Commenting on the expected increase in fuel prices in Bahrain in 2010, Majid Jassim questioned, in an opinion piece for the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat, whether there was a study of the effects of such a step on low income people and prices of food, medicines, housing and other essential commodities, and eventually on the inflation rate in general. The oil ministry argued that most cars cruising the streets could be filled with medium quality fuel and there was no need for extravagant spending on expensive fuel. A question arises, though: is the government aware of the impact of such a price change on inflation that has already damaged the medium class following the local real estate bubble, rising school fees and high loan interest rates?
Assuming that all goes well, will the government provide an extra transportation allowance for those working in the public sector in proportion to the expected rise in inflation rate? If so, what about those in the private sector? No answerd sre available to these questions, but the government wishes that the public will increasingly use public transportation and rationally manage their fuel spending. The frequent congestion in the streets cannot be eased simply by increasing oil prices. "It requires rather overhauling the infrastructure and building mega-transportation projects, such as Dubai metro."
"It emerges that journalists and astrologists share many qualities when they turn to predict the future," remarked Satea Nourredine in an opinion piece for the Lebanese newspaper Al Safeer. "A review of astrologists' prophecies made in 2008 turned out to be invalid, revealing the fact that astrologists were big liars. By now, the public may have grown immune and is less likely to believe the new wave of forecasts for 2010."
In the Arab world, however, astrologists and journalists alike have predicted a melancholic year full of tragedies. Predictions for the new year include a US-Israeli war against Iran, a new sectarian war in Iraq, an Israeli assault on both Lebanon and Gaza, a split of Yemen into factions, a new civil war in Sudan, a strong terrorist operation by al Qaeda in Europe and the US, and the death of one of the major Arab leaders. The list goes on. Astrologists and journalists tend to heighten public expectations, but as time passes, none of their predictions comes true. "And for our part, we would like to say, the new year is hardly going to be worse than 2009 despite the conspiracy between astrologists and journalists."
The attacks that targeted the US and its allies in Afghanistan - which resulted in the killing of four Canadian troops and a journalist in addition to seven CIA agents and wounding six more - will put into question the ability of Nato to control the situation on the ground even after deploying more troops and training the Afghan army, noted the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its lead article.
Statistics show that the number of attacks targeting foreign troops are in a steady rise, especially during the last year when about 1,000 soldiers were killed. At present, sending an extra 30,000 troops is not likely to bring huge change because the Taliban is not a formal army to fight. because it has no known bases or clear strategy. "This is why the US president Barack Obama hesitated for a long time before agreeing to send reinforcements because he believed that this would not bring about a significant change. And if he agreed, this was just in order to satisfy the demands of his generals in a gesture to lift their morale and also to clear his position should the situation on the ground worsen terribly." Based on these facts and on how 2009 turned out, Mr Obama is expecting worse scenarios in Afghanistan as the security situation deteriorates and makes a potential troop withdrawal impossible.
"The US Al Hurra TV channel has failed in its role as a match-maker between the Arab mindset and American culture. Arabs emerged as free in choosing their own line of thought," noted Mohammed Sadiq Diyab in a comment article for the London-based newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat. This caused the US academic and writer James Zogby to describe this channel as a bad idea and a failed project. He was also surprised why the US Congress still supports it by allocating $112 million (Dh411 milion) as its budget for 2010, which has raised the overall cost of the TV station since its inauguration in 2004 to $650 million (Dh2 billion). Mr Zogby doubted that it enjoyed a viewing rate of 9 per cent, adding that it might not exceed 2 per cent.
"Mr Zogby's statements made me recall the publicity propaganda that preceded the inauguration of the channel, saying that it would be like a shining light in a media market that was largely dominated by excitement. Some Arabs at that time were optimistic and felt enthusiastic about the idea that this TV station could provide a breath of freedom. Others feared that it would be a project of Americanisation. Al Hurra, in fact, disappointed both factions and none of their expectations came true."
* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi firstname.lastname@example.org