What’s Nido’s favourite drink?
Nido Milk? Wrong. A nidoer would never be caught drinking Nido. It’s too low class. He’ll most probably drink Danone instead.
Johnny Walker or Jack Daniel? Mr. Nido definitely loves his whiskey, but this doesn’t even approach his addiction to the liquid in question.
The answer is oil.
Is there any poor soul out there who’s still dillusional about how we are completely dependant on oil? About the sad reality that every aspect of our life and indeed our life itself has been shaped, dictated, and defined by oil?
Look around you. That ultra cool and silent Japanese Air Conditioner is due to oil. That swanky latest edition Swedish phone has been bought by oil. The philipino maid that sweeps your house, cooks your food and cleans your clothes is here because of oil. That German car, those American fast food shops, and even your Itlalian designed and Chinese made underwear.
Don’t be fooled by those who tell you that Bahrain has diversifie from oil. That’s utter and complete rubbish. “But wait!”, you say, ” oil Oil only makes up 11% of our GDP!” Yes, but it makes up 76% of government revenue. Yup, a whopping three quarters.
Still don’t get it? Well let’s take a detour into that murky and shady world of economics. You see, pretty much every thing in the country is dependant on that precious black gold. Oil pays the wages of government sector employees, which constitute two third of bahrainis employed . These wages in turn are used to pay for the Shawarmas, the cars, the computers, the houses we build, and the maids who sweep these houses. The money that is paid to the shops and companies that provides these goods become the wages of the workers in these companies and the profits of the hamoors (fat cats) who own them. We of course all know that the other third of bahraini workers and the expat workers (who constitute 67% of the workforce in Bahrain) are paid from these wages. They in turn spend their wages on shwarmas, cars, maids, houses, and the cycle goes on. In the case of expats a big chunk of their wages are sent oversees to never be seen again the economy.
You see, although oil constitutes 11% of the GDP, it is the most important component of GDP. It is the fuel (notice the pun) that propels the rest of the economy. Take away the oil and you take away the Shawarmas, the cars, the maids and the ACs.
Yes, you might say, my daddy worked hard to provide me with CK underwear. Yes, you might say, he opened a business to buy me the latest car for me. Unfortunately the money that makes up his wages and profits started from that good old fountain of oil. Take away the oil and the government can no longer pay his wages and people can no longer afford to buy his company goods.
But wait, what about that Banking sector? That glorious sector that is the pride and joy of Bahrain? Come on, you know better than that. Did you know the Banking sector employs a whopping 7200 people, including expats? Let me repeat that, including expats, and we all know how much expats constitute of the work force. Did you know that Bahrain’s Bahraini workforce is more than 120,000 (this is a rant, not an economic study, so don’t expact exact numbers), and it is growing every year? Now let us be generous and assume all of those 7200 are Bahrainis. In fact let us be even more generous and assume the country’s bank sector has a massive boom and suddenly there are 14,000 jobs, all filled by Bahrainis. That’s still less than 15% of the local workforce that the banking sector can employ. What are you gonna do with the rest?
Let us not forget as well that the money that fuels these banks is all oil money. It’s rich Saudis and Kuwaitis depositing their money in Banks like ABC and Investcorp. What are those banks going to do when the oil money dries up?
Formula 1? Really? How many BAHRAINIS can the Formula 1 employ on a regular basis (I’m not talking here about ushers that work one week out of the whole year)? 500? 1000? 10,000? Let’s be serious here. I mean…. does the Formula one even make money? How exactly is it going to rake in the money for the government?
Amwaj? Durrat Al Bahrain? Riffa views? Besides the ecological disaster that will ensue because of turning a desert into the French Riviera (what the hell are they thinking with Riffa views? The country is a desert for a reason. You can’t just screw nature and turn it into an English Countryside!), how exactly is this going to benefit the country? Besides the drain on the limited water and electricity resources to fund this Shenanigan, how many Bahrainis are going to be employed on this project? You think most of the builders out there at the moment and the employees and waitresses they’ll subsequently bring will be Bahraini? Do you even think most of the people that can afford houses on these projects will be Bahraini?
How about we just depend on “al keyada al rasheedah” (the wise leadership) and their economic management genius? I see…. so in the nineties when we were in a severe recession (which, by pure coincidence I assure you, is when the oil prices dropped considerably) did our glorious and wise rulers lose their deft econmic touch for a decade? Do you seriously think they will be our saviours?
Our glorious rulers, I can assure you, have more than enough money to satisfy themselves, their children, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, their great great grandchildren and then some. When it all hits the fan and the oil runs out they can all afford to have nice houses in marbella and London to flock off to. What are you going to do?
You know, it’s not a a very hard and complicated formula to become a modern independent economy. You don’t need a legion of Economists, McKinsey consultants, and wise leaders to come up with a plan. Look at every goddamn country that has managed to develop. You need three things: education, strong industries, and a governmental and legal structures to support them. Look at Japan, Korea, Ireland. Those guys had sod all in terms of natural resources. They, however, built impressive industries, well educated labour force, and an impressive governmental and legal structure to support it. It’s not an extremely complicated formula. The hard part comes in executing this plan and in having the finances for it. It’s that good old economic dillemma: How in hell can I get the finances and money to build a modern industrial economy and the institutions and educational structrues to support it?
Now we in the Gulf have been given a great gift by god. We got oil. Good old sweet black gold. While other countries have to fret about where to get the finances, we literally have got oil to pay for it. Hell, we don’t even have to work hard to get this oil. You literally dig the ground and it sprouts out. No Siberian grim winters or deep reservoirs to worry about. It’s literally at ground level, and it’s even at a slant so that once you dig a whole and put a pipe in the glorious stuff spouts out of its own accord! You literally can put your feet up, lay back and relax!
The problem is we have put up our feet and just relaxed. Do we take that money and invest it in building moderny sustainable industries and in our education system? Of course not. We go wasting it on Merdeses, sushi bars, large fountains and Riffa views.
Do you know that Cambridge University’s total endowment is 4.1 billion pounds? This is of course including its land and buildings that it can’t do much about? Do you know that the gulf has spent more than 600 billion dollars on its defense in the last 20 years? YES, 600 BILLION. CASH. 600 GODDAMN BILLION. IN CASH. That is such a high number it sounds like one of those massive numbers that people spout out to show how ridiculous something is, like when you go “600 gazillion trillion billion.” Do we have ONE world class university to show for it? Nope, we’ve got universities that set up shop in shopping malls to make money. Do we have ONE world class research institution? Hell, we don’t even have a decent army! Der3 el Jazeera ou Der3 al Jazeera. The island shield and the island shield. Well that 600 billion piece of wonder didn’t even survive seven hours against Saddam’s army.
We all heard ancient fairytales or relligious stories about a destitute and poor society that was suddenly blessed by god and suddenly had a massive treasure dropped on them from the sky (in our case from under our feet). Does this society thank the stars for its fortune? Does it try to utilize this fortune into developing itself and creating more growth? Nope, it starts spending it on luxuries and leisurely goods. It starts to get arrogant. It forgets how it used to be poor and how lucky it is in the fortune it came across. It become addicted to its materialistic lifestyle, consuming more and more and growing fatter and fatter.
It is ironic that we never learn from history or from fairy tails. Any creature with an IQ of a sunflower seed can tell that this is not sustainable. Any bozo can fathom that this oil glut is not sustainable and that we should take this limited resource and invest maturely into industries that will sustain the economy of the country. Isn’t it pretty simple? Oil is non-renewable and limited resource. Hence, we should take this great fortune and invest it into something renewable and sustainable.
We however have been drugged by the effects of oil. We have ceased to look at the world rationally. Our minds and senses have been enchanted by the swanky cars, the luxury houses, the servants who do our every bidding. We have closed our eyes on our reality in order to enjoy this dream of a materialistic lifestyle. Isn’t it amazing how our entire life has been consumed by oil? How it has shaped our houses, roads, cars jobs? That black, guey, lifeless, substance? Heck, it has even taken over our thoughts, creating in front of us a mirage of a well functioning easygoing lifestyle that can last forever. How can this commodity have come to control us nay even enslave us so thoroughly?
We have become dependant on oil for everything. We have become like a fat grotesque goblin that is absolutely addicted to the black guey substance. This obese creature lies there with tubes coming out of his every edifice pumping oil into hiim to sustain him. He is so fat that he can’t even move and be productive. He has to shower that black gold on others in order to build his house, feed him, and clean up his mess. He literally cannot even sustain himself, let alone sustain a job to pay for his grotesque lifestyle.
Has he forgotten so quickly how harsh life can be? Has he forgotten the days when he was an agile scrawny person who had to take on the sea for months on end, dodging sharks and infections, in order to fetch a small pearl? Has the coolness of the A/C made him forget the unforgiving heat of the sun, when had to slave away on the fields for hours on end? Has oil blinded his memory towards the fountain of life that the sea and the fertile land has provided him with for thousands of years? Has his betrayal reached the level of killing them in order to build a few artifical islands and palaces to satisfy his unsatiable greed? Is he oblivious that the oil will run out, and that when he will need the sea and the palms in order to survive, he’ll realize that he has killed his life-long friends for a whimsical desire?
What in hell are you going to do when the oil runs out? What will you get up to when the banks’ oil funds dry up and they leave? Will you go pearl diving? We have already killed the sea and the Japanese have developed synthetic pearls. Will you catch fish? We have already driven them away by building on them fake islands. Will you grow palm trees? You have cut them down and used their land for houses, their water for your backgarden. Will you sell Halwa or make a few 7asalat pottery?
You can’t forever expect that oil will import everything for you. You can’t forever import cars. You can’t forever import your food. You can’t forever import workers to build your roads, your houses, to serve your food, to cook for you, and to clean after you. You can’t import education, industy, and development. These require planning and hard work. You can’t simply just import a life by oil and then not expect that life to vanish when you no longer have oil.
Can’t we see how oil has become the source of life for us? From our underwear to our jobs? Can’t we see that it has become our life? Can’t we see that this drug has created an illusion, a la la land dream life that is unsustainable?
What will it take? Our kids and grandkids stoning our graves and going , “You bastards. God gave you this gift that you didn’t even have to work hard for, and you wasted it all on usless stuff like sushi, Mercedes, and a massive fountain? On top of this you killed all the land and the sea and left me with nothing? Is this what I have to show for your wealth ? A goddamn fountain?”
When will we wake up?
When will we wake up?
Keep on dreaming, and I’ll shut up.