Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Oman Government powerless to stop continuing carnage on roads. And who's the lucky winner of tickets to Snow Patrol?

Photo: Multiple deaths in Oman are a daily occurance. [Oman Observer]

Amid the continual boosterism to Oman's tourism sector that abounds in the press of late, the recent tragic death of 7 people in a head-on crash made even the international news.

Six Indians, Omani killed in road accident (Khaleej Times)
5 March 2012MUSCAT - Seven people — six Indians and an Omani — were killed in a horrific road accident in Bahla, near Nizwa in the interior Dhakhliya governorate, on Sunday.

Another Omani sustained serious injuries in the head-on collision between two pick-up vans and was taken to hospital, police said. He was in intensive care in critical condition. One of the vehicles caught fire due to the impact of the crash.

By my calculations if you drive on Oman's roads you have on average a roughly 0.1% chance of dying, every year. Of course, the actual odds for a young Omani male must be much, much higher I'd guess.

About 1 in a thousand people in Oman are killed per year (note, you have to correct official figures for children and deaths reported post the scene). How's that for an Oman cultural experience, tourists? Maybe we could sell guided tours from the cruise liners to go see a few genuine Omani funerals?

But never fear, The Council of Ministers are aware of the problem folks.

Oman urges people to abide by traffic rules (Khaleej Times)
5 March 2012 MUSCAT - The unabated rise in traffic deaths and injuries has prompted Oman’s cabinet to appeal for cooperation among all sections of the society to address the grave issue.

Expressing its “deep sorrow” over mounting road accidents, the Council of Ministers, at a meeting here, called upon “everyone to abide by traffic rules and regulations to save the lives of citizens, expatriates and visitors.”

It underlined the importance of participation by the public and private sectors in an annual competition the country organises to spread awareness about traffic safety and to “enhance the culture of safe use of roads and means of transportation.”

Ahh yes, the ever popular 'King Canute' method of fixing a problem*.

In this case they are using the mild version of Canute - just tell people to "obey the rules and drive carefully please". The 'Advanced Canute' - seen elsewhere in Omani government - would make it illegal to die on the roads, along with signs along roads warning people that if they die it's their own fault.

Hey, a conference to discuss the problem would be awesome. Maybe an International conference. And an investigation and a report from the relevant departments, naturally. And some posters, and events to educate the public.

None of this will work.

The nice thing about this problem is that it's very hard to not count dead bodies. In the short-term, if you have the money, the King Canute method works against unemployment, for instance. But as more people die on the roads the bodies can't be swept under the carpet**. Oman is going to either have to get serious about it, or admit the failings of current policy. Unless high road deaths are the secret official policy - afterall, it helps lower the unemployment rate, increases GDP per person, and is good for increasing the car sales of Bahwan et al.

If only the outcome of other aspects of Government policy were so transparent.

HM re-re-shuffles cabinet of Ministers
Royal Decree No 11/ 2012 appoints Ali bin Masoud bin Ali al Sunaidy as Minister of Commerce and Industry; Shaikh Saad bin Mohammed bin Said al Mardhouf al Saadi as Minister of Sports Affairs; Shaikh Abdulmalik bin Abdullah bin Ali al Khalili as Minister of Justice; Sayyid Mohammed bin Sultan bin Hamoud al Busaidy as Minister of State and Governor of Dhofar; Ahmed bin Nasser bin Hamad al Mehrzi as Minister of Tourism; and Dr Abdulmunim bin Mansour bin Said al Hasani as Minister of Information.

Interesting. We only just had a new Minister of Tourism appointed. Soon I'll publish an investigative report on the goings on at the Ministry of Tourism and it's development arm, OMRAN. I wonder if the replacement is related?

More interesting was the formation of a new super "Supreme Judicial Council", reporting to HM directly and with all decisions needing HM approval, to administer the courts seperately from the Ministry of Justice. This helps to increase the independence of the bench, and finally separates the Government department responsible for prosecution from that of administering justice. That's great news.

Contest for Snow Patrol tickets - Winner!!
Our competition for the free 'pit pass' tickets to see Snow Patrol was won by "Al", who will be at the front seeing the awesome band's first Middle East gig. Thanks to HiFM and Alive Oman.

Al dodged the security, and Mission Impossible-style sent me some great pics of the scene at Blue City in Al Sawadi. This will get me on to finishing part 3 of the saga, as long anticipated! (But if you still have any pics, or are driving past Al Sawadi resort, send them to me! Just give date and if you want photo credit or not.)

There are still a few tickets I think for the show on Sunday the 11th March at the InterCon gardens. But you'd better be quick. You can get them from the Bose store in Qurum, Al Ghazal Pub at the InterCon, or the MQ box office for Alive Oman. They cost RO 25 or RO 50 for the Fan Pit.

* This common metaphor is a bit unfair to ol' Canute. He was trying to show his fawning staff that he was not almighty, so he instructed the tide back, and thus demonstrated he was powerless.

** As blogged about ad nauseum, the ROP do their best to make the number as small as they can already, by only reporting those killed at the scene, and not counting later deaths in hospital nor counting children.