Monday, December 22, 2008

Back To Basics

The Omani commentatorship webspaces have retaliated with admirable force to Majlis Al-Shura's recent recommendations regarding changing the weekend days from the current Thursday-Firday to a Friday-Saturday.

The idea was first introduced a couple of years back by royal decree, and little has been done to it's benefit since. A while back, the banking sector inaugrated the trial to the new system with less than satisfactory results. The frustration of the public is owed to the current 4 day banking week. This would not be the case if the entire country moved to the Friday-Saturday weekend, where the regular 5 day banking week is restored, but the trial shift had not in any way suggested that the transition would be smooth, seamless, or beneficial.

My argument is .. Why bother ? The benefits gained by the transition while valid, seem unattractive enough to make such irreverseible change. If anything, it's going to accelerate downloading more of the traumatized global economy to Oman.

This post, however is not about praising the merits of the transition, or griping it's faults, it's about the Omani web arena's very open contempt to Majils Al-Shura's initative which opposed the shift to grounds of social, economical, and religous technicalities.

It seems that a lot of people simply forgot that these people are elected officials. Electors voted for these representatives affliating themselves to the agendas presented to them during elections, rendering criticism to that very agenda a logical fallacy. Whether this was the way it happened or not, it does not negate the fact that these official are now morally obligated to push forward whatever they were elected for, and if that was absolutly nothing, then the fault is beared on the elector.

Collectively, Shura studied, and discussed, the banking trial and came to the conclusion that the shift is not to our benefit, and that business should proceed as it previously was. Their views are only influencive, and not decisive. It's now up to the case to justify itself, which it's not doing too well.

I think this is a very cowardly move. There's much to criticize about the way our government handles some things, but it remains the fact the public choses not to excercise and deliever this criticism for irrational fear of the concerned officials. I think it's cowardly, because the people who are criticizing Shura this vehemently would not as readily criticize unelected governmental officials who have more influence and blame to some of these shortcomings.

Not only is it cowardly, I think it's also stupid of us all. The Omani public, rightly so, assumes the problem of Shura being the fact that they do not have decisive power and that some of that power should be delegated to them from whomever has it, but we're too stupid to realise that no such powers will ever be delegated if there's no respect to the process itself. If the Omani people show that they strongly prefer, respect and encourage the contribuitive process of decision making, some of the decision making power will definetly be delegated to the Majlis. This is not an egg and chick question, so we should stop making it one.

My name is Mohammed, and I shall be here all week.


Undercover Dragon said...

To a certain extent, the argument depends on whether a majority of Shura members were elected with a stated policy of switching the weekend.

If 'Yes', well, that's democracy for you. And the fora should try to be positive in their criticism - highlighting real problems the move would cause, and proposing solutions to mitigate the side-effects. Or just bitching, that's OK too.

If 'No', it gets a bit trickier. This is one of the downsides of an absence of political parties (and their publicly stated platform of policies and priorities).

You can have an agreed constitutional body making decisions, and at the same time still have valid debate, disagreement and challenge. Where such decisions are made, they will fall within the constitution and powers delegated under the rule of law.
Freedom of speech is also a big part of the democratic process - it's not just about elections. And usually there is a commitment to protection of minority rights, to avoid a 'dictatorship of the majority'.

muscati said...

Reposting the same reply I had originally posted on the original post on Ti3gib's blog:

1. Oman is not a democracy. If the sultan wants something done all he has to do is to issue a royal decree and it becomes a law. No questions asked. The shift of the two day weekend has never been decreed in the past.

2. Oman used to have a six day work week for all. The government only switched to a two day weekend, Thursday/Friday in the late 1980's. I think it was in 1989, my last year of high school. Before that we used to go to school on Thursdays as well.

3. The private sector only started switching to a two day weekend this year. Banks are unable to take Thursday/Friday like the government because they rely on being connected to international banks. If they close on Thursday they end up being disconnected to the world on Thursday and Friday when Oman is closed, and Saturday and Sunday when the rest of the world is closed.

4. Oman is part of the global economy, like it or not. And unlike what the local presses tell us every day, we are not immune. With oil production decreasing, and what little we produce costing us more and more per barrel to the point that further drops in the price of oil might make our production unprofitable, Oman must diversify its income and turn into a service economy. For this reason, the private sector will not agree to a two day weekend unless it's Friday/Saturday.

5. Oman's banks switched from a 6 day work week where only Friday was a day off to a 5 day work week with Friday and Saturday off, beginning in July of this year. This is not a trial period. It is a complete and final change.

6. Banks currently have a 5 day work week, not 4 days like you mentioned.

7. The main reason why the government should decide to switch its weekend is for the protection of Oman's families. Weekends aren't only about rest. Having a weekend is allows families to spend time together. Time that might not be available to them during the work week. When the members of the family don't have the same days off it leads to the weakening of the cohesion of the family unit. Keeping it together becomes more of an effort. Consider for example a family in which both parents work in the private sector and get Friday/Saturday off. Their kids would get Thursday/Friday (like all schools). What do the kids do on their own on Thursday? Who looks after them? Who makes sure they are not getting themselves in trouble while the parents are at work?

8. With regards to the shura council's survey. When was it done? How many people participated? Was it by random sampling or did each member go back home and survey his closest friends and family? Who are the experts whose advice was taken? I myself don't know anyone who was surveyed, neither as an individual or as an expert.

9. The majlis rejected on social, political, economic and religious grounds. Socially, I can't see how it can be good for Oman's families to have non-matching weekends. I can't comment on the political reasons, nor do I know them. As for the economics, the council itself admits the importance of Saturday being part of the weekend by encouraging more companies in the private sector to switch to a two day weekend which includes Saturday. And religiously, well I can't think of any religious explanation. If you want to use islam as a reasoning, there is no weekend in islam. In our religion you stop working for jum3a prayers, and then you go back to work. Friday isn't a day off. So no, there is no religious explanation.

10. Majlis Ash'shura negative decision may turn out to be nothing more than a political play to show lay people that not only do we have an elected majlis, but they are asked to take important decisions and sometimes they even oppose the government's views. Go back to point 1 above. Full circle.

Anonymous said...

Friday is a natural part of the weekend in Oman, but why Thursday?
Because it’s always been like that - since when?
As Muscat said in his point 3 – if Oman is off on Thursday and Friday and the vast majority of the world is off Saturday and Sunday then that leaves 3 possible days of direct communication (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – and remember Wednesday the Government closes at what time? So let’s make that 2 and half days real time communication with the majority of the world) . Factor in Time Zone differences and business communication become very long winded .
If Oman does want to be cut of from the rest of the worlds business community then of course as you say “why bother” .
But being cut of actually does not cut you off from the downside, the financial inability of foreign Bank to lend will impact Oman, the financial inability of foreign house buyers to afford property in Oman will impact Oman . The collapse of major car manufacturers will impact on their agent in Oman.
But when the upside comes, businesses in the west like quick, clear decisions. If Oman is closed to them for 4 days then by the time Oman is open for business the decision will have been made, deals finalized and Oman’s growing population will be left enjoying its Thursday and Friday in peace and quite as business moves elsewhere.

bath mateus said...

Wow it’s nice posting, I like it.Adding more information it will be better....

allen said...