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Ban Ki-moon Should Reject the Report of the Panel on Sri Lanka and Restore Confidence in the UN

An analysis of notices published by the UN Panel of Experts (POE) calling for submissions and email correspondence this writer has had wit...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

After routing the rebels in May, Sri Lanka faces more salvos from the west

Many powerful critics of Sri Lanka were friends till recently. As the country moved decisively to defeat the rebels in the north and east of the country, it has faced increasing pressure from some western countries where significant populations of Sri Lankan Tamils are domiciled, and from human rights activists. In a recent interview, Sri Lanka's new ambassador at the UN Dr. Palitha Kohona said that many of them had been swayed by a very effective campaign carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)and their sympathisers.

Disappointed with the lack of support from the west at a crucial time in its fight against terrorism, Sri Lanka has successfully bonded with new friends. Vital support from a range of countries including Iran, China and Libya has helped Sri Lanka scoff at the big stick wielded by western countries. Read the full story ...

Read the full interview here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?

It’s hard to believe now, but not long ago economists were congratulating themselves over the success of their field. Those successes — or so they believed — were both theoretical and practical, leading to a golden era for the profession. On the theoretical side, they thought that they had resolved their internal disputes. Thus, in a 2008 paper titled “The State of Macro” (that is, macroeconomics, the study of big-picture issues like recessions), Olivier Blanchard of M.I.T., now the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, declared that “the state of macro is good.” The battles of yesteryear, he said, were over, and there had been a “broad convergence of vision.” And in the real world, economists believed they had things under control: the “central problem of depression-prevention has been solved,” declared Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago in his 2003 presidential address to the American Economic Association. In 2004, Ben Bernanke, a former Princeton professor who is now the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, celebrated the Great Moderation in economic performance over the previous two decades, which he attributed in part to improved economic policy making.

This article by Paul Krugman is quite interesting and well worth reading. Click to read the full story in the New York Times

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Persons with special needs in Dubai very specially need you and me

Salman Khan visits the Dubai Centre for Special Needs

Dubai's largest special needs centre could shut down unless it urgently raises funds, the emirate's daily tabloid 7 Days reported Thursday. Quoting a school official, the report said that the Dubai Special Needs Centre which had been severely hit by the economic downturn would need new donors to keep it going. The emirate which has made several initiatives to care for persons with special needs has been challenged by the economic downturn.
Dubai's commitment to caring for those with special needs has been demonstrated by a holistic approach aimed at making the emirate a better place for everyone. Driven by the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the emirate aims to add to its social wealth by encouraging a positive attitude towards people with disabilities, sensitising communities on disability issues and improving their access to facilities.
The glitzy glamour of a catwalk is usually associated with a high profile fashion show and designer clothing. Despite the presence of most of the world's luxury brands in the city, Dubai recently opted to showcase not the world's best fashion designers, but those who may well lead the world's fashion in the years to come; designers with special needs.
The show was held at the Raffles Hotel at Wafi City, Dubai, under the patronage of Sheikh Majid Bin Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and in the presence of Sheikh Mansoor Bin Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum who gave away the prizes to the winning designers.
The large and appreciative audience packed to capacity inside the hall watched the models in their smart outfits strike a pose, walk down the ramp, half-turn and walk back. It was difficult to believe that the designs were the work of persons with special needs. The large number of arab women present, showed a keen interest in the abayas and sheilas intricately embroidered with sequins and crystals. Evening wear, casual wear and even coloured abayas were among the elegant clothing showcased. The designers certainly did Dubai proud.
“This show represents a leading endeavour to encourage and support talented designers with special needs, and is in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, as well as with Dubai Culture's strategic objective of identifying and nurturing artistic talent in all segments of the community and creating cultural opportunities that contribute to the growth of the country,” said His Excellency Dr. Omar Bin Sulaiman, Governor of the DIFC and Managing Director of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).
The programme was implemented in collaboration with the Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre and The Events Agency, as a Development Programme for Talented Special Needs Fashion Designers. Founder of the Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre, Mr. Ahmed Khoury said, “The purpose of this show is to prepare these talented designers to access the fashion domain, train them especially for this career and make new strides into a new horizon.”
International fashion designer Marwan Harzallah who supervised the project said, “The project took two years and now the talented designers have become capable of bringing out the best they have. Definitely, history will recognise that Dubai is the first city in the world that has revived people with special needs in the world of fashion and beauty.”
More recently, Dubai Culture launched a website to choose twelve winners from among forty artworks themed on 'water' by persons with special needs. The competition conducted in association with Beautiful People, a Dutch initiative for a social and sustainable coffee concept, that works on behalf of artists with special needs, will be open till end August.
The winners will be announced by Her Royal Highness Princess Haya at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Dubai, where all forty artworks will be on exhibition from October 31 2009.
The winning artworks will then be featured in crockery sets which will be sold to raise money for the Dubai Art Studio for persons with special needs.
The current economic crisis is a challenge that has gravely affected people around the world. Jobs have been lost, savings wiped out and some people have lost their homes and been literally thrown into the streets. Yet, those of us who have full command of all faculties can resolve and work hard knowing that at some point in the future, we would overcome. But, those persons with special needs could well be looking out for your hand and mine, to help them cope up. Would we?

Make a donation to the Dubai Special Needs Centre
Vote now for the best artwork by an artist with special needs

Monday, June 22, 2009

The only swine now are bankers?

A rather strong statement indeed. The global economic crisis and the accompanying credit crunch have not only focused more attention on bankers but evoked strong and caustic comments from people who would normally be weighing every word before saying it.

According to India's leading business daily, The Business Standard, AirAsia Bhd’s Tony Fernandes has said that the biggest threat to the global airline industry isn't the swine flu outbreak. 'We've been through SARS, bird flu, tsunami, you name it,” Fernandes the founder and chief executive officer of Southeast Asia's biggest discount carrier, said at the Paris Air Show this week.” “The only swine now are bankers.”

He is not alone in showing anger at bankers. In March this year, the MICE industry website, MEETINGS:review reported how Dr. Daniel Thorniley, Senior Vice President, CEEMEA, Economist Intelligence Unit, outlined in very graphic terms the frightening truth about the economic downturn. He didn't mince his words either.

Listen to Dr. Daniel Thorniley …

'Swine' bankers shun jet loans, leave $36 bn gap ...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

'flydubai' spreads its wings

Dubai's first low-cost airline took to the skies on June 1, 2009 with its first commercial flight to the Lebanese capital of Beirut. Underscoring Dubai's position as a regional hub, it continued with inaugural flights to Amman, Damascus and Alexandria in the following days.

Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of flydubai said: "This region is very dependant on air transport. It is a great credit to the vision and leadership of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, that this airline has now taken off, thereby ensuring residents and visitors alike will be able to travel to more places more often."

A welcome move indeed during a time of increasing prices, job losses and depressing incomes. The flydubai model is simple, with cusotmers only paying for the services they want, according to a statement issued to the media by the airline. The ticket price includes all taxes and one piece of hand baggage, weighing up to 10kg per passenger.

Passengers have the option to purchase checked-in baggage in advance at just 40AED for the first piece and 100AED for the second, weighing up to 32kgs, subject to availability. Checked baggage is strictly subject to availability and passengers are advised to book early to secure the space, as only pre-purchased baggage can be guaranteed.

A nominal payment of 5AED allows customers to select their seat and just 50AED secures the extra legroom. Tickets are changeable for a small fee, plus any difference in the fare, and food and drink can be purchased on board.

"flydubai aims to make travel a little less complex, a little less stressful and a little less expensive," explained flydubai's CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith. "Our passengers have the option to customise their travel experience depending on what services they want and how much they want to pay.

Read more ...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bing Bangs Google

I typed www.google.com on IE, and lo and behold, BING opens up. Try it for yourself.

Britain's got 'Hulk'

Its an international brand using 'raw meat' to promote their new brand of 'meat-scented' perfume. No blue waters, no sleek yacht, no romance. Only a stripped down version of Britain's famous talent judge.

No doubt everyone's going to be watching whether this is going to be a 'hot' sell or another marketing disaster.

Its in the Guardian ...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

GCC Common Currency imminent: DIFC calls for uniform legal and financial frameworks at UAE-Saudi Conference

A stirring call for deeper integration among GCC states and particularly between the UAE and Saudi Arabia - the two largest economies of the Gulf - was jointly issued Tuesday, by the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) according to a media release issued by the DIFC.

A consolidated approach between the nations of the Gulf will allow them to maximize emerging opportunities around the world and in the region, said Nasser Al Shaali, Chief Executive Officer of the DIFC Authority. He was speaking at a jointly-organised conference entitled 'Rising Giants: Opportunities in KSA' at the RCCI.

Enormous resources

Eng. Sa’ad bin Ibrahim bin Abdul Aziz Al Moajil, Vice-Chairman of the Board of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry pointed out that the GCC has enormous resources. “GCC economies are emerging as an economic and financial hub for the wider region and have achieved average real GDP growth of 6.9% over 2004-2008.

Saudi Arabia is the wealthiest economy in the GCC and plays a pivotal role in the wider region. It has the mass and volume to move things and take the rest of the GCC forward,” he said.

The Riyadh Chamber Vice-Chairman agreed that to move the GCC forward, there is a need to revisit plans in the light of the changed global scenario. “The financial geography of the region and the world has changed and steps are needed to support regional economic and financial integration”, Al Moajil added.

Call to action

In his opening address, the DIFC Authority CEO issued a call to action. “You, who are here today to represent policy makers, business leaders and some of the biggest names in the regional investment community. You have the ability and the authority to strengthen ties at an institutional level between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, promote greater links between our banking and financial services industry, and facilitate greater investment ties and capital flows.

In Abu Dhabi and in Riyadh, 28 years ago, our leaders dreamed of formulating common regulations in various fields such as economy, finance, trade, customs, tourism, legislation and administration. They envisioned joint ventures, increasing cooperation among the public and private sectors, the strengthening of ties between their peoples; and establishing a common currency,” Al Shaali said.

He pointed out that the results have not been as satisfactory as had been envisioned. “Our brotherly nations have not integrated their administration, their services, their systems, and their financial and legal frameworks. Money, goods and services and human capital does not flow smoothly across the GCC wherever there is need and opportunity for it. As members of the same family we have not combined our comparative advantages to tap into opportunities that seem impossible to individual states, but easy when approached as a bloc.”

He referred to the estimated more than $1 trillion in Arab funds parked overseas and the fact that the GCC accounts for marginal inflows of global FDI as prime examples of delay in creating opportunities.

The DIFC Authority CEO said the current global crisis is an opportunity that the GCC can utilise to create integrated systems and frameworks and common, unified and standard platforms – a true economic and financial bloc that can navigate with strength in the global economy and financial flows.

Al Shaali offered to share the expertise that the DIFC has acquired – such as world-class legal frameworks, best-of-breed regulatory models for both Islamic and conventional banking, and Best Practices in Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance norms -- to assist and facilitate the realisation of the GCC objectives.

Need for rapid movement towards integration of financial markets

Dr. Nasser Saidi, Chief Economist of the DIFC Authority, speaking about 'Opportunities for Economic & Financial Integration between KSA & UAE', said that the imminent launch of the Gulf Common Currency reinforces the need for investments in financial infrastructure -- both legal and regulatory. “We need to rapidly move towards an integration of the financial markets and payment systems in the KSA and the GCC, which are the core economies of the GCC. Financial markets in the GCC can become an “engine of growth”, by financing and supporting the massive investment required in networks (power, transport, telecommunications, oil & gas), by developing the capacity to invest, manage & control the region’s financial wealth of more than $2 trillion invested abroad, and by enabling & supporting economic and financial reforms. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are natural allies and partners in moving to greater financial market integration to support regional economic integration, the GCC Common Market and Gulf Monetary Union,” Dr. Saidi added.

Other subjects covered at the conference included Banking Services and Capital Markets for GCC, Local and International Regulatory Developments; Linkages Between UAE and KSA Capital Markets; Development of Financial Markets in the KSA and Opportunities in Foreign Investments; and Providing a Transparent Platform for Crude Pricing in the Middle East and Asia.

Howard Handy, Chief Economist of the Saudi American Bank (Samba), stated: “Saudi Arabia’s economy has not escaped the ongoing global financial crisis and severe recession, given its openness to world trade and financial flows and its pivotal importance as the world’s leading oil exporter. Oil production has been cut back sharply in an effort to stabilize global prices, and access to global capital markets for project financing has been abruptly curtailed as a result of the de-leveraging by financial institutions in major capital markets. However, Saudi Arabia is exceptionally well positioned to withstand these shocks. This follows first, from its impressive progress on structural reform, which has propelled the Kingdom to being designated by the World Bank as one of the world’s best countries in which to do business; and second, from its solid financial balances -- large stock of foreign assets and strong fiscal position, which are enabling the government to play a powerful anti-cyclical role during the current downturn.”

Other speakers at the conference included Iain Morrison, Head of Corporate and Institutional Banking at The Saudi British Bank (SABB); Roberta Julfar, Director, Policy and Legal Services of Dubai Financial Services Authority; Jeff Singer, Chief Executive of NASDAQ Dubai; and Thomas Leaver, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Mercantile Exchange.

The conference was also briefed on the opportunities at the DIFC, whose member firms can meet all financial and banking needs including arranging Venture Capital, Project Financing, Private Equity injections, Trade Finance, Lease Finance as well as traditional banking services such as Investment Banking, Corporate Banking and Private Banking.

For more information visit the DIFC website.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Eight days a week

Looking back in time it is difficult to imagine the times when I sported a mop top and successfully braved a frenzied mob at one of Colombo's cinemas to watch 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Help'.

Reading this story of the seeming immortality of Beatlemania in today's 7 DAYS, I could not help but hark back to Paul McCartney's recent dedication to his late wife Linda and remember my favourite song, Eight Days a Week. To John, Paul, George and Ringo!

Britishers bracing for tough times

Latest reports from London show more gloom is in store for Britishers as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, readies his red box to reveal tough measures to face what the IMF is expected to say are going to be even tougher times for the Queen's subjects ensuring more entertainment for customers of one restaurant in London.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

CNN looks at G20 Coverage

The G20 Summit in London earlier this month was closely followed by huge audience around the world. There was hardly any doubt about the reason for the keen interest: Would the leaders of the top twenty economies in the world come up with answers to the unprecedented global economic crisis?

A programme aired by CNN looks at how the media geared themselves and covered the huge event.

International Correspondents hosted by CNN London Anchor Fionnuala Sweeney

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The 47-year old singing sensation

Wannabe British singer Susan Boyle is hardly wannabe. She certainly can sing! And with a little help from our wired world and YouTube, she's an instant celebrity.

Her performance though, underscores the point that if you're good at what you do and believe in yourself, all you need is courage. Awesome!

GuardianUK: Susan Boyle's Britain's Got Talent performance a hit for ITV website

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Economic Slowdown Hits Below The Belt

Gone are the days when economic pundits lectured to us in language you and I didn't understand about fiscal policies and macroeconomic pressures. There was nothing we could do about it. We had to accept whatever they said, and hope that it was right. Those days are gone though.

Nowadays they are more serious about finding out whether anyone has got his knickers in a twist. The funny thing is, they're trying to prove the former Fed Chairman was right.

This is what the Huffington Post has to say.

Some like him.

Some don't.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Man Who Shone For His Country

Sri Lanka Cricket today publicly showered its gratitude to Mehar Mohammad Khalil, the driver of the bus whose timely action saved the Sri Lanka Cricket Team and averted a catastrophe in Lahore last month. A veteran driver whose services had been used to drive important guests around Pakistan, Khalil had the ultimate test of his nerves and his character when gunmen opened fire on the bus driven by him ferrying the Sri Lanka Cricket team to the Gadaffi Stadium in Lahore, on March 3rd.

Kahlil's heroic actions have brought a shower of goodwill to Pakistan which has been viewed worldwide as a country sliding away from stability and the rule of law. His actions have also ignited a feeling of revulsion among a large cross section of Pakistan's population which has hailed him as a hero and disassociated itself from the actions of extremists and terrorists.

I tip my hat to the hero. Well done, Mehar Mohammad Khalil!

Read also:

ANCL felicitates Lahore hero

Sri Lanka Honour 'Hero' Bus Driver

Sri Lanka honours cricket driver

Mehar Mohammad Khalil: A hero across borders

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wet Weather in Dubai

The current wet weather in Dubai has been accompanied by bursts of strong winds which saw a huge digital print hanging from a prominent building on Sheikh Zayed Road Monday. It was later carefully taken down by workmen under the watchful eyes of the Dubai Police. The bad weather is expected to continue through Tuesday.

These pictures of the torn digital print show the pain brought about by the inclement weather in Dubai adding to the woes occasioned by the economic crisis. For those counting cars however, the news is that traffic in Dubai has seen a marked increase from January this year. 

Outdoor activities including construction work on the Metro are also affected by the weather. At the Metro Station near Emirates Towers workers are normally seen working thorugh the night under fllodlights. The lights were off and the workers nowhere to be seen as the gusty winds and driving rain slowed traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road, Tuesday evening.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My Pick of The News

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Multiple Personality Disorder

It was quite by chance that I watched Stephen Sackur interview Chris Costner Sizemore on BBC's Hardtalk today. Not having watched the film, it dawned on me that the lady's recollections were very similar to a book that I had read many years ago from my father's collection: The Three Faces of Eve.

Not being too sure, I checked on the web and sure enough, it was Eve herself being interviewed.

If you're interested in psychology, the story is quite fascinating. You can read the gist of the story here, or with some luck watch it on BBC. Better still, read the book.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Moderation is the catch word for travelers worldwide

Recent news reports of a decision by the Dubai Executive Council have had mixed reactions particularly on the blogs. But as Chris Pritchard writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, it makes good sense for international travelers to be sensitive to cultures and sensitivities in various countries.

Marketers however, often believe that being bold is not just beautiful but makes for a healthy bottom line too. Here's another story from the Sydney Morning Herald of how an airline is promoting 'no hidden extras' in its low-cost, low fares business model.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How to make your career recession-proof

People the world over have been hard hit, many below the belt. The IMF predicts the worst is yet to come. Ben Bernanke says next year will be better. The President of the UAE has himself weighed-in to shore up confidence in the UAE and Dubai.

In this article on the CiB website, Julie Blunt tells us what we should be doing to make ourselves recession-proof.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Having fun with words on Kipp

The Kipp Report has generously used my comments on the current doom and gloom. It certainly brightened my day. Read it here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


The attack on the Sri Lanka Cricket Team in Lahore has benumbed the international cricket world and underscored the importance of security for high profile sportspersons.

The large haul of arms and ammunition showcased by the Pakistani police as having been abandoned by the attackers appears inconsistent with the fatalities and injuries reported. An inconsistency that we should all be thankful for, as the consequences of an attack using all the lethal capability of the weaponry displayed would have been horrendous.

Two reports suggest that the Sri Lankan Team Manager had in fact asked for additional security before the Lahore test and that it had been given. Television footage of the attack and the accusations leveled by some members of the Sri Lankan team and the Match Referee would indicate that this was certainly not the case.

With its long-running conflict, Sri Lankans are well aware of the sometimes frustrating security measures adopted in the country where entire localities are virtually sanitized prior to a VIP visiting the area or even simply passing through. When the visiting team was assured of being provided in Pakistan the security provided for a Head of State, they certainly would have expected no less.

In that case what went wrong?

The answer could well lie in the confusion that arose following the unseating of the PML governor in Punjab. Many questions arise: Why was the security insufficient? Did the attackers know that there would not be much security? Did the attackers have any link to the political demonstrators whose actions apparently prompted a call for more security by the Sri Lankan Team Manager?

The only reported security response in the immediate aftermath of the attack was where the stranded umpires were driven to Lahore Stadium by a Police Officer after removing the dead driver’s body from the minibus.

Cricket fans around the world, as indeed the cricketers themselves, would be waiting for a report from the Pakistani authorities.

The International Cricket Council should lay down minimum standards of security for all tours and these should be enhanced depending on separate threat assessments for each event.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Chinese Circus at Festival City

Its well worth the visit. A good night's family entertainment. Though the young performers make it look oh, so simple, it's a highly skilled performance that I intend going to see a second time.

Check it out:

Dubai rising!

A few days back (Early February 2009) it seemed as though the Emirates Towers and the other buildings on Sheikh Zayed Road were simply rising out of the clouds. It was surreal.

Check out these pictures.

In Words

Loved and mentored by parents with values and discipline and a passion for good English; guided by teachers who wouldn't spare the rod to ensure excellence; copywriter; on-line journalist; editor-in-chief; and at long last, giving into the passion; Freelance Writer.

Nurtured in advertising and PR from freelance copywriter to account director and agency head; engaged throughout to humanitarian work in NGOs including the Red Cross and the UNDP; and experienced in both public and private sectors.

Looking forward to a future of writing on diverse subjects; sharing knowledge and experience; enriching the lives of others; but most of all, acquiring more knowledge and using it to make the world a better place for all.

More of my writing:
* Fuelling the Peace Process * Concepts for decentralisation of government * PEACE: Is it still an elusive dream? * Interview with the late Major General Trond Furuhovde first Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission * How polar bears are affected by global warming * Red Cross takes lead in clean water for Sri Lanka flood victims * The poorest hardest hit by Sri Lanka floods *