison (suspended) for cross-dressing in a Dubai mall.

Man convicted of cross-dressing
By Bassam Za'za', Senior Reporter
Published: January 31, 2009, 22:59

Dubai: A manager, who claimed he was training to play a female in a Bollywood film, has been charged with cross-dressing and using mascara at Mall of the Emirates. The Dubai Court of Misdemeanours gave the 45-year-old Indian, an administration manager with a property developer, a six-month suspended jail term and fined him Dh10,000.

The court found him guilty of cross-dressing in public. However the judge suspended his imprisonment because it's his first offence and it believed that he won't repeat the crime. The jail term was suspended for three years within which he should not repeat the crime. The Public Prosecution has appealed the initial verdict and is seeking stiffer punishment.

A defence witness told the court that P.K., who also works in the movie industry, was training for a minor role in a forthcoming film in India which required him to wear a woman's outfit.

Undercover policemen spotted the defendant at Mall of the Emirates. The policemen claimed that his outfit was glittering (like a woman's clothes), and he wore a bra, mascara, women's perfume and a wig.

"I'm not guilty... I was cross-dressed because I was training to perform a woman's role in Indian cinema. I didn't intend to go to the mall but I went there because I received an urgent phone call," P.K. told the public prosecutor.

Police records said that he attempted to bribe the policemen in order to avoid being taken to court.

"I didn't bribe anyone... they misunderstood me because I said I was willing to pay a fine if that would be my punishment," the accused said in his statement to the Public Prosecution.

The Appeals Court will hear the case in March.


Dubai toughened up on cross-dressing (both male and female) last year when many cross-dressing tourists were arrested and deported. And apparently it’s an increasing problem in the schools, with girls dressing as boys!

Speaking to Arab News, Hamda Amiri, a social worker with one of the government high schools, said that there were an increasing number of girls dressing like boys in the schools. “The phenomenon is more visible in the girls’ schools than in the boys. It has become fashionable and cool for some of these girls to dress and act as boys. It’s shocking but some girls think that by dressing and acting this way, they are rebelling and making a statement!...

Shock horror! We all know what happens when girls dress like boys, don't we?

Of course, it’s a fine line. How do they set the standard? Is a woman in jeans and a shirt cross-dressing? Does a guy with a touch of eye-liner and a sparkly-top deserve 6 months??

What about this guy? He's wearing a skirt and make-up!

Or, these guys????? (try dressing like this in a Texas bar and not be considered a cross-dresser...)

So, no pantos for Dubai's many English residents. Imagine the jail time if people were caught charging people to go and see something like this in a public theatre!

Oman used to have a similar law, but I think its been withdrawn and it's no longer illegal for a man to cross dress here... but I'm not sure... Any readers with knowledge?