x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Nobel prize may as well have gone to Assad

The awarding of the Peace Prize has often been problematic, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: refugee deaths and Egypt's economy.

The Nobel Peace Prize has often generated controversy, especially when it is awarded both to the victim and the perpetrator of a given conflict, in recognition of their mutual efforts to resolve their differences, wrote Abdul Wahhab Badrakhan, a London-based political analyst, in the UAE newspaper Al Ittihad yesterday.

“The prize has previously been awarded to bloodletters, or people who have helped ignite wars and conflicts, basically as a reward for their cunning and astute capability to bring those wars to an end through half-cooked political solutions,” the writer said. “The conflict would usually remain open-ended, invigorating arms makers and the war industry.”

When the Nobel committee revealed a few days ago that it was conferring this year’s Peace Prize on the United Nations’ Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) for its chemical weapons mission in Syria, many observers could not help but deride the decision, the author noted.

“Some argued that it was really just the last dredge of shame that prevented the Nobel committee from splitting the prize between the UNODA and the Syrian regime. After all, without the regime’s help and compliance, the UN inspectors would not have been able to even start their mission in Syria, which so far appears to be successful.

“Regardless of the fact that its record is still pretty low on achievements, the UNODA may well deserve the prize. But for its work in Syria to be presented under the banner of ‘peace’ while the war there is still taking lives on a daily basis, that is shocking and puts a lot of question marks over the accepted definition of ‘peace’,” Badrakhan wrote.

For his part, Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the recently launched news website Rai Al Youm, wrote on Monday that “if anyone really deserved that prize, it would be Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister”. He was the one to pitch chemical weapons disarmament to prevent a US attack on Syria.

“All politicians who had previously been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize made huge concessions, from the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to the Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. The US president Barack Obama may be the only one who has received it … before showing anything for peace, besides recognising his country’s defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq and declaring his readiness to withdraw from the two countries,” Atwan wrote.

The truth is that the Nobel Peace Prize has “lost all of its value and significance” after becoming such “a politicised award given to whoever is walking the line of the West’s imperialist agendas”, the editor said.

No wonder, then, that President Bashar Al Assad of Syria, speaking to the Lebanese newspaper, Al Akhbar, squeezed in a joke about how he, more than the UNODA, deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, Atwan wrote.

Hope must be restored to fight boat disasters

Reports of migrant boats that sank in the Mediterranean in an attempt to reach the Italian coast and of the Australia-bound refugee boat that sank off the Indonesian coast were heartbreaking, wrote Ali Ibrahim in the London-based paper Asharq Al Awsat.

More than 400 people were drowned within a week in the Mediterranean and dozens more died north of Australia, the writer noted.

The appalling figures speak for themselves and should serve as a wake-up call to the world. The migrants, including women and children, know how hazardous the journey is and yet they risk their lives on crude boats in a bid to reach other countries.

The fact that these people are not broke and are willing to pay traffickers thousands of dollars is indicative of how hopeless they feel about their future at home.

The other bitter truth is that many of these asylum seekers hail from Arab and Muslim countries, as the names of survivors of the recent sinkings showed.

The phenomenon is not new, but it has recently grown amid the escalating unrest in several Arab countries, with the number of Syrian refugees alone passing two million.

Restoring hope in the future at home is the only way to end boat tragedies and convince people who are ready to risk everything to reach what they imagine as the shore of happiness to halt the exodus.

Initiative to revitalise the Egyptian economy

The Egyptian economy remains shaky in light of the rise in the monthly inflation rate and a report recently released by HSBC, noted the Cairo-based paper Al Ahram in an editorial.

The HSBC report expected the Arab Spring countries to lose $800 billion (Dh 29.4bn) in GDP by next year due to political and security unrest. Growth rates are also forecast to halve, with Egypt’s growth estimated only at 2.2 per cent, according to the report.

In a bid to overcome the nation’s economic woes, the Egyptian Industrialist Association introduced an initiative calling on the government to adopt a raft of unconventional steps to put the economy back on track.

The initiative demands a tax exemption for projects to be established in the coming 18 months, the cancellation of sales tax on capital goods, and the setting up of a $500 million fund to offer low-interest loans to help attract further investment and help existing businesses expand lines of production and upgrade their equipment.

The initiative also urges the government to reveal its vision on energy over the coming four years, given that contractors rely on the price of energy to determine project costs before taking the decision to expand or start new ventures.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk