Saudi teacher jailed for sexually harassing student


Manama: Saudis have branded a one-month sentence handed down on teacher who sexually harassed a student as “too lenient” and called for stricter measures.
A court in the Eastern Province city of Dammam sentenced the high school teacher to 30 days in jail and 50 lashes for handing a male student a slip of paper on which he had written a flirty message and included his mobile number, local news site Sabq reported on Monday.
The case was reported to school authorities and subsequently to the court where the teacher was also told that he would lose his basic salary for three months, as well as being transferred to an administrative job that does not deal directly with students.
However, the sentence trigged angry reactions from the social media community, with many saying that teachers — as crucial role models for students — should always abide by the highest ethical standards.
“He should be given at least 20 years in jail in solitary confinement for abusing his classroom authority,” Abdul Aziz posted on Sabq website. “He should not be allowed to see anything, including the sun for his horrible intentions.”
Al Shareef, another blogger, said he was upset by the court’s decision.
“I do deplore the sentences because they are too lenient. He should been given [a] tougher term so that his case serves as a deterrent for those with weak souls who abuse young students and incite them to debauchery,” he said.
Abu Abdul Nasser feels the teacher should be severely punished for failing to live up to the “nobility” of his profession.
“He is supposed to educate young hearts and minds and instill in them a sense of positive attitudes and feelings,” he posted.
“No parent will ever trust this so-called teacher with their sons because he will drag them into debauchery and depravation. He has no place whatsoever in the education system and should be kicked out,” he said.

Time running out as Bahrain tries to revive national dialogue


A recent meeting between Bahrain's crown prince and opposition representatives has raised hopes that the suspended national dialogue process could be revived. The BBC's Bill Law looks at the prospects for ending the deadlock in the Gulf island kingdom.
Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's decision to hold talks on 15 January with leaders of the five main opposition groupings for the first time since pro-democracy protests erupted three years ago surprised many observers.
Afterwards, the main Shia opposition bloc, al-Wefaq, said the meeting had been "especially frank and very transparent" and studied ways to have a "serious dialogue that would result in a new political framework that shapes a comprehensive solution".
The government meanwhile said the parties had committed to "accelerate dialogue and elevate discussion by including more senior representatives from all parties".
The meeting was notable for at least two reasons.
The first was the prominent role of the crown prince.
Seen as a moderate in the Sunni ruling family, the Al Khalifa, he has effectively been sidelined since 2011 by hardliners who want few if any concessions to be made to the Shia majority demanding greater rights and an end to discrimination.
The second reason was the presence at Prince Salman's side of one of those hardliners - the Minister for the Royal Court, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed bin Salman Al Khalifa.
The hardliners have been accused of trying to undermine the national dialogue, so it was surprising to see Sheikh Khaled at a meeting to revive the process only days after the government had suspended it, blaming the opposition for the breakdown.
'Deep-rooted issues'
A source told the BBC that after halting the dialogue, the Khalifas had come under "intense" pressure from Western allies to get it back on track.
"The royal family needed to show the UK and US that it was doing something."
However, the source said the opposition's meeting with the crown prince had been merely a "branding exercise", adding: "The hardliners are simply playing for time."
Not long after the talks, the UK government published its response to a critical report by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.
MPs had criticised what they described as the failure of Bahrain to "quickly implement the important and practical recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry", a review commissioned by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in 2011 that delivered a searing indictment of his government and its handling of the protest movement.
 The national dialogue has so far made little progress, with both sides blaming the other for the stalemate
King Hamad accepted the BICI's recommendations and promised swift action. However, more than two years after they were issued, critics argue that little has been achieved.
The Foreign Affairs Committee said this had "created further difficulties in [Bahrain's] relationship with the UK", and had "squandered the good faith and goodwill that the BICI could have helped restore".
The UK government argued that "progress had been made in a number of areas, in particular relating to judicial and security sector reform."
But it conceded that the BICI "revealed a number of deep-rooted issues that pose significant challenges for the Bahraini government, some of which involve fundamental institutional, behavioural and cultural change which we acknowledge will take time to address fully".
'Another game'
Unfortunately, time may be running out.
Bahrain's economy has been severely damaged by the failure to resolve what has become a dangerous sectarian dispute.
And the kingdom's international image has been tarnished, not least among its neighbours.
The national dialogue was intended to resolve tensions over the repression of mass protests since 2011
The ineffectual efforts of the ruling family to end the crisis are said to have annoyed the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other members of the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).
Senior Wefaq spokesman Jalil al-Khalil told the BBC that the opposition, though welcoming of Crown Prince Salman's initiative, needed to be convinced that this time the government was serious about dialogue, after a year of talks that failed to produce even an agenda.
Mr Khalil said he feared it "might be another game that will be spoilt by the hardliners".
He called for the release of political prisoners, which Wefaq estimates now number more than 3,000.
And he threatened that unless there was significant progress, Wefaq would boycott national elections scheduled later this year.
That would be a big blow to the ruling family, which continues to insist that it is serious about reform.
Without the largest opposition bloc in parliament, such a claim will only ring hollow to the Bahraini opposition's supporters and increasingly to the country's allies like the US and the UK, who are pushing quietly but firmly for a meaningful dialogue process.
The government of Bahrain did not respond to requests to comment.


Egypt clashes kill 29 on third anniversary of revolution


At least 29 people have been killed in clashes in Egypt as the country marks the anniversary of the 2011 uprising which overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, the health ministry says.



Three Myths on the World's Poor


Jan. 17, 2014 7:50 p.m. ET
By almost any measure, the world is better off now than it has ever been before. Extreme poverty has been cut in half over the past 25 years, child mortality is plunging, and many countries that had long relied on foreign aid are now self-sufficient.
So why do so many people seem to think things are getting worse? Much of the reason is that all too many people are in the grip of three deeply damaging myths about global poverty and development. Don't get taken in by them.
MYTH ONE: Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.
They're really not. Incomes and other measures of human welfare are rising almost everywhere—including Africa.
Take Mexico City, for instance. In 1987, when we first visited, most homes lacked running water, and we often saw people trekking on foot to fill up water jugs. It reminded us of rural Africa. The guy who ran Microsoft's MSFT -1.38% Microsoft Corp. U.S.: Nasdaq $36.38 -0.51 -1.38% Jan. 17, 2014 4:00 pm Volume (Delayed 15m) : 45.63M AFTER HOURS $36.39 +0.01 +0.03% Jan. 17, 2014 7:35 pm Volume (Delayed 15m): 673,315 P/E Ratio 13.47 Market Cap $303.70 Billion Dividend Yield 3.08% Rev. per Employee $810,010 01/16/14 U.S. Videogame Sales Fell in D... 01/16/14 Why Alan Mulally Ended His Fli... 01/15/14 GoDaddy Hires New CIO More quote details and news » Mexico City office would send his kids back to the U.S. for checkups to make sure the smog wasn't making them sick.
Today, Mexico City is mind-blowingly different, boasting high-rise buildings, cleaner air, new roads and modern bridges. You still find pockets of poverty, but when we visit now, we think, "Wow—most people here are middle-class. What a miracle." You can see a similar transformation in Nairobi, New Delhi, Shanghai and many more cities around the world.
In our lifetimes, the global picture of poverty has been completely redrawn. Per-person incomes in Turkey and Chile are where the U.S. was in 1960. Malaysia is nearly there. So is Gabon. Since 1960, China's real income per person has gone up eightfold. India's has quadrupled, Brazil's has almost quintupled, and tiny Botswana, with shrewd management of its mineral resources, has seen a 30-fold increase. A new class of middle-income nations that barely existed 50 years ago now includes more than half the world's population.
And yes, this holds true even in Africa. Income per person in Africa has climbed by two-thirds since 1998—from just over $1,300 then to nearly $2,200 today. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the past half-decade are in Africa.
Here's our prediction: By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. Yes, a few unhappy countries will be held back by war, political realities (such as North Korea) or geography (such as landlocked states in central Africa). But every country in South America, Asia and Central America (except perhaps Haiti) and most in coastal Africa will have become middle-income nations. More than 70% of countries will have a higher per-person income than China does today.
MYTH TWO: Foreign aid is a big waste.
Actually, it is a phenomenal investment. Foreign aid doesn't just save lives; it also lays the groundwork for lasting, long-term economic progress.
Many people think that foreign aid is a large part of the budgets of rich countries. When pollsters ask Americans what share of the budget goes to aid, the most common response is "25%." In fact, it is less than 1%. (Even Norway, the most generous nation in the world, spends less than 3%.) The U.S. government spends more than twice as much on farm subsidies as on international health aid. It spends more than 60 times as much on the military.
One common complaint about foreign aid is that some of it gets wasted on corruption—and of course, some of it does. But the horror stories you hear—where aid just helps a dictator build new palaces—mostly come from a time when aid was designed to win allies for the Cold War rather than to improve people's lives.
The problem today is much smaller. Small-scale corruption, like a government official who puts in for phony travel expenses, is an inefficiency that amounts to a tax on aid. We should try to reduce it, but we can't eliminate it, any more than we can eliminate waste from every government program—or from every business, for that matter. Suppose small-scale corruption amounts to a 2% tax on the cost of saving a life. We should try to cut that. But if we can't, should we stop trying to save those lives?
We've heard plenty of people calling to shut down aid programs if one dollar of corruption is found. But four of the past seven governors of Illinois went to prison for corruption, and no one is demanding that Illinois's schools be shut down or its highways closed.
We also hear critics complain that aid keeps countries dependent on outsiders' generosity. But this argument focuses only on the most difficult remaining cases still struggling to be self-sufficient. Here is a quick list of former major aid recipients that have grown so much that they receive hardly any aid today: Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, Mauritius, Botswana, Morocco, Singapore and Malaysia.
Aid also drives improvements in health, agriculture and infrastructure that correlate strongly with long-run growth. A baby born in 1960 had an 18% chance of dying before her fifth birthday. For a child born today, it is less than 5%. In 2035, it will be 1.6%. We can't think of any other 75-year improvement in human welfare that would even come close. A waste? Hardly.
MYTH THREE: Saving lives leads to overpopulation.
Going back at least to Thomas Malthus in 1798, people have worried about doomsday scenarios in which food supply can't keep up with population growth. This kind of thinking has gotten the world in a lot of trouble. Anxiety about the size of the world population has a dangerous tendency to override concern for the human beings who make up that population.
Letting children die now so they don't starve later isn't just heartless. It also doesn't work, thank goodness.
It may be counterintuitive, but the countries with the most death have among the fastest-growing populations in the world. This is because the women in these countries tend to have the most births too.
When more children survive, parents decide to have smaller families. Consider Thailand. Around 1960, child mortality started going down. Then around 1970, after the government invested in a strong family planning program, birthrates started to drop. In the course of just two decades, Thai women went from having six children on average to having just two. Today, child mortality in Thailand is almost as low as it is in the U.S., and Thai women have an average of 1.6 children. This pattern of falling death rates followed by falling birthrates applies for the vast majority the world.
Saving lives doesn't lead to overpopulation. Just the opposite. Creating societies where people enjoy basic health, relative prosperity, fundamental equality and access to contraceptives is the only way to a sustainable world.
More people, especially political leaders, need to know about the misconceptions behind these myths. The fact is, whether you look at the issue as an individual or a government, contributions to promote international health and development offer an astonishing return. We all have the chance to create a world where extreme poverty is the exception rather than the rule.
—This piece is adapted from the forthcoming annual letter of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, of which the authors are co-chairs. Mr. Gates is the chairman of Microsoft. To receive the annual letter, sign up at gatesletter.com.


Bahrain National Dialogue to resume


Manama: Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa has met the heads of all major political societies in Bahrain to discuss the resumption of the National Dialogue, following the recent postponement of the talks.
“Under instructions from His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, His Royal Highness Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister, today met the parties participating in the National Dialogue to discuss ways of overcoming the recent challenges to the sessions,” Sameera Rajab, the Spokesperson for the Government, said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
“The participants agreed to start a new phase of the dialogue based on interaction and convergence of views among all parties, commitment to the principles of responsibility, seriousness, transparency and credibility and to raising the nation’s best interests above all other considerations,” she added.
The participants also agreed to raise the level of representation of the government and all the parties taking part in the dialogue and bring forward the main items to be discussed during the next phase, namely the legislative branch, the judiciary branch, the executive branch, electoral constituencies and security for all, the Spokesperson said.
“The Royal Court, starting next week, will arrange bilateral meetings with the participants to ensure the presentation of a sound vision by each party and in line with the genuine royal resolve to achieve the reconciliation of society and the preservation of its unity,” she said.
Earlier, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported that Crown Prince Salman, “along with the Speaker of the Council of Representatives, the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament, the President of the Shura Council, the upper chamber, the minister of the Royal Court and the minister of interior held meetings with the leaders and representatives of the National Unity Gathering, the Coalition of National Political Societies, Al Wefaq and independent MPs.”
“His Royal Highness discussed means to overcome the obstacles to dialogue and highlighted the need for renewed urgency in the process,” BNA said. “He stressed the importance of senior representation from all sides, emphasising the importance of an improved and open political environment that can clearly and positively address national priorities shared by all Bahrainis as well as accounting for the concerns held by different communities.”
“Over a decade ago His Majesty the King recognised the importance of a process of inclusive political development,” Prince Salman said following the meetings. “We remain firmly committed to stable political development, one that is representative of all sides and thereby acts definitively in the national interest.”
The meetings concluded with a commitment from all parties to accelerate dialogue and elevate discussions by including more senior representation from all parties, BNA said. “Importantly, a broad framework of core topics for the dialogue was also agreed, with talks expected to resume next week with a further series of official bilateral discussions with key parties.”
The latest round of the National Dialogue was launched on February 10 to address political issues that had not been included in the earlier rounds held in July 2011 in a bid to address social and political wounds resulting from the dramatic events that occurred in February.
Almost 300 people representing the parliament, political societies, NGOs, the media, the government, labour unions, and women’s rights groups took part in the sessions and agreed on a series of recommendations that included amendments to the constitution that gave more powers to the elected chamber.
At the current talks, 27 participants representing a coalition of opposition societies, a coalition of other political societies, the parliament and the government held a series of rounds, but sharp disagreements over the platform and the outcome of the dialogue have stalled it for weeks.
The dialogue was eventually suspended after the opposition froze its participation in September and the other parties decided in January to suspend the talks.


Another Annus Horribilis for the ANC?


For a long time the ANC was able to sacralise its authority by invoking the key events, ideas and personalities of the struggle like Catholics recite the Stations of the Cross. However we have now reached the point where the power of that political liturgy to inspire and to discipline is in precipitous decline.
Patronage and repression have contained some of the fallout. But despite the mobilisation of money and guns to shore up the party’s authority, new heresies, some with their own organisational form, are popping up all over the place.
The party’s chief heresy hunters, people like Blade Nzimande and S’dumo Dlamini, are often reduced to ridiculous bluster in the face of the widening distance between the idea of the ANC and the reality of the ANC. But they can’t be laughed out of serious consideration. They do, after all, speak from within the state and from behind its many redoubts, including its various kinds of men with guns. This is as much a moment of danger as it is of opportunity.
Towards the end of last year some insiders suggested that the ANC had a plan to moderate the electoral damage that Jacob Zuma’s Presidency was doing to the party’s support. The ANC was, we were told, planning to ride the wave of public grief at the passing of Nelson Mandela to an election that was likely to be held on the twentieth anniversary of our first democratic election. The combination of the mourning for Mandela and the celebration of twenty years of democracy would, it was thought, give the ANC a real chance to either win back some of the support it had lost in recent years or, at least, slow its decline at the polls.
But Mandela’s death brought us back to a shared awareness of our highest collective aspirations. In the light of that awareness the corruption, political thuggery and utter lack of any credible national vision on the part of the ANC left it, and in particular its leader, looking more like a betrayal than a continuation of Mandela’s legacy.
If the ANC had assumed that Mandela’s radiance would cast them in a new light, the way in which Zuma was booed in Johannesburg and humiliated on a global stage must have come as a rude shock. But this was not the first time that the ANC’s history and symbols have been used against it. Fidelity to Mandela was invoked when Abahlali baseMjondolo began to organise outside of the ANC in 2005. For some years now Julius Malema has asserted his fidelity to the Freedom Charter to legitimate his dissent. And it was the campaign in support of Zuma within the ANC that introduced the public booing of leaders as a tactic to pursue struggles within the party.
The booing in Johannesburg seems not to have been, as the spin-doctors would have it, an entirely regional anomaly. The day before the memorial for Mandela Abahlali baseMjondolo marched on the ANC, from the Marikana Land Occupation in Cato Manor in Durban in the name of Mandela. On the day of Mandela’s funeral the audience at the Rainbow Restaurant in Pinetown, a jazz club that had been the cultural heart of the struggle against apartheid in Durban in the late 80s and early 90s, expressed vocal support for the observation, made from the stage, that Zuma was ‘a small man in a big house’. At the big New Year’s Eve bash in the city images of Zuma on a big screen were booed. On New Year’s Day an enthusiastic boo went up on at least one Durban beach as a helicopter trailing a giant flag with Zuma’s face made its way up the coast.
continue reading on SACSIS
By Richard PithouseSACSIS 

Bahrain sets up anti-hatred committee


Manama: Bahrain is to set up a committee to combat hatred and sectarianism.
The decision, announced at the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, is an implementation of the directives of the King on finding measures to renounce hate, the Secretary General of the Cabinet Dr Yasser Al Nasser said.
“The committee’s duties will include proposing and adopting policies and measures, as well as preparing effective programmes, that address the problem of hate speech, regardless of its origin,” Al Nasser said following the session on Sunday.
The committee will also work at the same time spreading the spirit of tolerance, reconciliation and coexistence and on enhancing unity within the Bahrain community, he added.
Bahrain, like the other countries in the region, has witnessed the emergence of sectarian discourses and stances following the 2003 invasion of Iraq that eventually led a new political and sectarian map.
The situation was compounded in Bahrain after the dramatic events that occurred in the country in February and March 2011 and the ensuring vicious circle of negative reactions and attitudes.
However, the authorities and religious leaders have repeatedly warned against threats of hatred, sectarianism, fanaticism and extremism to stability and security.
The committee is expected to have a significant role in the official drive against the spread of negative attitudes.

Egypt referendum: Vote under way amid tight security


Muslim attitudes to women's headwear revealed

Bahrain releases photojournalist Ahmed Fardan


The authorities in Bahrain have released a photojournalist who was detained last month, officials say.
Amnesty International said Ahmed Fardan was tortured during interrogation after being held on a charge of "intending to participate in gatherings".
The public prosecutor had ordered that he be detained for 45 days pending investigation on 1 January.
However, a government spokeswoman said Mr Fardan had been freed two days after a campaign demanding his release.
The photojournalist was reportedly arrested by plainclothes security personnel during a raid on his home in the village of Abu Saibah, west of the capital Manama, on 26 December.
He was then "held incommunicado at the Criminal Investigations Directorate in Manama, and during his interrogation was beaten until he passed out", having suffered two broken ribs, according to Amnesty.
The human rights group said Mr Fardan, who worked for the agencies Nur Photo, Demotix and Sipa, was detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.


Bahrain: Political societies pull out of national dialogue talks


Manama: A national dialogue launched in Bahrain almost one year ago has been suspended after a coalition of political societies pulled out of the talks.
The dialogue was launched on February 10, 2013, to discuss political issues and continue the talks held in July 2011 to help heal the deep wounds that afflicted the country during and after the dramatic events that occurred earlier in February.
A coalition of opposition societies, another coalition of other societies calling itself Al Fateh, and representatives from the parliament and the government started the political dialogue.
However, the 27 delegates could not agree on the platform and outcome of the talks, prompting concerns about its future.

The opposition in September pulled out and the other three components attempted to continue the talks, but on Wednesday, Al Fateh said that it was suspending its participation.
Khalid Al Qattan, from Al Fateh, attributed the decision to the inability of the participants to agree on an agenda for the dialogue and the non-participation of the opposition in the talks.
“We have decided to suspend our participation in the general sessions, but this does not mean that we will not take part in the consultations between all the parties,” he said.
“We are ready to engage in bilateral talks with any party to the dialogue, including the coalition of the opposition.”
Following the announcement of Al Fateh’s stance, the remaining two parties in the talks, the parliament and the government, decided to suspend the dialogue.
However, Eisa Abdul Rahman, the spokesperson for the National Dialogue, said that the new positions did not mean the end of the dialogue.
“The dialogue as an entity through which people seek to reach positive agreements will not stop in Bahrain,” he said late on Wednesday. “All parties to the dialogue can consult and meet away from the table, but their decisions will not be compelling. All channels of communication between the various parties will remain open,” he said.

Bahrain: National dialogue talks collapse


Bahrain's government has officially suspended national reconciliation talks, which had already been boycotted by the main opposition group.
The Sunni-led government said it made the decision because of the refusal of groups from the country's Shia majority to attend the talks.
The talks were intended to resolve tensions after the government repression of mass protests in 2011.
Dozens were killed and many opposition supporters were jailed in the unrest.


The national dialogue was never likely to achieve its stated goal of reconciliation. It was structured in such a way that even agreeing an agenda between the various parties proved impossible in the year since the talks officially began.
With the arrest of leading figures in the opposition and their subsequent decision to boycott the dialogue, the government's suspension of talks will have come as no surprise.
Still it will be a bitter blow to those in Bahrain who had put their hope in dialogue. And critics of the government will say that hardliners who never wanted the talks in the first place have achieved their aim of scuppering the project while placing the blame for its failure on the opposition.
Al-Wefaq, the main Shia opposition movement, pulled out of the talks last September after a prominent Shia figure, Khalil Marzooq, was arrested on charges of inciting terrorism.
The talks had achieved very little up to that point, with both sides blaming the other for the stalemate.
The national dialogue was structured in such a way that even agreeing an agenda between the various parties proved impossible in the year since the talks officially began, the BBC's Gulf analyst Bill Law says.
Still it will be a bitter blow to those in Bahrain who had put their hope in dialogue, says our correspondent.
Shia leaders say the government has not enacted the reform it promised to heal the scars and end the instability in the wake of the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.
Inspired by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt earlier in 2011, thousands took to the streets to demand fairer political representation.
The protesters were demanding more rights and an end to discrimination against the majority Shia community by the Sunni royal family.


Ken Roth : Human Rights Watch's Ken Roth discusses his organization's mission to end human rights violations around the world.

Bahrain sentences professional soccer player to 10 years prison for police station attack


(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) The defense lawyer of a player for Bahrain's national soccer team says his client has been sentenced along with eight others to 10 years in prison on charges of burning a police station.

Lawyer Mohamed el-Motawa says the nine were also found guilty of participating in an illegal gathering and possessing firebombs.

El-Motawa says 20-year-old Hakeem el-Oraybi was playing in a televised match when the November 2012 incident took place in which dozens of Shiite protesters attacked a police station in the capital, Manama. El-Oraybi was detained for four months after the attack.

Bahraini Shiites are demanding greater rights from the Gulf Arab nation's Sunni rulers.

El-Oraybi is currently in neighboring Qatar with the Bahraini team for a match. His lawyer said Tuesday el-Oraybi will likely be arrested upon return.


Saudi Arabia may restrict foreigners’ stay to eight years


Riyadh: The Saudi Arabian government is mulling over proposals to expand the Nitaqat system, a labour policy to create jobs for nationals, in its bid to reduce the number of foreign workers and create more jobs with higher salaries for its citizens in the country.
Under the proposed law, expatriates in the country would be able to stay a maximum of eight years and would be discouraged from bringing their families, Saudi media reported Monday.
Expatriate workers living in the country with their wives and two children will be considered as two foreign workers under the proposed system.
The couple will accumulate 1.5 points and will incur a quarter of a point per child.
An expatriate receiving a salary of SR6,000 (Dh5,876) and more per month will be equivalent to 1.5 points in the new system.
However, expatriate professionals whose degrees have been attested by Saudi authorities, will be exempted from the salary rule.
Many Saudi nationals and expatriates have opposed the proposals, saying these would discourage foreign professionals from working in the country and affect businesses.
“The ministry has floated these proposals for discussion on its website. The move to discourage foreigners to bring their families is not a good idea,” Ebrahim Badawood, managing director of an NGO, Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives, said.
Badawood said the ministry’s plan to consider payment of a SR8,000 monthly salary to a Saudi worker as equal to employing two Saudis could reduce the productivity of professionals.
“Paying a high salary to a well-trained and hard-working Saudi will be a wise decision to keep him in the company and win his loyalty,” he was quoted as saying.
Rafeek Younus, vice-president and managing director of Saihati Group, a Saudi engineering group, said the ministry should avoid taking decisions that would send a wrong message to businesses and investors.
He said the new proposed rules would discourage Saudis from opening small and medium-sized enterprises.
According to the draft law, a Saudi worker who earns a salary of SR4,000 per month will account for a full national employee, while those who receive SR2,000 a month will be treated as half a national employee in the Nitaqat system.
The ministry said an expatriate who has completed four years in the lunar calendar will count for 1.5 points in the Nitaqat system.
Those who have completed five years will earn two points, while those working for six years will earn 2.5 points, and those who have completed seven years will earn three points at the start of eighth year since receiving their work permits.
According to the new proposed law, three points are the maximum a foreign worker can earn.
The new law will not apply to nationals who cannot be deported from the country, like refugee Palestinians, the report said.
The new law was proposed after a study found that unskilled workers stay for more years in the country than skilled ones.

Bahrain PM says Arab unity ‘strongly needed’


Manama: Bahrain’s prime minister has sounded the alarm over conspiracies targeting the Arab nation, saying that unity was the only solution.
“The Arab nation, both leaders and citizens, should be very attentive to the schemes being plotted against us,” Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa said. “We should end our fragmentation and adopt the union as the most crucial step forward. The Gulf union should be at the forefront of this drive, at least as the core of the Arab unity,” he said on Monday as he received intellectuals, business and media people and citizens.
Prince Khalifa has emerged as a major supporter of a union between the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an alliance established in 1981 and that brings together Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
In December 2011, Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz called for moving the alliance from the phase of cooperation to the phase of a union within a single entity.
The call was then accepted by the member states, but some required more time to look into the finer details.
Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have been the most enthusiastic about the union and Prince Khalifa has regularly highlighted its advantages in tackling security threats to the region.
Oman in December said that it would not join the union, a decision that did not dampen the enthusiasm of supporters of the single entity who said that it could start with some of the state members and that the other members could join later.
Prince Khalifa warned that conspirators could use Bahrain as the gateway through which terror could be spread into the entire region.
Bahrain is confronting systematic and organised terror targeting its security and stability, he said, adding that failure to take a clear and unequivocal stance against it or to condemn it would be seen as condoning it.
Last week, Bahrain said that it foiled terror operations, including the smuggling of weapons and ammunitions from Iraq and the smuggling out of 13 people, including a Saudi national, who had legally proven links with terror activities.
The interior minister on Sunday called upon neighbouring states to reinforce the surveillance of their territories to ensure they are not used for terror operations attempting to undermine the stability and security of the Gulf.


Bahrain suspects ‘trained at Iran camps’


Manama: The main suspect in the Bahrain weapons and explosives smuggling case had recruited several people and formed a group to perpetrate terrorist acts against “vital installations and sovereign and security locations”, the public prosecution said on Thursday afternoon.
“The accused succeeded in recruiting a number of persons in Bahrain to join the group, arranged for their travel to Iran to receive training on the use of weapons and explosives, martial arts, marine navigation skills, and methods of smuggling and concealing weapons, munitions and explosives into Bahrain,” Osama Al Oufi, the head of the public prosecution, said.
“The members of that group actually succeeded in smuggling and concealing a shipment of weapons and explosives into the kingdom.”
Investigations revealed that the main suspect had requested one of the group leaders to meet him in Iraq to coordinate the smuggling of another shipment of explosives and weapons.
“Based on the findings of the investigations, the public prosecution issued an arrest and search warrant againt the accused and search their homes and properties, to seize any weapons and explosives found in their possession, and any items related to their criminal activities. Surveillance of the movements of the terrorist group led to the arrest of two of its members who were on a boat receiving weapons, munitions and explosives to be smuggled from a boat at sea into the country. Three other accused group members were also arrested,” Al Oufi said.
Examination of the seized items on the boat revealed a large quantity of explosives and detonators, detonation wire reels, ignition capsules, 50 hand grenades, PK automatic weapons, 1,023 rounds of ammunition, electronic circuits and boards, a Thuraya telephone, mobile phones, GPS device and batteries connected to electrical wire, he added.
“During the search of the homes of some of the accused, as well as two locations used to store weapons and explosives, the competent authorities found explosive materials, two pistols, rounds of ammunition, magazines, a mobile telephone connected to an electric wire, electric circuits and charges ready for detonation after adding explosives produced in the manner they were trained upon in Iran, in addition to welding equipment and various other tools of the types used in the manufacturing of explosives.”
The five suspects admitted that they have joined the group to carry out their plans and commit terrorist acts with religious motivations from their points of view, based on Sharia rulings as they were led to believe by the leaders of the group, the prosecution said.
“They also confessed that they had travelled to Iran and received training by Iranian personnel at Iranian Revolutionary Guard camps at various locations in Iran. They also confessed having received sums of money after training. Their confessions also included detailed accounts of how they received the seized explosives, guns, munitions and equipment from a boat on the high seas manned by an Iraqi crew. They also stated that they reached the boat by using coordinates, which were given to them, all upon the instructions of the leader and other group leaders in Bahrain and abroad.
T”hose instructions also included concealing the smuggled weapons, explosives and tools until the zero hour, to be used at that time in carrying out their plans, targeting vital, sovereign and security installations and assassinating certain figures,” the prosecution said.
Al Oufi added that the accused had been trained on the use of weapons like rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), Kalashnikovs, M16s and MP15s; the manufacture and use of explosives; night sniping and marksmanship techniques; celestial navigation and use of coordinates. They were also trained on methods of smuggling through sea points; piloting boats; long distance swimming; surveillance and monitoring; personal security and avoiding being followed, he said.
Public Prosecution investigations revealed that group members received training on dividing their operations onto three subgroups, he said.
“The first subgroup collects information and determines targeted locations, the second subgroup transports weapons, explosives and bombs, while the third subgroup carries out the operations.”
The investigations also revealed that one of the accused carried out assignments, involving surveillance and photographing certain sites in the Kingdom, and reported on them to leaders in Iran, he said.
“The public prosecution ordered the accused to be held in custody pending the investigation and accused them of collaboration with agents of a foreign country with the intent of committing hostile acts against the Kingdom of Bahrain, joining a terrorist group with knowledge of its objectives and purposes, import and possession of explosives, firearms and munitions without permit for use in activities, which undermine public order and for terrorist purposes, training on the use of weapons, munitions and explosives and smuggling them with the intent of committing terrorist acts, and the supply of a group with monies with full knowledge of its intents and purposes and its engagement in terrorist activities,” Al Oufi said.