Writing in Oman isn’t easy. Bloggers and journalists have come under the radar for being aggressive but I can’t think of a better time in the history of Oman for journalists to shine.
The biggest changes of our times are reflected in our newspapers. Inventions, political manifestos, freedom struggle and war and all kinds of socio-economic reforms and revolutions have been captured in the stories of newspapers, big and small.
While there isn’t a “gold” standard of journalism left anywhere in the world, there is still at least a newspaper that each country has which the youth are recommended to read to improve their diction, knowledge and thinking. I wonder if Oman will ever see such a day.
Over time the ludicrousness of its poor quality reportage in Times of Oman has ceased to humor me. Without even getting into the quality of the language, I question the ethics of the editorial board of the paper.
Most of the writing in recent times are pot-stirring, conflict-escalating in nature. Does the editorial board ever verify the accuracy of the news or review the impact of their reportage?
The influence the reporting has on people is easily sensed in the Facebook comments of the Times of Oman’s posts.
The comment pictures in this post came on a post on the remittances outward from Oman (an economic concern). It contained many hateful comments making references to Omanization (a social welfare and development initiative). Of course they are related, but much of the spite in the comments can be attributed to the poorly sensationalized manner in which this news has always been reported.
Let’s comment on a popular Times of Oman’s story- Economic Impact of Migrants and Remittances
Foremost, remittances from Oman is NOT one of the highest in the world. One of the highest is what? One in five? One in ten? If the words “United States” or “Saudi Arabia” even crossed one’s mind, one wouldn’t dare to imagine so, let alone making it the headlines. It’s pretty cute however to imagine Oman is.
Needless to say, Oman is not even in the top 10.
Since we are talking about journalism, the point here is that very few articles on this topic have bothered to stress the words “remittances as a percentage of GDP”, in which case yes, it’s pretty high in Oman.
The impact of immigration on Oman is well covered in the newspapers (Unemployment and loss of jobs to expats, housing, impact of remittance outward on GDP etc.). Let’s take a quick peek into the impact it has on the expat’s home countries.
Since ToO writes of remittances as % of GDP, let’s look at top remittance receivers as a % of GDP
Needless to say, none of the above countries (who need remittances for their survival) get any remittances from Oman. Most of the remittances from Oman are going to countries whose GDP is in trillions of USD, so it might help to write a few lines about how it is not significantly making any other country “richer”.
For example, remittances outward from Oman was about $10bn (2014) , which is a negligible share in the GDP of India which is in trillions and the seventh highest in the world. Which explains many of the hypermarkets and hospitals in Oman are funded indirectly by Indian politicians.
Some of the comments were by readers who seem to think that expats must be treated like how they treat their housemaids- Lock them up, don’t let them eat the fridge food, impose bans, etc.
On one hand Omani Journalists are controlled and on the other hand, online racial wars sparked on newspaper pages are unmoderated.
The way these articles are written are as if to imply how unfair it is that there are significant losses to the wealth of the nation by way of remittances. If we are talking about Kohinoor diamond, yes that is unfairly stolen by the British. However, remittances are balances from legally earned remuneration for services rendered by expats (many being blue collared employees rendering laborious services under inhuman working conditions).
Unless it is expected that expats work like slaves without pay, it’s easy to statistically estimate the remittances outward for the forth-coming years because it is assumed at the point of hiring an expat that the salary will be remitted.
(It is pointless to analyze this data nationality wise, for those expat nationalities who don’t remit significantly will probably consume it, leading to no domestic asset growth. )
Omanization / Job Change NOC related articles
These take the cake. Times of Oman’s articles and its Facebook comments are equally amusing.
First off there is always an underlying tone in comments that seems to be hateful against immigrants, especially Indians. We are used to this global despise, by the way. What’s the big surprise? We are the 1/6th of the world’s population and the country is only 7th largest in area. We’ll spill over a bit.
However, just because 70% of the world is water doesn’t mean my room has to be flooded. Statistically speaking, it is not evenly distributed. Which is why you don’t see only 1/6th of the Oman’s population as Indians. It’s more.
Likewise, just because Oman’s GDP per capita is $21,000, it is not evenly distributed among Omanis either. Be it wealth, land and jobs- the uneven resource distribution also makes a wonderful newspaper article.
It’s incontestable that the journalism makes it sound like the Government encourages youth of Oman to sit and wait for plush CEO-like jobs, which I am sure is not the intention of any legislation. I would instead write about the number of the top positions attainable vs. the youth population of the country (which is quite high as compared to rest of the world), which actually means their competition is quite high.
I think I heard the word Omanization as early as when I was eight years old. Where are the stories on Omanization implementation?Are the jobs given to those qualified and formally recruited without use of nepotism?
Journos Qualified and Paid?
While many newspapers in Oman have freelance contributors to the columns (who wouldn’t love to author a column in a newspaper?). I hope they do have a few well paid, qualified, on the field journalists on board.
There must be a change in the management and even print media law in Oman. For some reason I think it is important to have Omani nationals as journalists, even in English.
I don’t mean privileged nationals who boast of foreign education. Because it takes more than just google search, information and English grammar to be a good journalist. Patriotism, fearless honesty, passion, a larger sense of responsibility and connect to the community is something that lacks in many of the ToO stories.
I wonder if anyone of you agree.
Statistical Data Sources: World Bank and IMF.