Wednesday, June 11, 2014
21


Wow!

So I go away and not only do we potentially have a big storm headed to little old Muscat, but the BBB (Ban Booze Brigade) have started their rumbling again. I'm also unhappy to report that for the second time in less than a year, BA have managed to lose my suitcase, asshats!

Right, so the storm - currently is some 900km's off shore and the running prediction at the moment is thunderstorms this Saturday and Sunday coming.... with tomorrow being the decider if the storms going to really hit Muscat, or just a thunderstorm in the last part of the weekend. I highly recommend the Oman Meteorology fb page for updates on local weather.

Earlier this week, as you all know already, the Shura put forward a proposal for the banning of alcohol in the Sultanate - or at least the tightening of alcohol laws. Lots of people are obviously upset by this, me too, but before I start writing my comments on all of this, I want to precede my comments by this:

This is democracy in action. The Shura are the elected council of the citizens of Oman, this is what the majority of Omani citizens want, and above all, people should acknowledge and respect that.

But I am going to make a few observations"

1. Tourism is the Sultanates currently stated growth market, with Omran busily building hotels all over the Sultanate. Tourism with no alcohol would severely limit Oman's potential, simply by ruling out a large number of potential tourists who may be put off by the "dryness" of the country. It doesn't take much to change a tourists mind, they are a fickle bunch.

2. The Sultanate is currently spending RO 45M per year (on average) on alcohol related diseases. The linked article on the ToO (that bastion of excellent journalism) then goes on to state that there is an increase of 4% per year in diagnosis of alcohol related diseases, yet conveniently forgets to comment that the population of Oman is expanding by much more than 5% per year (5.1% in 2010, 7.6% 2011, 9.1% in 2012 - source) so really alcoholic related diseases, relatively, have been fewer and fewer on a per 1000 people basis in recent years. Add to this, the fact that Oman levies a 100% tax on alcohol - I wonder what the tax revenues are on this, and how that impacts the annual medical bill. How much does the Sultanate spend on smoking related illnesses, and how are shisha joints still allowed to operate, practically immune to the smoking laws of Muscat Governate - because it's socially acceptable I'm guessing.

3. The grand mufti is stating that the law of the land is Islam, and that by allowing alcohol this is against the general concept of Islam - true, but it's also a part of the law of Oman that no particular religious group may impact others - I'm paraphrasing here but thats why we have churches here, and that's why only card-carrying infidels (in the non-military sector) can purchase alcohol from shops to take home. I completely agree and encourage a ramp up in policing and prosecuting the bootleggers.

4. I completely agree that currently anyone who is of age can walk into a bar in Oman, and order a drink and then consume it, and then have another one. How can this be stopped? Not very easily, unless you make alcohol consumption for non-Muslims only - eg - you are required to present your ID at the point of purchase. The big problem with this is, let's say you are from the Philippines, but you are not a Muslim, but your passport makes no comment on your religion. The solution to this is, the Shura are only really concerned with their people, and so, if you are Omani - no booze for you. Of course what probably is the desire of the Shura is to just dry out Oman totally - but this will have a detrimental impact on tourism revenues, and jobs in the tourism sector.

5. By drying out Oman, for those expatriates who work here, it'd become a defacto hardship location once more, and the days of higher salaries than those to be had in Dubai would be seen once more - or should be. Can Oman afford that? Do they care? Probably and probably not, in that order.

6. A reason for pushing the no booze by the BBB is to reduce car accidents here in Oman - the reasoning being that people are shitfaced and having car accidents. No doubt about that, but how many accidents are caused by generally bad driving, poor enforcement, and uneducated drivers. Personally I'd say ban all Lexus from the roads and you'll see a 50% drop in accidents!


All in all, I have to say that if booze is banned here in Oman, I think my time here will come to an end once my current Contract expires. There's plenty of work across the border in the UAE, for higher salaries, and the quality of life there, for a beer swilling infidel like me, would be significantly better - and I don't just mean because of beer, I mean infrastructure, schooling, transit & transportation links, work environment, customer service. Oman, especially Muscat, has it's magic in it's geography.

But what I mean by my time here coming to an end is, my primary work here is building hotels. I certainly do other projects, mosques, education, government and military, but the lions share is currently leisure - hotels. Moreover, if alcohol was to be banned, this was not something I signed up for when moving to Oman (specifically over moving to Saudi for more money) and so is the case for many of my expatriate friends right here in Oman - I'm sure after a year cycle we'd be pretty hard up for friends as many others would chose to leave as well. For the record, I've home-brewed before, and have everything I need should I want to again, it's not hard and the results are good.

For one, I hope the rules are adjusted in such a way that it won't impact my quality of life in the Sultanate, time will tell I guess.

le fin.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more, on each and every point. ID cards for bars is the way forward.

Anonymous said...

I think curbing alcohol for Omanis is a responsible decision if taken by the Shura. As someone who works at a hospital and comes across chronic alcohol consumers, I believe it is a good decision BUT the reason why they're introducing it is wrong, in my opinion. The no. Of alcohol related RTAs are comparatively fewer than reckless driving caused RTAs and the liver diseases associated with alcohol is comparatively lesser than the lung diseases requiring expensive ventilators caused due to smoking and sheesha use/ heart condition due poor health hygiene - eg: exercise, low fat, high fibre diets.

Like you said bootleggers should be policed.
Whatever the council decides should and I hope affect only their countrymen.

Anonymous said...

Numbers on the RTAs published to day claim 167 accidents and 15 deaths related to drink driving, way to many, but comparing to The ROPs published accident stats for 2013 these represent 2.3% of accidents and 1.6% of fatalities. So any ban is not going to have major impact on the road toll being claimed by some.

Theresa said...

Congrats mr. Scythe, another brilliant post xx. Would like to add my comment as well......the government ONLY provide free treatment for Omani citizens and those employed by the government /ministries. Everyone else pays for care themselves or through their medical insurance, so...........ban Omani citizens and those who proclaim they are Muslims from buying alcohol, problem solved....no more government health spending on alcohol related disease, as everyone else will be paying for their own treatment!! 45 million rials (allegedly) saved!!!!

Anonymous said...

When I lived in Oman, Omanis who did not want to be seen in bars would buy (proper-non-oil-based) perfumes and some strong overly sweet soft drink, drive into a deserted wadi or dirt road, and get wasted on high alcohol perfume.
I also met expats who had serious drinking problems. I personally could take it or leave it. The occasional very good glass of red wine would see me through. But I understand why other expats would be more upset.

From everything I've heard about Oman in recent years, shouldn't people be focusing on banning fast food and sugary drinks? I heard that diabetes was Oman's biggest killer!

Anonymous said...

Let them ban alcohol. It's their country. They have a history of fucking up everything and in all seriousness, they don't deserve a baiza of tourist revenue from the civilised world.

Let them be content with a few visitors from the GCC who head down to Salalah for the rain.

As Muscat Jet Driver said yesterday, they don't need tourists and can use the empty hotels as rehabilitation centres for the sinners.

The people of Oman have spoken. Tourists don't need alcohol as they only come to Oman to experience the country. The government is able to support itself and its people. There is more than enough money for everyone to continue working in the government and getting paid for warming a chair.

The prefect situation is to ban alcohol and pork products, go back to Sharia law in all cases and get consultants in from Saudi to put it all together.
Mafi mushkila.

Good luck to them!

Anonymous said...

Well now, this will surely fix the difficulty for expats to get visas won't it. All the expats will no longer want to renew and will move to places that actually appreciate them being there.

The only ones that will stay will be the bootleggers. They'll be doing a bang up business supplying booze to Ali Bin Flipflop and his friends.

Anonymous said...

Newbie:
Talking about the relationship between alcohol and car accidents - drivers do silly stuff and crazy accidents while 100% sober, so it is nonsense. As it has already been said before, set up proper driving schools with proper 3 months of theoretical training, and then road tests. People do not know about the basic vehicle privileges on unregulated 4-way crossing! Duh!
I agree with the opinion that the decision to ban alcohol would cancel out the Govt's efforts and investments to boost tourism, since most of tourists that I see are from the West. Let's accept the fact that Oman is not cheap, you have to be able to afford coming here.

Anonymous said...

As far as I understand it the Shura has no real power anyway, the result of the vote will be passed to the Council of Ministers and should they find themselves in agreement with the Shura (unlikely) they will suggest it to HM. Nation builders as expats have been known are respected and so I think the proposal will be chucked out.

Nonetheless in order to save face, they will probably ramp up the qualifying requirements for a liquor licence and possibly like the UAE ban the wearing of dishdashas in bars.

Interesting (and somewhat uncomfortable) times.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day though, whatever is decided we will just have to accept. It is not our country and we have always had to respect the laws here.

However the bootleggers will make a fortune, the government will lose a fortune in taxes and those that have bought on the Wave or the like will probably be regretting it.

Anonymous said...

"...like the UAE ban the wearing of dishdashas in bars."

If there is a indeed a ban in the UAE, it's not enforced.

Anonymous said...

Best news ever for the established Indian and Paki mafia already operating in Oman. There is a least one speakeasy in Ruwi...which no tourist will visit and from which no tax revenue will gained.
Prepare for the Cornish Empire...knuckleheads

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

As an almost-Omani I sincerely hope that the shura means only to ban alcohol consumption for Omani citizens who are Muslim or expat residents who want "Muslim" to appear on their work id (for the ROP).

This would satisfy me as a Muslim, as alcohol is only forbidden for Muslims. And some Omani Muslims even say {the ibadhi religious majority" in Oman} that smoking is haraam, ect... so why are we not banning that for those people? ID cards presented is fine by me. Then it will affect the people who the religion and the majority of citizens in democracy who should be cared for...

Don't get me wrong, I am against alchohol being sold, bought or drunk, but that in Islam only pertains to Muslims. To everyone else, I'd just wish they'd be safe about it, and not hurt themselves. It isn't the role of Muslims to tell others {non-Muslims} what to believe or do. Even IN Shariah law, alchohol isn't something Muslims apply to non-Muslims.

Car accidents... that's laughable as a justification for a serrious law affecting citizens and expats. Most car accidents are caused by sober idiots in Oman, not drunkards. As for alcholism---as stated by other commentators, diabtetes is a killer in Oman not alcholism. There are more heroine addicts, and lung cancer (smokers) victims in the statistics for Omani citizens than Omanis dying of liver disease due to alchohol consumption. Fact. Check out the MOH (MInstry of Health) annual health report for 2012.

Anyways... I'm sure HM will read it over carefully.

Anonymous said...

Alcohol has been with us for centuries here in the sultanate. It will continue being part of our lives and the idea that it will be banned is, just, rubbish.
We had or perhaps still have winery in jabal Akdhar that made some strong alcoholic beverages though clandestinely.
To me, it is sacrosanct to imbibe the heavenly yellow froth during weekends. Life is incomplete without a good glass of beer.

Cheers!

Mti

Anonymous said...

The Shura have a quota of stupid suggestions to keep up with - this is the latest in a long line, including providing free power and water for everyone! I hope that this will get filed in the big round file too. If I wanted to work in a dry country I would go to Saudi and get the hardship money/home leave etc that goes along with it.

Maybe the vision is for intra-gulf tourism supporting the post oil economy, if so good luck with that but I doubt it will work. Buy a house in one of the ITC to get a visa for a dry country? I dont think so!

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, the suggestion to ban alcohol was put to the Shura by a small group of influential people. So far, so good - this does look like democracy in action; people raising concerns with the appropriate body.

The suggestions received no real opposition, which could look like consent, and was taken to mean that everyone was in favour.

Except they weren't. There are a lot of Omanis who don't think banning alcohol is a good idea - but if they speak out publicly, they are immediately branded "bad Muslims".

That's not democracy in action; democracy only works when everyone is able to say their piece.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...in the UAE - or places I have been there - is a no- dishdasha rule. Might help here...equally folk are making money out of it as they are of the selection of sex workers seen decorating the bars at the Intercon and Crowne Plaza. RTAs might be reduced by banning actual enforcement of the law...seatbelts, phones, not signalling and perhaps not letting young men have a car until (ponders) about 35.

Anonymous said...

Another interesting move by the Consultative Council.

Look, banning bands and dancers --> more respected working ladies EVERYWHERE with easier accessibility!

- Banning Alcohol --> more a frustrated bunch of locals who will turn to everything else to justify passing time.

The more you put people in a box the more resistance you get!

The Elusive Obvious --> Forbidden Fruit!

Ex-Expat said...

Why should all Muslims be banned from drinking, never mind everyone. Some Omani Muslims enjoy a drink, and have the freedom of how strictly they wish to adhere to the Koran, in the same way as others to their religion.

I sure do miss beers in the Hyatt Pool/PDO Beach/Royal Flight Club/BBQ Parties

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Forzest said...

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