Finally I have internet set up in my house. How did people in the dark (pre-internet ages) live? It's not a pretty life, I tell you.
Anyway, it's been a hectic last few months for me. I've been elected social secretary for my college, and that has kept me really busy. I've also bought a car at 3:30 in the morning for £400 pounds (a 93 rover si!), and now I have to go to court because of it. Apparently fitting 7 people in a five seater is illegal in this country. Goddamn English, they should come to bahrain, and see how things are done! I then find out that the Bahraini license does not work in England, and hence I have to appear in front of a judge for driving without a valid license. I see a case for suing based on discrimination developing here.
Oh well, I guess I was bound to be on the system at one point in my life. English stuffiness about licenses is just as good a reason as any other.
I'm also busy trying to join a rifle club, go hunting, do more travelling in fucked up places (Kazakhstan seems to be the next trip), and of course playing football. I'm already raising a few eyebrows here and there. A few people have the suspicion I'm a terrorist (why else would an arab want to use a gun?), or at least that I'm a bastard anti-animal rights activists. Oh well, you can't please everyone all the time, so you gotta live your life!
Anyway, on the bahrain frontier, there seems to be two issues dominating the talks at the moment. One is the Al Khawaja affair, and the other is the Mckinsey report. Oviously, these two issues have been covered extensively in other places, but i'll offer my quick-capsule and highly opinionated viewpoint on both. First, to the Al Khawaja affair.
Yes, imprisoning him was wrong. and yes, imprisoning and beating up demonstrators is wrong. yes, parliamentarians seeking to curb rights to demonstrations (especially parliamentarians who led demonstrations themselves!) is wrong. However, what the hell was Al Khawaja thinking he was doing? Did anyone read the transcript of his speech. To transliterate roughly in English, he ended up his speech by saying, " I have been to so many matams (mosques) and houses where people are praying that god take the soul of the prime minister, and I join these people in saying may god take the soul of the prime minister!"
Hello? and this coming from someone that's supposed to represent the Bahrain Human Rights centre? So he decided to abandon using legitemate, established channels of his centers and decided on the quickest fire way to a solution: prayer to god for death? Is that what a respected public figure supposed to say? Hasn't this guy heard of courteous phrasing of an opinion? There have been people who have said much stronger criticisms of government policies, e.g. Abdulrahman Al Nuaimi, but at least they have the tact of wording it properly. All the Khawaja has succeeded in doing is making the prime minister look like the victim here, and give the government the green light for a strong crackdown. Basically, he has ruined everything the opposition has worked for all this time.
I mean, the guy knew exactly what he was saying, and he knew exactly what the consequences were. Basically, he was telling the government, "here I am pissing at your doorstep, and I dare you guys to arrest me." Well, guess what, your bluff has been called, and now the tables have been turned on you. I'm sure the guy wanted to become a martyr. Well, now he's got his quick road to fame, at the expense of all the other hard work done by other opposition moves. Nice work.
Now to the McKinsey report. Basically, I want to meet the guys at McKinsey who made this report, and shove it up their throat. I mean what a waste of money. From a technical viewpoint, the paper is at best mediocre. Compared to any other study McKinsey would do, this one is way below substandard. Its filled with simplistic wording, poor data, and child-like diagrams. The guys who wrote this must be laughing all the way to the bank.
Don't get me wrong, I agree with most that was written in the report. But did we need to spend millions of Bahraini dinars to write what was distinctly clear even to a blind man. Heck, I could've told them that stuff for free! (well, a land plot in Busaiteen would be nice). The gist of the report is that the Bahraini labour market is buggered, and action needs to be taken quickly. the main problems are a burgeoning unemployment problem, failing labour market structure, and too many foreign workers. The solutions: better quality higher education geared at the labour market requirements (i.e. more vocational degrees), placing bahraini and foreign workers on a similar footing, and a restructure of the labour market. whoopteedo! and how much was spent on this report? My local khabbaz would have given those answers.
to be fair though, it's good that this report has come out. We Bahrainis still have this mentality that anything that is produced domestically is suspect, and anything from the west must be very good and fundamentally true. Bahraini Economists and public figures have been arguing the exact same things for years, but of course we were all skeptical. They were probably wrong. I mean, a Bahraini making a proper policy proposal? Give me a break. A report coming from McKinsey however. Now this one must be correct. Suddenly everyone is discussing the McKinsey proposal, as if its the corner stone of any policy.
Basically my point is this. The report makes some very valid, but very basic points that people have been making for a long time. In terms of new information, the report scores nil. In terms of galvanizing action and generating massive publicity for change, it score ten out of ten. So as a media stunt for some basic and largely needed changes, the report is definitely welcomed.