Real issues sidelined by useless debates
Vol XXVII NO. 338 Monday 21 February 2005
BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Every Bahraini is a patriot. But not everyone is able to express himself or his love for his country the way he wants. Words and ideas may be taken out of context, sending wrong signals and bringing wrath upon the messenger.
Criticising something doesn't necessarily mean that a person is against it, but singing laurels doesn't spell out submission to it either.
I am not trying to be philosophical and I won't attempt to. The bottom-line is that I can't.
The squabbling of two Shura Council members over whether to thank the leadership or not over reforms ushered in by the National Action Charter, on its fourth anniversary, rang serious alarm bells.
What a waste of time and resources, I thought to myself.
While it will cost Bahrain BD6.6 million to build a complete settlement and put roofs over the heads of 154 families in the area south-east of the Riffa Fort, it is costing the nation BD8.75m to sustain the Shura Council for this year and next.
Multiply this figure by two and add another BD200,000 annually for parliament and its staff and you get a rough estimate of the two-year budget for the National Assembly.
Altogether, our National Assembly costs us in excess of BD18m every two years - a sizeable amount considering the country's meagre resources and the fact that more than 30,000 Bahraini families are on a waiting list for government housing and thousands of people are unemployed.
And what has the National Assembly achieved so far?
By next year's parliamentary elections, the combined assembly will have cost at least BD36m over its four-year term.
It has scared away some investors, who won't spend money in a country which bans television shows and where there are riots to stop music concerts; dashed the hopes of people by first promising everyone a BD1,000 bonus and then reducing it to BD500 for each family and finally to a pathetic BD200 for public sector employees only - and putting conditions on that too!
Green with envy, fresh back from Dubai, I was consumed in deep thought on what it is exactly that has us going around in circles, while the rest of the region is blossoming and developing at breakneck speed.
Dubai has never ceased to amaze me and the visionary ideas which come to life every day, thanks to the support of its leadership and the genuine interest of local businessmen, have created a true oasis in the desert.
Bahrain was the pioneer in the region, whose achievements were built on a solid ground, by the sweat and dedication of its own people.
It is a shame to have lost this edge, thanks to wise men too busy thanking each other.
Would women fare better in an elected parliament?
Let's wait and see.