Monday, 27 June 2011

Qatari citizens wealthiest in the world by far

The US-based Global Business magazine has revealed that Qatar is pushing ahead in GDP per capita, and became the wealthiest nation on Earth in 2010. The tiny state has seen massive gas projects come online in previous years and has become the product’s biggest exporter.

Qatar is the only Arab nation to be classified in the top 10 wealthiest nations, with Kuwait and the UAE the second and third wealthiest Arab states. The report says that Qatari per capita is $90,149, with its nearest rival Luxembourg standing at $79,411.

Here is the list according to Global Business:

1)    Qatar
2)    Luxembourg
3)    Norway
4)    Singapore
5)    Brunei
6)    the United States
7)    Hong Kong
8)     Switzerland
9)    Netherlands
10) Australia
11)  Austria
12) Canada
13)  Ireland
14) Kuwait
15) Iceland
16) Sweden
17)  Denmark
18) the UAE
19) Belgium
20) Britain

The remaining Arab nations were ranked as follows: Bahrain (33), Oman (36), Saudi Arabia (38), Lebanon (54), Libya (57), Tunisia (89), Algeria (98), Egypt (104), Jordan (107), Syria (111), Morocco (117), Iraq (124), Yemen (136), Djibouti (137), Sudan (138), Mauritania (145) and Comoros (166).

Friday, 24 June 2011

(قصة حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي (الحلقة الأولى

بقلم فرح ناصف

تأسس حزب البعث على يد ميشيل عفلق وصلاح الدين بيطار وكلاهما ينتمي إلى الطبقة البرجوازية وكانا مدرسين بمدرسة التجهيز ومعظم أعضاء الحزب  بداية كانوا من المهاجرين من الريف إلى المدن.

ميشيل عفلق
و أعلن هذا الحزب عن أيديولوجية تهدف إلى تحقيق مجتمع عربي موحد مثالي بنظام اشتراكي  وقد حاز هذا الحزب على اهتمام الأقليات  الدينية في المجتمع الريفي بشكل خاص وعلى المجتمع الريفي بشكل عام فكلهم قد وجدوا فيه فرصة للتخلص من الهيمنة السنية على المدنية التقليدية في الحياة السياسية في سورية .

وقد امتد تنظيم البعث تلقائيا من دمشق إلى مناطق سورية أخرى دون أن يكون هناك برنامج عمل واحد واعتمد على المبادرات الشخصية للأعضاء الأوائل وكان عدد المنتسبين من دمشق آنذاك قليلا.

وبداية التنظيم الحزبي في الريف كان عن طريق الاعتماد على عائلة واحدة وتركيز المسؤولية كلها في يد أحد المنظمين في الحزب وأيضا عن طريق  خلق وجاهات جديدة بين الفلاحين الأمر الذي شكل حاجزا بين الحزب وبقية الفلاحين.

لكن هذه السياسة أدت فيما بعد ولاسيما بعد 1963م إلى خلق ولاءات محلية وإقليمية على حساب الولاء الحزبي  وذلك بسبب لجوء بعض المتنفذين في الحزب إلى تجنيد بعض العسكريين الذين تربطهم بهم روابط طائفية أو إقليمية يعملون لحسابهم الشخصي بغض النظر عن توجههم الفكري والسياسي كذلك فإن صفة العضوية في الحزب أعطيت كهبة للمئات
دون أن يكون لهولاء دور فاعل أو واعي في المجتمع والدولة ومما تجدر الإشارة إليه أن القيادة الحزبية كانت منغمسة في شؤون السلطة  وكل هذه الأمور مجتمعة ساهمت في ضعف الانضباط والثقافة الحزبية وبالتالي فقدان وضياع الروح والفكرة.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Sarkozy: Arabic “the language of the future, of science and of modernity”

The French President Nicolas Sarkozy has extolled the Arabic language as the "language of the future, of science and of modernity," and called for an increase in Arabic tuition in French schools.
The first conference on the Teaching of Arabic Language and Culture convened at the National Assembly in Paris where the need to greater incorporate Arabic within the French sphere was stressed for “better understanding, dialogue, and a mutually beneficial rapprochement”.

Noting the country’s particularly strong links with the Arab world, and its large Arab and Muslim population, Sarkozy said, "We must invest in the Arabic language [because] to teach it symbolizes a moment of exchange, of openness and of tolerance, [and it] brings with it one of the oldest and most prestigious civilizations of the world. It is in France that we have the greatest number of persons of Arabic and Muslim origin. Islam is the second religion of France".

The move may be an attempt to garner support among Arab leaders on the Mediterranean basin for Sarkozy’s grand idea of a Union of the Mediterranean, which he hopes will give him and France more of a leading role in Europe. The Union would address the Peace Process and increase free trade measures between Europe and the Mediterranean Middle East, although underlying the project is an attempt to curb migration to Europe via North African trafficking and smuggling routes.

The French President went on to espouse the Mediterranean [as a place] where our common hopes were founded. Our common sea is where the principal challenges come together: durable development, security, education and peace”.

The Arab World Institute, Paris
It is illegal to record a population census in France based on ethnic lines, but a recent estimate puts the number of Arabs in France at around 3, 250,000.

The Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute) was established in Paris in 1980 and is veritable gateway to Arab culture; it houses a museum, conducts research on Arab issues, holds public seminars and educational classes, and disseminates impartial information of the Arab world. Washington, London, New York, Amsterdam and other cities should build their own versions and replicate its success.

 The Facade of the Institut du Monde Arabe, (2nd photo) is  from Peter Visontay ©

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Canadian students to create 'Arab Renaissance'

A group of Canadian students have embarked on an initiative to bring about a renaissance in the Arab world. Calling itself the ‘Arab Development Initiative’ (ADI), the group intends to bring together ‘talented youth and organizations working for the development of the region’, and facilitate their interaction at conferences and workshops.

This endeavour is not exactly unique, but for a bunch of students, they’ve certainly started well; a glossy website and a very professional video promo featuring facts and figures about the Middle East that are a damning indictment on the region;

  • 44% adult illiteracy rate in Morocco and 35.6% in Egypt

  • 14% unemployment rate in Tunisia and 8.3% in Syria

  • In 2007 the Arab world produced a total of 5,644 scientific and technical journal articles. To put that into perspective, Turkey alone produced over 8,500.

I recently read in an article that in 2005, Harvard University produced more scientific and technical articles than the entire Arab world combined. Shameful statistics for a region much of which has vast natural resources.

Here is the video-

The absence of development, both economic and human in the Arab world has long been bemoaned. It’s become standard rhetoric to hear Arab intellectuals proclaim the need for an ‘Arab renaissance’ in order to propel it into the modern world.

This Algerian thinker certainly agrees-

The Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, despite being known as the love poet, declared in the title of one his poems ‘When will they announce the death of the Arabs?’

(متى يعلنون وفاة العرب؟);

...If someday they announced the death of the Arabs...
Then where would they be buried?
And who would cry over them?
They have no daughters...
They have no sons...
And there is no grief,
And there is no one to grieve!!

إذا أعلنوا ذاتَ يومٍ وفاةَ العربْ...
ففي أيِ مقبرةٍ يُدْفَنونْ؟
ومَن سوف يبكي عليهم؟
وليس لديهم بناتٌ...
وليس لديهم بَنونْ...
وليس هنالك حُزْنٌ،
وليس هنالك مَن يحْزُنونْ

  Fellow Syrian poet and master intellectual Adonis goes even further, and pronounces the Arabs a culturally extinct people.  

Adonis does not hesitate to decry the urgent need, in his view, for Arabs to adopt secularism and modernist values. His poetry often evokes violent images such as lightning purges and other aggressive acts of nature to emphasis his opinion that only a sudden, perhaps violent transformation could improve the lot of the Arabs. He opines that the Arabs have never really raised critical questions concerning religion, and that even ideologies such as pan-Arabism were therefore religious in nature. He regards the modern Arab reality as one that has failed to ‘disintegrate the tribal and sectarian structure’ and ‘has not melted into the new structure of democracy and the democratic option’. He puts the Arab world’s lack of vitality, innovation and ‘living culture’ as the result of not having a societal structure that allows the fundamental doctrines of religion to be criticized, retorting that Arab society is instead built upon ‘invisible forms of slavery’.

Yet Adonis is in no way opposed to religion itself, noting that the early Islamic thinkers innovated the art of text analysis and interpretation, and that such a re-reading of religion is needed in modern times before the conditions for lasting organic democracy can flourish. He therefore rejects any foreign intervention in the region to thrust democracy on the Arabs. Unless they nurture it themselves, it will not last.

Perhaps Adonis’s most damning statement is this:

“If I look at the Arabs, with all their resources and great capacities, and I compare what they have achieved over the past century with what others have achieved in that period, I would have to say that we Arabs are in a phase of extinction, in the sense that we have no creative presence in the world”.

Such statements might be eschewed as neo-orientalist if they were uttered by a westerner. Yet when Arab intellectuals speak of their own culture as extinct, one cannot deny the magnitude of such a claim.

There does of course exist a genuine Arab ‘creative presence’, although by anecdotal and empirical evidence it’s not flourishing on the scale it should be. Many Arab governments and organizations now see the creation of an entrepreneurial and innovative environment as a top priority for the region’s future.

Another Arab intellectual, the Lebanese Samir Kassir, described the contemporary political and cultural stagnation of the region as the ‘Arab malaise’, and devoted his book Being Arab to the question of how Arabs might overcome their crisis of modernity. Kassir, who was assassinated in a car bomb in Beirut in 2005, opined that Arabs must not wallow any longer in their past glories of the so-called Golden Age during the height of Islam’s expansion and influence, during which scientific and creative thought shone far brighter than Europe’s languishing Dark Ages. This rhetoric of an (Islamic) Golden Age replaced by continued stagnation and backwardness in contemporary times (with colonialism somewhere in between) has become common currency among Arabs and Arabists. The conclusion popularly made, is that the Arabs failed to come to terms with modernity and remain somewhat ‘backward’ in their development. Yet for Kassir, the late 19th century onwards witnessed a reformation of Arab literature in its very form; great strides were made by modernists inspired by their trips to Europe; Huda Shaarawi publicly removed her veil in 1922 in Cairo. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Kassir argues that the Arab world in fact encountered avant-garde movements in cinema, music, theatre, literature and intellectual exchanges that demonstrate that the Arab world grappled with modernity and had created a new living culture.

Of important note here is the work of the German historian Detlev Peukert, who first posited the idea that the German Weimar Republic (1918-1933) ultimately failed because the German people failed to come to terms with modernity. The failure of democratic and rational values to establish themselves in Germany, claims Peukert, led to the nightmarish disaster of the rise of irrationalism and extreme rightist tendencies that birthed Hitler. What Peukert’s work suggests, is that the Arabs alone cannot be seen as inherently backward or dependant on Western ideas and innovations as some neo-orientalist would have us imagine.

So what went wrong in the Middle East? According to Kassir, the failure of an Arab modernity lies in falsehoods adopted by the region through the ideologies of pan-Arabism and Islamism; both have failed to offer a viable paradigm of cultural, political and economic development and prosperity. Kassir maintained that the cultural achievements of recent Arab history were significant enough for the contemporary culture to use as a base upon which it can develop. It is  about time the Arabs rejected  the western neo-oriental interventionalist paradigm, and take matters into their own hands. What many writers and luminaries agree upon is that at the very least, democracy and freedom of criticism (whether or not under a secularist banner or not) will help spur the advent of what we might dare to call an ‘Arab renaissance’.

Another well-known initiative aiming to spur the Arab renaissance is the مشروع النهضة the ‘Renaissance Project’ at which presents some great articles.

Other prominent Arabs that often enter the renaissance/ enlightenment discourse are-

  • Nidal Naisa (نضال نعيسة) the Syrian advocate of civil and secular society describes himself as ‘born somehwhere between the ocean and the Gulf’; he appears quite regularly on debate programmes and writes articles here:

Many of the most progressive Arab thinkers participate in the Hewar project; a great website with some excellent content:

As for the Canadian student-led project, it’s perhaps a little to brazen to claim that they will begin a renaissance in the Arab nations. The website and the promo video are bizarrely not yet available in Arabic. No doubt the initiative will help raise awareness of the issues of Arab development, not least in the midst of the major changes occurring on the ground. Nevertheless, if the project successfully galvanizes the right people, and the necessary sponsorship at its forthcoming summit, it will impact the region and at the very minimum demonstrate to the world the ambitions and the potential of the Arab youth to determine a bright future for themselves. Good luck to them.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Translating the media-more great phrases ترجمة الإعلام- مصطلحات جديدة

Here are some good phrases I picked up when translating a couple of Arabic editorial comment pieces in newspapers. The task of translating is so useful because it makes you really grapple with a word or a phrase to find the appropriate meaning.

صبا إلى / يصبو إلى to aspire/ strive to do something (i.e. a goal)

-- يصبو المعرض للتحول إلى منبر أكاديمي يعالج قضايا الموارد المائية
--The conference aspires to turn (itself) into an academic platform that deals with water resource issues

يحفظ ماء الوجه /وجهه  to save face (lit. to keep the water of one’s face)
--والثاني أن تتدخل السعودية بوساطة تؤدي إلى اتفاق يحفظ لعلي عبد الله صالح ماء وجهه ويترك به السلطة.
-- and secondly, a Saudi intervention in a manner that leads to an agreement in which Ali Abdullah Salih saves face and leaves power

أوحى / يوحي أن (بأن) to create the impression that, to suggest (in the sense of pretending)
-- ورغم أن اوباما حاول أن يوحي للرأي العام العالمي انه مع حل عادل لهذه القضية المعقدة
-- Although Obama has tried to create the impression in the global public opinion that he is in favour of a just solution to this complex issue...

عديم الفائدة useless, futile
-- روسيا صممت سلاحا ثوريا جديدا يمكنه أن يجعل مشروع الدرع الصاروخي الأميركي عديم الفائدة
--Russia has designed a revolutionary new weapon that could make the American missile shield project futile

مستنقع ليس له قاع a bottomless pit/ quagmire
--  هذا البلد العربي الذي حولته المقاومة الوطنية إلى مستنقع ليس له قاع, تغوص فيه قواتها المحتلة أكثر فأكثر
this Arab country whose national resistance had turned it into a bottomless quagmire in which more and more occupying forces dived daily

يترحم على to lament or mourn for something/ someone; to ask God to have mercy for so. who has died
-- لماذا يترحم البعض على أيام المستعمر؟
--why do some people lament the colonial days?

 أسفل السافليْن the lowest of the low
--تكشف قضية الطفل الشهيد حمزة الخطيب مدى انزلاق ذلك النظام وترديه الى اسفل السافلين
-- The martyrdom of a young boy, Hamza Khatib, reveals the extent the regime has slid, reducing it to the lowest of the low
(to say, to reduce someone/thing to the lowest of the low, you can use the form IV verb أنزل)

بادئا  starting...
--تفيد التقارير بإطلاق صواريخ, بادئاً مرحلة جديدة في هذه الثورة
-- reports are talking of missile launches, beginning a new stage in this revolution

قام (يقوم) بتسوية to level something [militarily]
--نستذكر كيف قام الجيش السوري بتسوية مدينة حماه ذبحا عشرين ألف مدني
--we recall how the Syrian army levelled the city of Hama, slaughtering twenty thousand civilians

تقويض to undermine
-- وللوصول إلى حل سياسي يجب أن تكون هناك إصلاحات سياسية لكن هذا يعني تقويض قاعدة الأقلية للحكومة
-- Yet in order to reach a political solution, there must be political reforms which would undermine the rule of the minority government

يتخذ موقفاً أكثر هجوميةَ to take a more offensive/belligerent stance
-- يتين على إدارة أوباما اتخاذ موقفاً أكثر هجومية
-- The Obama administration must take a more belligerent stance

إطلاق العنان ل to unleash; give free reign to
--وقد يؤدي زوال نظام الأسد إلى إطلاق العنان للانقسامات الطائفية العميقة في سورية
-- the Syrian regime’s removal could lead to deep sectarian divisions being unleashed [/lead to the unleashing of deep sectarian divisions]

الانخراط to get involved in, engage in (في)
--وان الجيش السوري سيركز في ظل خليفة الأسد على ضمان الأمن الداخلي, بدلاً من السعي إلى الانخراط في مغامرات خارجية قد تدفع سورية عنها ثمناً باهظا
-- The Syrian army under Assad’s successor will also concentrate on ensuring internal security rather than engaging in foreign adventures for which Syria could pay highly

إذا افترضنا من باب الجدل if we assume for the sake of argument
I think that one doesn’t need an example

Monday, 6 June 2011

Doing business in Iraq

Iraq's economy is growing on the back of relatively increased stability and reconstruction projects and most importantly, increased oil output. The economy however remains hampered by corruption and violence. The United States Department of State has produced this fact sheet for those eying business in Iraq

Iraq today is emerging from years of civil conflict and economic isolation, and has the potential to again become what it was not so long ago: a prosperous country with a thriving middle class. Iraq is a market with tremendous potential.

  • By many estimates, Iraq has the world’s third-largest oil reserves, and plans to explore for additional reserves.
  • Iraq’s population is estimated at around 30 million, among the largest in the region, and is projected to grow more than two percent annually over the next five years.
  • According to the Iraqi government’s National Development Plan, the government has plans to spend $100 billion of its own money on thousands of reconstruction and development projects over the next four years.
In recent years, there are a number of tangible signs that Iraq’s economy is stabilizing and expanding:
  • Iraq’s economy averaged an estimated 4.5 percent real growth over the past four years;
  • Oil production has increased an estimated 22 percent since 2005, and oil exports have increased an estimated 58 percent over the same period;
  • Consumer prices have stabilized, with single-digit inflation over the past three years after more than 50 percent inflation in 2006;
  • The Iraqi government has spent more than US $20 billion on reconstruction and investment projects each of the last two years.

The economic sectors in Iraq with the greatest investment potential include: energy, including both hydrocarbons and the electrical power sector; infrastructure such as architecture, construction, and engineering and transportation; information and communications technology; health such as medical technology, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and health care services; and agribusiness.

Despite progress toward fundamental reforms of the economy and legal system, the legacy of central planning also continues to inhibit economic diversification and development. Additionally, potential investors face high security costs; regulations can be cumbersome and confusing; some Iraqi government contracts face payment delays; corruption continues to hamper trade and investment; and dispute resolution mechanisms can be sometimes unreliable and non-transparent. The Iraqi government made serious efforts to address these challenges. Continued reform efforts will take time, but tangible progress includes the following:

  • In March 2010, Iraq launched a comprehensive national anti-corruption strategy in coordination with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). UNDP is helping the Iraqi government implement the national anti-corruption strategy at both the central and provincial government levels;
  • The National Investment Law, originally passed in 2006, provides a baseline for a modern legal structure to protect foreign and domestic investors. An amendment to the Law, passed in early 2010, allows for limited foreign ownership of land for the purpose of developing residential real estate projects. The amendment also sought to bring clarity to land allocation and use, a major inhibitor to investment;
  • In November 2010, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council established the first Commercial Court of Iraq, a court of specialized jurisdiction for disputes involving foreign investors that is part of a national strategy to improve Iraq’s investment climate. This court began hearing cases in January 2011. It has jurisdiction only over cases involving a foreign party in Baghdad province but Iraqi judicial officials have expressed interest in opening similar courts in Basrah, Mosul and Babil.
  • In September of 2011, the Council of Ministers passed an ambitious, multi-year program to fundamentally reform more than 175 large State-Owned Enterprises into well managed, market-based companies. The government of Iraq is being assisted in this effort by a large group of donors led by the World Bank and UNDP. The United States plays an important role in supporting this important process

Since 2003, the United States has been an active partner to help Iraqis strengthen their democracy, build civil society, improve security, and re-integrate fully into the regional and global community and economy. Since 2009, we have worked through the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement to boost this partnership.

The U.S. government has engaged regularly with the Iraqi government to promote growth and reform in multiple sectors of Iraq’s economy. The Embassy’s economic and commercial officers work closely with their counterparts in other U.S. government agencies and with Iraqi government officials and private sector representatives to improve the institutional capacity and regulatory framework in Iraq. Additionally, OPIC and ExIm are both open for business in Iraq. OPIC has already committed over $150 million in financing in Iraq, and ExIm has been approached by several project developers, exporters and financial institutions to discuss transactions in power projects, real-estate development, manufacturing and agriculture. Garnering interest among the business community to apply for ExIm Bank financing is one of the bank’s most important objectives in 2011.