Monday, November 26, 2007

Does this sound promising?

Council of Ministers reviews increase in prices of commodities

MUSCAT — In the light of the great attention given by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said in ensuring the welfare of all the citizens and in a bid to cope with the current global economic developments and their direct impact on the prices of some commodities in the local market, the Council of Ministers yesterday held a meeting to study the different aspects of these phenomena. The council discussed the possibility of identifying some practical solutions that could alleviate the impact of such phenomena on citizens and expatriates. The Council of Ministers also reviewed the external and internal causes for the price rise in some commodities and how to deal with them in the near future, taking into consideration the interest of the consumers, traders and external forces.

While the government follows with concern the global economic changes, it assesses the positive and negative impact of such economic changes. The cooperation of the citizens with the government in understanding the nature of such developments is an important step towards handling and alleviating the impact of such changes. In this connection, the Council of Ministers has decided to set up a ministerial committee to be headed by the minister of national economy and deputy chairman of the Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council with the minister of fisheries, the minister of commerce and industry, the minister of agriculture and chairman of OCCI as members to alleviate the impact of these phenomena.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Joint meeting of Council of Ministers and Shura Council

In response to the royal directives of His Majesty the Sultan of Oman about strengthening communication between the Council of Ministers and the Council of Oman, a joint meeting between the Council of Ministers and the Shura Council members was held today morning in the presence of His Highness Sayyid Fahad bin Mahmoud, Deputy Prime Minister of Council of Ministers and Sheikh Ahmed Al-Esa'i, president of the Shura Council.

Following the meeting on TV when it was aired after 5pm news, I can tell that lots of things were discussed between the ministers & the members of the Shura Council. Other than that, apparently different views were exchanged between the ministers & the members of the Shura Council which is pretty nice. It's more of an open session between the Shura Council & the ministers, where all the members of the Shura Council are free to stand with any minister & the Deputy Prime Minister, question him/her about various things and also exchange views with them.

The meeting was aired on TV with both video & audio, and following it gives an expression that it would be a fruitful meeting and also the upcoming joint meetings between the Council of Ministers and Shura Council would be fruitful inshAllah.

Dinner Party Suggestions

I am playing the role of party planner at work to organise a dinner in celebration of a PHD graduate, several officials and a minister will be attending the event. This is not an official event. Expected attendees are about 75, we will have the dinner after Eid, probably in January.

I would like to gather ideas and suggestions on where and what I could do for this dinner party. I am not interested in Shangri La - it is way too far.

Hotels, restaurants, and celebration halls suggestions are welcome.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ladies & Gentlemen .. It's My Pleasure to Announce

Hint : Look under the network signal bars.

It's fast. Boy, is it fast.

Screenshot : TI3GIB's Nokia N73

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happy 37th National Day

Today, November the 18th, the Sultanate celebrates the 37th National Day. Happy National Day to the entire country and Happy National day to His Majesty the Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces & Royal Oman Police.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Omantel - Smoke and Mirrors

1. The company held an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of shareholders on November 12th to amend Article 22 of its Articles of Association. I didn't receive anything in the mail to inform me of this EGM or what exactly Article 22 says and why it had to be amended. Does anyone here know?

2. The company's new chairman is the undersecretary of the Ministry of Heritage. Wasn't there a royal decree about 10 years ago which forbids ministers and undersecretaries of holding such positions in publicly traded companies?

3. Omantel has been playing the press for the past few months about their plan to buy a Pakistani telecom company, WordCall. This week it finally announced that the deal is coming through. They'll pay $204 million for 65% of the company. Every single mention of this in the press, obviously through Omantel press releases, includes a paragraph or two about Pakistan's relatively low mobile phone penetration which makes it an attractive market. Putting the two together you'd naturally assume that WorldCall is a mobile telephone service provider, right? Wrong. According to WorldCall's website, the company has the following:

Wireless Local Loop (WLL) through CDMA 2000 1X technology in over 40 cities, nationwide presence of long distance & international (LDI) network with 44 POPs, over 70,000 payphones, largest broadband HFC networks in Pakistan providing triple play (CATV, broadband internet, telephony), the pioneer prepaid calling card "Hello" and rights to dark fibers in a national long haul network being built across Pakistan.
In other words, WorldCall does provide wireless services, but they are WLL telephone and data services, not mobile phone.

Isn't Omantel deliberately misinforming their shareholders by implying that they are buying a mobile telecom company when they're not? And what about the company's financial performance? A quick glance at the WorldCall's financials shows that the company's 2007 results show flat sales and lower profit. Anywhere else, Omantel would have to explain whey are buying the company, but in Oman no one asks, so they don't have to play spin. And, by the way, WorldCall's majority shareholder is an Omani individual who owns about half of its shares. I wonder if he's offloading his entire stake to Omantel. If so, most of the $204 million will be going into his pocket.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Market the car, not the boss

Automobile companies have a decent budget for ‘Ahlan Wa Sahlans’ of biggies visiting Oman. In a month you can find at least five to 10 of such ads, and above one is from Zubair Automotive in today’s newspapers. Nice way to keep biggies and their cronies in good humour.

Talk of internal marketing!

Buying a Used Car in Muscat... concluded

Unfortunately, The article that the week published has had no effect whatsoever on the practice of importing previously flooded and salvaged cars to Oman. There are literally thousands of them, and they can be found at every single small dealership in Muscat, as well as parking lots where they are being passed off as a slightly used family car.

Know this: The dealers will lie outright to you about the history of the car, and the repairs made to it. Even if you ask specifically, and show them where the problem is, they will adamantly deny any problems with the car, and it's history.

While a flooded car can be repaired to a state of working order, two of the wrecked and salvaged cars I saw were potential death traps. Engine mounts cracked, Chassis twisted, Airbags removed and not replaced, bending or cracking where the seat belts mount into the frame. You would not want to be in one of those for your own personal head on collision. It's a safety issue, plain and simple.

Anyway, I never really finished the series on the wrecked cars that are flooding the market here. The final chapter ought to be a quick primer on how to know if your "new" car is actually salvage. And how to tell a legitimate American import (we own three) from a Salvage import. There are lots and lots of legitimate American imports available, or ones that were imported through Dubai from US auctions because they were seized in a drug raid, repossessed, or failed Emissions standards. And they can be really great cars! My Beloved "beast" was seized and auctioned in New York, found it's way over here, only to be drowned in Gonu.

  • If you have a friend living in the states, have them use thier credit card and buy you a subscription to Carfax. Check all the vin numbers, on everything you look at. This covers ALL cars, regardless of make, as long as they were at some time registered in the states. Sadly, there is no equivalent service here that reports on salvaged cars from Europe, the far east, or Australia.

If you don't have access to Carfax, then do the following, in the following order.

  1. First check the wing mirror on the passenger side. If the writing is in English, then you have found a car which is American Spec, but could still be legitimate.
  2. Check for stickers that reveal the cars original whereabouts. "Louisiana state troopers association" "New Orleans city council parking" etc...
  3. Check the the Odometer. All legitimately imported cars that came here direct, without a stop off in Dubai will have had the odometer switched to measure Kilometers, not miles.
  4. Get on the highway, look for a sign telling you a shell station is 1km away, and calibrate against that. If the car measures in miles, it's very likely salvage or flooded.
  5. Now that you are suspicious... Check the cigarette lighter, and beneath or behind the ash tray, check the ones in the back seats too. If you find rust, it's likely flooded, if not, it's maybe salvage.
  6. Look for over spray from where it's been repainted. Good places to check are the rubber around body panels, under the wheel wells, door jams, inside the trunk where the spare tyre goes. Ask yourself if a car of that age really needed to be repainted.
  7. Climb in and lay upside down in the drivers foot well. Look up, waaay up, into the fuses, and behind the dash to where the steering column goes through. See rust? I bet you Do! With an unflooded car there shouldn't be rust anywhere inside.
  8. Make friends with a mechanic you trust in Wadi Kabir. Take the car to him and have him check the alignment on the frame, and check the engine mounts and seatbelt mounts, check for the actual presence of airbags, and that they haven't just been cut out. Have him Put the thing up on the lift and scope out the undercarriage and drive train carefully.
  9. Lastly, ask yourself why someone would go to the trouble of importing a car all the way over here. If the car is one that could be easily bought from a dealership here or in Dubai, it's likely here for all the wrong reasons.

And that's it on the cars. Next week, something new and different.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Customer service

You call a company and the person who picks up the call simply says "hello", doesn't make you think maybe you misdialed the number of got someone's house instead? Why can't they say the name of their company in their greeting?

You go to a shop or a showroom and you can't tell the sales people from the shoppers. While you're browsing someone comes up and stands next to you and hovers. How in the world are you supposed to know that this person is actually a salesperson who's there to help you and not another shopper who's stalking you?

What the hell is wrong with customer service in this country? I mean, how hard is it to put on a name tag?


Last weekI went to both the OTE Chevrolet showroom in Wattaya and Omasco's Panasonic showroom in Qurum on the same day. In both showrooms I was approached by Omani salesmen who were simply wearing a white dishdasha just like any other Omani male. There was nothing to identify them and differentiate between them and the shoppers inside the showroom. In fact one of the salesmen wasn't even wearing a cap. When he approached me and asked if I needed any help, I actually had to ask him if actually works there. I had to restrain myself from giving him a lecture about how he could go to work not even wearing a cap. I'm not sure if I'd blame the guy though. I blame his management that didn't even give him a name tag to wear. Or maybe they gave him one but they don't even monitor their staff to ensure that they are adhering to a minimum acceptable appearance.

These sales people are the companies' first line of contact with their customers. Their appearance and behaviour are crucial. If they aren't trained well it results in missed sales opportunity. I asked the Chevrolet salesman, what's the difference between the Chevy Tahoe and the GMC Yukon. He replied it's the same car but some people prefer Chevrolet over GMC, or vice versa. Nice answer. I asked if there were any differences at all other than the front grille and he said none at all. I'm not entirely convinced it's true. I saw two identical looking 42" plasma TVs at the Panasonic showroom, but one was significantly cheaper than the other. I asked the salesman what's the difference between the two and he said this one's made in China and the other in Japan. For real? Yes, that's it. Otherwise the same TV. Hmmm. OK, what's the difference between HD and HD Ready? He was stumped. At the same time an Indian sales guy came in and explained that there was a difference in contrast ratio, number of inputs, type of speakers and a bunch of other things. (Note: The only reason the Indian salesguy knew the answer and the Omani didn't is because the guy has been working in Panasonic since forever and actually cares about his job).

Monday, November 5, 2007

State Council members appointed

If both Adam & Eve let down Eve in the 6th term of Shura Council elections, as Mr. Essa Al-Zidjali - Editor in chief of Times of Oman newspaper - claims in his VIEWPOINT journal, then MAWLANA His Majesty the Sultan will never let Eve down.

Yesterday His Majesty issued a royal decree appointing the 70 members of the State Council, and out of the 70 members appointed, 14 of them are women. And since I'm good enough at Maths, I guess that makes it 20% of the council's members.

Having some women appointed in the State Council is not something new. But the thing which caught my attention this time is that Mrs. Raheelah Al-Riyamiyah, whom was previously a member of the Shura Council in the 5th term of the council and one of the 21 women who were candidates in the 6th term of the Shura Council elections and did not win or simply "let down", is now appointed by His Majesty in the State Council. So, if she was let down by both Adam & Eve, now she is appointed by the head of the state himself in the State Council.

For the list of the 70 members of the State Council appointed by His Majesty yesterday, you can check this article on the Times of Oman newspaper, today's issue. [Link]

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Economy expands 8.3 per cent in H1

MUSCAT — The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of oil and non-oil sectors in the Sultanate at current prices has reached about RO7,266.4 million during the first six months of this year, against RO6,708.1 million during the same period in 2006, constituting an 8.3 per cent rise. Initial statistics issued by the Ministry of National Economy attributed this to a rise in the oil activities.

The GDP, which includes crude pumping and its related subsidiary services and the extraction of natural gas, stood at RO3,407.7 million at the end of June 2007, showing an increase of 0.2 per cent against RO3,401.4 million during the same period in 2006.

Domestic product of oil pumping and subsidiary services related to oil pumping and gas extraction fell by 1.1 per cent to reach RO3,145.4 million by June end 2007, against RO3,181 million during the same period in 2006.

Domestic product of extracted national gas rose by 19 per cent to reach RO262.3 million during the first six months of the year 2007, against RO200.4 million during the same period in 2006.

The increase of the GDP was also attributed to the increase in the domestic product of non-oil activities by 16.9 per cent to reach RO3,983.5 million, against RO3,408.2 million by June end 2006.

The increase was attributed to 17.9 per cent in industrial activities to reach RO971.3 million against RO823.8 million.

The increase of the GDP was also attributed to a 5.7 per cent increase in the domestic product of agriculture and fisheries sector during the first six months of this year to reach RO89.2 million against RO84.4 million during the same period in 2006.

The increase in GDP was also attributed to a 16.9 per cent rise in service sectors, domestic product reached RO2,923 million, against RO2,500 million during the first half of 2006.


Some good news from the economic side...I am posting after a long hiatus, as I'm busy with exams...Apologies for that...

(Click on the title to go to the original article in Times of Oman).

Cancer Awareness Walkathon

Everyone out there is invited to participate in the 5th annual National Association for Cancer walk. It's going to be next week on Tuesday, November the 13th, from 4.00pm to 6.30pm in the Ministries area in Al-Khuwair, starting from the Ministry of Housing (starting point), passing by the Ministry of Health, then back to the starting point through the ministries road behind the Ministry of Health.

The registration is only for 2 Omani Rials including a t-shirt. Extra t-shirts will be on sale for those whom are interested.

This walkathon is organized by the National Association for Cancer Awareness. For more information, you can contact them on the following numbers:

Tel: 24498716
Fax: 24498726
Toll Free: 80077477

Or you can e-mail them on

Even though there is no information regarding this walkathon put on their website, here it is anyways. [Link]