Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nip negativity, ignite creativity

(My article in Business@qatar. posted for my records)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Recent Editorials

Here are some editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records) 

Protect planet
or pay the price
The enthusiasm shown by the global community in marking the World Environment Day on Friday is impressive, but with humanity consuming far more natural resources than the planet can sustainably provide, there is surely a dire need for more stringent action to protect Mother Earth.
The goal of sustainable development is to increase the quality of life without increasing environmental degradation. This can be done by shifting the consumption patterns towards goods that use less energy, water and other resources and by reducing food wastage.
This year's Environment Day theme, Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care,” aptly emphasises the personal responsibility each person bears when it comes to reducing the rate of resource use.
Unsustainable consumption poses many environmental challenges like pollution, depletion of natural resources, loss of biodiversity and climate change.
In this regard, the UAE deserves kudos for its relentless efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals in various fields, through which it looks to position itself among the world’s best countries by 2021.
As Dr Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water, has outlined, the UAE has adopted a group of policies concerning clean energy, green architecture and sustainable transport.
The positive results of various such initiatives taken by the country over the years have already begun to surface.
The best example is the reduction of ecological footprint per capita in the UAE from 11.8 global hectares in 2006 to 7.75 global hectares in 2014, as well as the slide in greenhouse gas emissions per capita from 39.5 tonnes in 1994 to 20.6 tonnes in 2012.
The positive trend is expected to continue over the next few years with the completion of many essential projects in the field of renewable energy, nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and waste management.
In addition, the programmes of the UAE National Agenda and Strategy for Green Development along with other strategic plans of different sectors are currently being developed and implemented.
Latest studies predict that the world’s population will reach nine billion by 2050, which means that current consumption patterns will require three earths to meet demands.
Mere cosmetic initiatives will not help and everyone needs to realise the responsibility to care for earth and become agents of change.
Every step - small and big - counts, be it saying no to plastic bags, riding a bike to work, planting a seed or choosing eco-friendly energy supplies.
UAE a magnet
for tourists
Talk of international travel destinations and it is immensely pleasing to note that the UAE continues to score high marks.
The annual MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index has revealed that Dubai ranks as the fourth most popular destination in the world and Abu Dhabi ranks among the top 10 fastest-growing destinations.
Incidentally, Dubai has consistently advanced its position since the launch of the Index, ranking eighth in 2012, seventh in 2013, fifth last year and fourth this year. London topped the list in 2015, followed by Bangkok and Paris.
Available statistics reflect the glowing prospects. Dubai is expected to receive almost 14.3 million international visitors in 2015, an increase of 8 per cent since 2014.
When looking at the number of international overnight visitors that destination cities attract per city resident, Dubai is the world champion with 5.7 visitors per resident (an increase by 0.8 from 2014).
With that background, it is no surprise that the city generates more international overnight visitor expenditure per resident than any other city (estimated at $4,668).
Incidentally, Dubai was also ranked as the third air hub in the world by international connectivity and is the only city from the Middle East and Africa (MEA) on the top ten air hubs list.
Adding another feather to UAE’s cap is the recent declaration by the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2015 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index report that the UAE is the most tourism-friendly destination in the Middle East and North Africa region.
According to WEF, the UAE’s travel and tourism industry in 2014 employed around 291,000 people – or 5.3 per cent of the total employment base.
It is not just that. The WEF study has forecast that the sector will be generating approximately 1.8 per cent or 5,250 new jobs.
Just recently, Abu Dhabi’s standing as an emerging leisure and business tourism destination was given a boost at the Middle East World Travel Awards when five of the sector’s stakeholders scooped a total of seven awards at the 22nd annual awards ceremony.
A plethora of Abu Dhabi’s hotels, attractions, destinations and transportation companies were recognised for the expanding range of quality experiences following an online poll, which gathered votes from both industry professionals and general public.
Mega event Dubai Expo 2020 is likely to boost the region’s economy with 17 billion euro in addition to over 275,000 job opportunities.
When it comes to attracting international tourists, the country of wonders surely dazzles.
Deadly shades
of hatred
At 21, to fill one’s heart with such hatred as to kill several innocent worshippers, indicates a toxic attitude.
That’s what Dylann Roof, the white man accused of gunning down nine people at a black church in South Carolina, possessed - besides his gun.
The bullet shots have shaken the conscience of the nation and triggered more worry about the persistent problems of racism and gun violence in the United States.
Hate seems to have been implanted in the youngster’s mind as, according to one of Roof’s acquaintances, he complained that "blacks were taking over the world.”
On his Facebook page, Roof displayed the flags of defeated white-ruled regimes, posing with a Confederate flags plate on his car and wearing a jacket with stitched-on flag patches from apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, which is now black-led Zimbabwe.
Roof has been charged with the killings as well as possession of a firearm. Capital punishment is legal in the southern state and there are already calls for death penalty for the accused.
While the law will take its own course, the immediate question is what effective steps the State can initiate to tackle the continuing damage caused by guns in America.
President Barack Obama’s anguish is understandable. Among the victims was the church's pastor, Clementa Pinckney, who also was a Democratic state senator known to Obama.
Obama visibly spoke from his heart when he mentioned, “We as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It is in our power to do something about it.”
According to homicide data collected by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and compiled by                         The Guardian newspaper, the US's annual gun homicide rate of 2.97 fatalities per 100,000 people is triple the rate seen in most of the world's other wealthy nations, defined as countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
That figure makes it obvious that many Americans love to wield guns. But when hate-filled murderers turn their guns on innocent people, there is a dire need for the country to introspect.
Yes, the Second Amendment of US Constitution protects the right to keep arms. But as Obama himself put it, the latest attack has stirred up a dark part of US history. Concrete action on gun control is the only way out.
Turn up the heat
on tobacco use
As the world marked the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) on Sunday, the one noble message from several organisations and governments across the globe was: “Say no to tobacco.”
The idea behind marking the WNTD is to draw attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to its dangerous health effects.
However, during the past several years, the day has been met with both enthusiasm and resistance from governments, smokers, growers as well as the tobacco industry.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco kills nearly six million people a year globally and more than 600,000 of them are non-smokers who die from indirect smoke inhalation.
It warns that the smoking habit could lead to the death of over 8 million people a year by 2030.
Nearly 80 per cent of the world's one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest.
This year, WHO has themed the day as, "Stop Illicit Trade of Tobacco Products," indicating that the illicit trade in tobacco products is a global concern from several aspects, including health, legal, economic and governance and the fight against corruption.
It is believed that eliminating the illicit trade in tobacco would generate an annual tax windfall of $31 billion for governments, improve public health and help cut crime.
What is consoling is that the world is waking up to the seriousness of the issue.
For example, China's capital Beijing began imposing the toughest ban on smoking in public places from Monday in hopes of stemming a looming health crisis.
For a country where 300 million smoke, this surely is a landmark initiative. Smoking in Beijing is now prohibited in all indoor public places, including offices, shopping malls and airports, as well as at outdoor stadiums, school grounds and public parks. Beijing's main airport terminal will also shut its three smoking rooms.
The health risks associated with tobacco use are well known. As experts point out, much greater action is needed to curb the tobacco epidemic if the global target to cut tobacco consumption by 30 per cent by 2025 to reduce premature deaths from non-communicable diseases is to be met.
There is a dire need on the part of the global community to initiate more effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. Also, efforts should be intensified to end the illicit trade of tobacco products.
Tunisian spirit cannot
be gunned down
The cowardly terrorist attack at a seaside resort in Tunisia that resulted in the loss of several innocent lives of foreign tourists highlights the need for intensified international co-operation to combat all forms of terrorism.
Since the 2011 uprising to oust Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, has made a peaceful transition to democracy with a new constitution and free elections.
The aim of the killers evidently is to bleed the tourism industry, which made up nearly 15 per cent of the country's gross domestic product in 2014.
Six million tourists, mostly Europeans, are said to have visited Tunisia's beaches, desert treks and medina souks last year, providing seven per cent of its gross domestic product.
The Sousse resort attack is the second major one this year, following a militant assault on the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March when gunmen killed a group of foreign visitors as they arrived by bus.
What the extremist elements with hateful ideologies fail to understand is that such violence can never reverse the path of the country towards democracy and its efforts directed towards economic recovery and development.
More than 3,000 tourists left the country a day after the attack, but it surely is a temporary phenomenon.
One should take note of the fact that shops were open early on Sunday in Port El Kantaoui and quite a few tourists could be seen on the beach near the site of the attack.
Prime Minister Habib Essid has declared that his government plans to close down 80 mosques that remain outside state control, for inciting violence, and crack down on financing for certain associations, in order to counter extremism.
Essid has called on everyone to work against terrorism and promised financial rewards for information leading to arrests.
The country is intensifying efforts to tackle extremism. Around 1,000 extra police personnel are being deployed at tourist sites and beaches in the North African nation.
As Interior Minister Mohamed Najem Gharsalli explained, the idea is not to make tourist establishments into barracks, but to guarantee the security of the tourist sector.
Tunisia deserves total international support as it resets on its progress path. If at all anything, the abhorrent militant attack in Sousse should only increase the determination of the international community to root out the terrorist phenomenon.
Which normal being can think of killing innocents and children playing on a beach? Such heinous acts are totally unjustifiable and inhuman.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cut to pieces

I have a perennial problem with vegetable choppers.
Every time I watch a salesman push an onion or a carrot under an “easy to chop” appliance and hit on the head of the gadget, I get a “wow, so easy” feeling.
The vegetable pieces are ready to be relished as awesome salad, with just a little addition of salt and chilies. And, they come in stunning shapes too. 
All that, when the salesman does it.
When I buy and try the same at home, all that happens is breaking of the kit into multiple pieces with the first knock on the head. Not that I am Bruce Lee, but most of such equipment are so flimsy that even a child could break it.
Incidentally, yesterday’s was the fourth such vegetable chopper I broke.
No, knife is not the best bet either.
Often, I end up cutting my fingers.
The best part was when a former colleague visited our home and boasted about her ability to cut vegetables very fast.
“I do not believe you,” I replied, dropping half a kilo of onions before her.
I should confess that she did a great job in a few minutes, ignoring all the tears in her eyes.
“Ya, now I agree,” I patted her after she finished.
And I got a pat from my wife for getting the job done.
It is another matter that the former colleague never ever visited me again.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Strategic incompetence

(My article in Business@qatar. posted for my records)