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Location: Muscat, Oman/ Bangalore, India

Round Peg....in a square hole. That describes me! All my life I have never quite fit in ... now I have just given up trying to live up to the expectations of the square hole or trying to find a round one!

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Middle East Diaries: Creation of Wealth

If Xerox is synonymous with photocopiers, Jeep with 4-wheel drives, the oil rich Gulf countries are synonymous with lavish lifestyles of people with more money than they can count.

True, not all the Gulf countries are created equal. Some are richer than the others, but poverty as we know of it in India is absent.

No one goes hungry. Everybody has access to education, medical aid and everybody can hope to build a house in their life times.

This is remarkable considering even just 50 years ago this was wasteland. For instance, Qatar does not have any large potable water source nor is it located near any potable water body. One can only imagine how hard life must have been in the times before oil.

The paradox is Nigeria, Venezuela, Iraq, Russia.. countries that have oil and much more. But their development is nowhere near the scale of what you see in the Middle East.

Not that the Middle East regimes are utopian. They are autocratic and even repressive.

Like the erstwhile caste system in India where one group of people were more equal than others, a similar structure exists here also. For instance, in Qatar the members of the ruling Al-Thani tribe are very definitely the Brahmins.

Woes begone if you are not a member of that tribe or the other important tribes like the Al Attiyah, or Al Misnad ... You can forget about landing any major contract or assignment or of ever occupying centre stage in the country.

I am told its similar in other countries. In Oman they call it 'Wasta' roughly translated to mean influence or power.

But that said, no body ever goes hungry here and by and large every parent can buy his child a new dress for Eid. The infrastructure is in place and the monies from oil has tangibly benefited the last person.

Some have benefited more, much more than the others. But even then its saying quite a lot for the regimes of the Middle East. Just look at the mess in Nigeria or Iraq.

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