x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

They call this reform?

By firing the governor of Hama province, the Syrian regime sends another unwelcome signal, writes an Arabic-language editorialist. Other excerpts today cover the Arab world's shortage of independence, the need for the US to talk to Iran, and the problems of Emirati students in Australia

Firing Hama governor an unwelcome signal

The decision by the Syrian president, Bashar al Assad, to fire the Hama governor, Ahmed Khaled Abdul Aziz, after last Friday's massive rally is significant, wrote Tareq Alhomayed, editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

He is the third governor sacked since the outbreak of the protests, and few Hama inhabitants were surprised at this decision. Many had been expecting it because he had offered to allow people to protest peacefully in the streets.

By doing this, he earned public respect, noted the writer.

Media reports also pointed out that the regime was unhappy with him, not because of the large number of dead and wounded on Friday, but because of the way he managed the crisis in the city. He was blamed for being open to the inhabitants' demand to rally. The regime ignored the fact that Mr Abdul Aziz had asked protesters to respect order and not to shout slogans against the regime. He also removed statutes and photos of the president from the streets, so that demonstrators would not destroy them.

The Hama governor's attitude suggests that there are some regime insiders who may start sympathising with the demands of the people. It also shows that some in Syria are thinking about the lot of those who were close to the former Egyptian regime and to Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.



Arab independence begins with economics

Economist Najeeb al Shamsi criticised the Arab economy's lack of independence in an opinion article in the business section of the UAE daily Emrarat al Youm.

In its simplest form, economic autonomy is the ability to produce goods locally and provide services the community needs. Any surplus can be exported, he wrote.

Most Arab countries, however, fail to achieve that and so must continue to rely on either eastern or western countries. This has caused many Arab people to suffer from structural unemployment.

If efficient economic development policies had been put in place, the overall situation of the Arab economy would be much better today. Poverty and unemployment, the main instigators of the current revolutions across some Arab countries, could have been avoided.

Additionally, widespread corruption and lack of effective economic regulation have made the investment environment less attractive to both local and foreign capital.

Political independence has thus become difficult to achieve, as it requires an economic environment that stimulates investment. Because of corruption, many governments have been forced to give concessions that deeply affect their ability to adopt policies on their own. Meanwhile, plans and projects turn out to be a series of failure.


Tough talk between Israel and Iran

The exchange of threats between Israel and Iran about using their ballistic missiles to attack reachable targets on land or at sea suggests that each party feels confident that it could win a war, wrote the columnist Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

The commander-in-chief of Iranian air forces in the Revolutionary Guard, Haji Amir Zada, warned that his country could turn Tel Aviv into rubble if Iran came under Israeli attack.

Zada said his country still needs missiles with a range of less than 2,000km, the distance that separate Israel from Iran. The Israeli army, however, has warned that the relatively short distance between the two countries could allow Iranian attacks to reach Israel easily. They recommend using submarines to fire missiles at Iranian strategic sites.

For this purpose, some reports suggest that Tel Aviv probably has received US-made heavy bombs that can penetrate to and destroy underground nuclear enrichment equipment.

Amid this wild exchange of menaces the US, with its strong military presence, remains open to all options. But it is not likely to allow Israel take action against Tehran independently.

The international community, if it is keen to achieve peace, should have a say in this intricate situation. This is the right time to renew efforts to open a dialogue between Washington and Tehran to defuse the situation.

Scholarships are too small for Australia

Parents are complaining about the declining value of scholarships allocated to their children going to study in Australia, columnist Fadheela al Muaini said in a commentary for the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan.

The amount was AU $4,300 (Dh 16,900) three years ago, a sum that was enough to meet a student's living needs. But now it cas been reduced to AU $2,700.

Parents told the newspaper that this amount can barely pay rent and utility bills.

Many students, therefore, left Australia after the UAE cultural attaché cancelled their scholarships because of low grades in their studies.

Scholarships to Australia have also been frozen for more than a year.

As prices are getting higher in Australia while the Australian dollar is rising in value against the dirham, scholarships should be increased, or at least be maintained at their 2008 level.

Facing a hard situation, many students, especially those whose families cannot offer to support them further there, resort to work in small jobs in order to secure some additional income.

This can distract them from focusing on their study, and affect their academic performance as a result.



* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi