September 19, 2008

SaudiNews (Sep 13 - 19, 2008)

GCC Central Bank governors said last week they saw little risk from the US crisis as their exposure to Lehman and other US assets was limited! Saudi Monetary Agency Gov. Hamad Al-Sayari said: “At the moment ... I don’t see any risk but this crisis.”
What I don’t see is why are we shielding ourselves from US economic problems while most of our foreign investments are placed in U.S. financial institutions?

Finally, GCC Central Bank governors cemented moves toward monetary union and the formation of the GCC Common Central Bank.
I believe the governors should first address the issue of rising inflation across the Gulf.

More economic news. Saudi Arabia will recruit 2,000 Filipino nurses and announced 1,000 scholarships for Saudi girls in a move to address the shortage of specialist nursing staff.
I understand that more than 10,000 nurses are urgently required to make up for the shortfall. I just hope the conservatives won’t create any problems for the young Saudi women.

Talking about the conservatives, Sheikh Saleh Al-Laheedan, chairman of the Supreme Judiciary Council, has triggered an international controversy. He was quoted as stating that owners of satellite TV channels broadcasting obscene programs could face execution as per the law.
I’m not a big fan of the so-called “obscene TV programs”, but I’m also against issuing execution fatwas.

The bad news is that several ships left the Jeddah Port after waiting for three or more days for permission to enter. The ships were not given permission because there were no free wharfs and there was a shortage of workers.
I am concerned that this crisis may continue until the end of the year, as the need for imported goods increases.

Agence France Press reports that Human Rights Watch called on the Saudi government to lift a four-year-old travel ban on Saudi lawyer Abdurrahman al-Lahem, a winner of the 2008 Human Rights Defender award. Lahem "stands for justice and the rule of law in Saudi Arabia," said Christoph Wilcke of the New York-based watchdog.
Let’s allow Mr. Al-Lahem to travel so that we don’t get criticized for arbitrary limits to basic freedoms and fairness.

Now for some good news. A new law to combat smoking in public and workplaces has been drafted and is awaiting approval. Those smoking in public places will be fined SR200.
Cigarette smoking has so far caused the death of 3.48 million people worldwide this year, including 13,929 in Saudi Arabia.

Life goes on….
Abdullah Al Alami

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