Monday, September 24, 2007

Corruption at Camp Arifjan

Pentagon officials are investigating some $6 billion in military contracts, most covering supplies as varied as bottled water, tents and latrines for troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Graft in U.S. Army Contracts Spread From Kuwait Base - New York Times.

Interesting report by the New York Times putting Camp Arifjan in Kuwait at the center of army contracts scandal with the involvement of Kuwaiti companies.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tyranny of the Majority

It is not quite true to say, as do most Europeans, that democracy can never be imposed at the point of a gun. The US did so in Japan and west Germany. But it required patience, commitment and resources that were not apparent in Iraq. It also demanded recognition that modern democracy - better described as liberal democracy - has two distinct strands.

The Bush administration's error was to think that elections were enough. The president talks still of popular sovereignty and individual liberty as if they are interchangeable. They can be; they can also be inimical. Voting represents only one side of the democratic bargain. Without the rule of law - the "liberal" bit in liberal democracy - you have majoritarian tyranny. That was something the French discovered after 1789. / Home UK / UK - After the neocons: people will still vote for democracy.

Many Middle Eastern democracies have come to the same discovery. When you lack rule of law that protects civil liberties and the democratic process, then democracy is doomed.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Low Oil Prices

Imagine a world in recession, where oil costs $50 per barrel. Which economies would be most affected? There are obvious losers. In Saudi Arabia, the largest oil producer, oil accounts for 90 per cent of exports, which in turn represents almost two-thirds of the economy’s output.

Indeed, members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are more dependent on oil now than when prices fell sharply in 1985-86 and 1997-98. Exports plummeted in value after the Opec basket price fell from $27 a barrel to $13.50, and from $18.70 to $12.30, respectively. But in 1985 and 1997, oil exports were just 21 per cent of Opec’s gross domestic product, compared with 36 per cent now. / Lex - A world of $50 oil.

In Kuwait oil revenue accounts for nearly half of GDP! Bad news indeed when world recession and declining oil prices come around.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Good and Not So Bad

In an interview after winning his 4th straight US Open tennis title and 12th Grand Slam title, Roger Federer was asked how he kept his game up and managed through good days and bad. He responded by saying that as he started out his performance fluctuated widely between really good or really bad days. With training and experience he narrowed the gap so that even when he plays bad its not so bad while maintaining his good games.

This pattern could be observed in markets too. Notice the emerging stock markets with their volatile performance. You get the really good years then the really bad years. However, in more advanced markets such as Europe and the US, performance is more stable, i.e. less volatility in financial terms.

As we start this holly month of Ramadan may God bless us with good days and less bad days -but that will take some training and experience!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Zain Inside?

Nice new logo for MTC. Kind of reminds me of Intel logo. Maybe they should go with the slogan: Got Zain inside your phone?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rain Song

Rain Song, a beautiful poem by the late Iraqi poet Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab. Even though written for a different time, it could not be more true for the war torn Iraq of today. Just like the poet before us, we pray for rain to wash off the spilled blood and bring in a new dawn for Iraq and peace everywhere.

Drop..... the rain . . .In the rain.
Iraq will blossom one day '

I cry out to the Gulf: "O Gulf,
Giver of pearls, shells and death!"

The echo replies
As if lamenting:
'O Gulf,
Giver of shells and death."
And across the sands from among its lavish gifts
The Gulf scatters fuming froth and shells
And the skeletons of miserable drowned emigrants

Who drank death forever
From the depths of the Gulf, from the ground of its silence,
And in Iraq a thousand serpents drink the nectar
From a flower the Euphrates has nourished with dew.

I hear the echo
Ringing in the Gulf:
"Rain . . .
Drip, drop, the rain . . .
Drip, drop."

In every drop of rain
A red or yellow color buds from the seeds of flowers.
Every tear wept by the hungry and naked people
And every spilt drop of slaves' blood
Is a smile aimed at a new dawn,
A nipple turning rosy in an infant's lips
In the young world of tomorrow, bringer of life.

And still the rain pours down.

Poetry - Badr Shakir al-Sayyab - \Rain.