Saturday, April 28, 2007

Show Me the Money

The United Arab Emirates Central Bank Governor on Thursday ruled out any immediate revaluation in the UAE dirham and said that Kuwait had committed to keeping its currency trading band unchanged.

The Daily Star - Kuwait Edition - Published by Alwatan.

We were having a debate last week at work on what to do with our USD deposits. This is in light of the speculation that the KD will be revalued up against the dollar. So your dollars will be worth less should this happen. Even though the Central Bank of Kuwait keeps saying that it is sticking with its policy of fixing the KD to the dollar, there is much speculation as the dollar continues to decline dragging the KD with it unnecessarily.

In a previous post I argued against pegging the KD to the dollar. The pegging is part of GCC plan to unify currencies by 2010, which is now in much doubt. In an environment of increasing oil prices and budget as well as trade surpluses, the KD is artificially weakening because it is tied down by the dollar. And because the KD is weakening it takes more of it to import goods leading to inflation. The market seems to believe that this will not last for long and the KD will be revalued; hence the shift of dollar deposits into KDs. The Central Bank keeps denying and discouraging speculation by lowering KD rates (so those shifting their dollars to KDs will deposit at lower rates). So back to our USD deposits, we followed the market (but shhhh don't tell the Central Bank).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bloggers Unite

THEY call themselves pyjamahideen. Instead of galloping off to fight holy wars, they stay at home, meaning, often as not, in their parents' houses, and clatter about computer keyboards. Their activity is not as explosive as the self-styled jihadists who trouble regimes in the region, and they come in all stripes, secular liberal as well as radical Islamist. But like Gulliver's Lilliputians, youthful denizens of the internet are chipping away at the overweening dominance of Arab governments.

Egypt | Bloggers may be the real opposition |

“Workers of the world, unite”, is a rallying cry of socialism. Despite the fate of socialism, it called for power to the powerless masses. Today the powerless masses in the Arab world are making their voice heard in spite of governments’ clamp down. Bloggers unite! Let it be our rallying cry.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Kuwaiti Inventors

Kuwaitis get Gold, silver medals for new inventions at Geneva exhibition GENEVA, April 22 (KUNA)

For everyone out there working quietly: your achievements speak louder than all the cries for past glories. You are the ones who truly give meaning to the saying better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Easter Everywhere

But she nails the central question — of her memoir and perhaps of her life — with an extraordinary quote from Simone Weil. “One has only the choice between God and idolatry,” Weil wrote. “If one denies God ... one is worshiping some things of this world in the belief that one sees them only as such, but in fact, though unknown to oneself imagining the attributes of Divinity in them.” Hence the title “Easter Everywhere.”

Easter Everywhere: A Memoir - Darcey Steinke - Books - Review - New York Times.

What is the world coming to? Last week was a bloody one. Massacre in Virginia Tech University. Bombing in Iraq. Terrorism in Morocco. What’s next? War in Iran?! Such situations highlight the human condition at its worst: death, war and misery. And brings a yearning for the divine to alleviate the suffering.

Darcey Steinke, the author of the memoir Easter Everywhere, wonders if the misery she feels is a result of the absence of God in her life. It makes an interesting account coming from a skeptic and novelist of titles like Suicide Blonde. As we watch helplessly the bloody events unfold around us, or feel the hollowness of our own souls, even a skeptic would be comforted by a prayer for peace and happiness.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

MTC Trading

As of the time of writing this there has been MTC trading worth KD 1,710,000,000. This is an unprecedented amount of trading for the entire Kuwait Stock Exchange ever and the market has not closed yet. The real surprise however is that no one has any clue what is going on?! Everyone is speculating.. Shares being sold to Emarati investors.. Saudi investors.. It's anyone's guess..

Why is the market silent on this?! This is a record trading volume, yet the investment community is left in the dark. It seems large shareholders of MTC and Wataniya before that have gotten into the habit of making big deals while leaving other shareholders behind with the blessing and silence of Kuwait Stock Exchange authorities! When will this come to an end?!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

BP Lecture

In a presentation at Kuwait Economic Society, Mark Finley BP’s Energy Economist spoke about future prospects for the oil market. As to future price of oil, he noted that it is difficult for anyone to predict. This is determined by several factors: one is technological advances in prolonging the depletion of oil resources. The more technology reduces oil consumption, or helps in extracting more reserves, the more resources will be available; hence reducing energy prices. Another factor is market power of OPEC that allows it to influence prices. Finally higher taxes imposed on energy consumption will lead to higher prices. He mentioned how historically technology has played a major role (so if this trend continues and technology trumps once again then this points to lower long term prices).

The other interesting point he made, which is the hot topic nowadays, is how to combat the environmental consequences of energy consumption. He pointed out that people don’t really consume energy but light, heat and mobility. And the challenge is to achieve this in an environmentally friendly way. The two options on the table are carbon trade system and carbon tax. He prefers carbon trade system as it embodies a market mechanism which is the most efficient in allocating energy consumption. I enjoyed the lecture.. it was alota fun ;p

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Kuwait Warming

"The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences."
Winston Churchill

After watching the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, I was alarmed by how real global warming is and the urgent need for action. Add to this the implication on our local environment and our economy that is dependent on producing fossil fuel, oil, which is one of the main contributors to global warming.

Scientists now agree that global warming is real and if we don’t act now the consequences will be devastating. So what will happen to our local environment in Kuwait and how will we cope if the world reduces its reliance on oil? What can we do within our means to act against global warming? Even though the issue is dead serious, I will offer some foolish answers:

1. The government is already ahead by fixing the official temperature not to exceed 50 c; this way we will not be affected by global warming.
2. As sea level increases, our islands will sink. This is a relief to the private sector which is developing those islands as it will be taken away by Mother Nature and not the government.
3. As countries turn food into fuel to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and because we have sufficient fossil fuels that no one wants, we do the reverse and turn it into food. So when you order Shawarma for example you will have the following options: regular, premium or ultra.
4. I can’t think of #4 blame it on global warming!
5. Finally after experiencing summers in Kuwait we can only say one thing about global warming: bring it on!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Leaders and Dictators

What’s the difference between leaders and dictators? Is it better to have an orderly dictatorship or a chaotic democracy, as in the case of Iraq? Is speedy progress under strict regime preferred over slower progress with democracy, as in the case of China vs. India? Is our relative democracy in Kuwait putting us at a disadvantage in achieving economic progress compared to other GCC countries?

If slower progress is the price of democracy, then it’s a price worth paying. We should embrace our constitution and our democratic institutions despite the negatives. Democracy is not a perfect system but it’s the best around especially when built on the right foundation of education and respect for minority rights. Under such system progress could take longer but it’s long lived. Such is the difference between leaders and dictators: leaders are empowering so that success is not based on individuals but the collective.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Without You, There Is Nothing

I got a wonderful sogha (souvenir) from my cousin Ahmidi coming back from China. It’s a figurine of a duck squad climbing a cliff. It shows how the ducks are helping each other and relying on each other to make it over the cliff. I loved the gift and the message that came along with it. Thanks cuz you have the kindest heart (despite the annoying attitude). I love you man (even though you annoy the crap out of me at work and I don’t hide it).

The message that came along with it is in Chinese with the English translation:
"Without you, there is nothing,
Without me, there is nothing.
We move in unison,
Step by step,
Heart to heart.
Without one, the other ceases to be."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Doing Well and Doing Good

I had the pleasure of attending the Young Arab Leaders (YAL) event at the Babtain Library for Poetry where Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain was the guest speaker –at his own library so to speak. He is very charismatic and enjoyable character and he had a lot to talk about. Since the event was meant to inspire young leaders, he talked at length about his personal experience and the success he worked so hard to achieve.

He had few stories to share. One was during his honeymoon as he strolled the streets of Cairo he saw an ad for a product. He thought to himself how those on pilgrimage to Mecca recouped the expenses of their trip by engaging in trade while they were there. So he turned to his young wife and took her permission to meet with the distributor of that product to talk him into granting him the agency; this way they could recoup the honeymoon expenses he mused. In another story he courted an Afghan he saw walking outside his office and took him to lunch at a fancy restaurant thinking he was a merchant - restaurant was called Golden Beach or something which was the fanciest place around at that time. During lunch he realized that the Afghan was only a tailor so he paid the bill and left at once! Well the moral of the stories is to chase opportunities and never let them pass by.

The event and Mr.Babtain’s talk was very inspiring. Not only did he do well but he did good too which is apparent in all his charity and cultural efforts. He mentioned how early on in his life his focus was to accumulate wealth but after a certain point he wanted to share this wealth by doing good. Even though he was open about his business, especially the cigarette agency, I would have loved to hear how he reconciles selling cigarettes with his social responsibility.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Foolish Observations

Well I won’t fool you on April fools day but I’ll share with you my foolish observations on blogging in Kuwait:

- Why is almost everyone anonymous?! Most Kuwaiti blogs I encountered are. In a random sample 90% of Kuwaiti blogs are anonymous –true identity of author not available or disguised- while for international blogs only 30% are anonymous (yes I made this up but I am guessing it’s true and it’s April fools day so I can make stuff up!). Why are we –yes me included- hiding our identity? I understand why some would but what about the rest? For me I blame it on herd mentality –I followed the rest! Maaaaaaa’ :p

- Why do we blog during office/school hours? After running extensive regression analysis on blogging habits in Kuwait, I can say with 95% level of confidence that 60% of blogging (writing and reading) happens during office/ school hours, 25% late evening/night and the remaining 15% in between (again foolish statistics but my point stands nevertheless). What does this say about our work ethics?! And most blogs tout reform! I know a good place to start..

Have a foolish day!