11 January 2007

Die Hotels, Die!

Today, the Ministry of Information (a.k.a protector of free speech and the arts) issued an order banning all musical and artistic performances in 4-star hotels and prohibiting the hotels from hosting Arab and foreign artists.

Apparently, the Ministry wasn't satisfied with its previous order to ban entertainment in 1,2, and 3 star hotels, so it decided that all hotels in Bahrain must be bankrupt once and for all. It also ordered the shut down of bars and clubs in hotels that are in close proximity to residential areas, schools and mosques (not sure what defines "close" since everything in Bahrain is in close proximity). This way, there will only be a handful left (5 star hotels) for him to worry about -- although the 5 stars are basically owned by powerful people so there will need to be better ways to Talibanize Bahrain.

Now some argue that many of the "artists" that perform in small hotels are in fact prostitutes. OK. But I don't suppose that inspection and closing-down of only those who engage in prostitution is too much to ask for? Still, the Minister was not to be bothered with such details. Best of all, the tourism section issued a statement saying that those decisions come as a result of careful studying of the tourism situation in Bahrain [i.e. there is tourism and they must kill it] and is part of a comprehensive plan [i.e. no hotel entertainment shall exist].

Of course, since we lack any transparency of the decision making in Bahrain (TRA and the Central Bank issue consultation papers to stakeholders before passing laws but they're the only ones), many people are starting to speculate about this "plan" and where it's actually coming from. Some say it's a conspiracy by the 5-star powerful lobby to eliminate competition.. Other say it's actually the Ministry's close relations with the Menbar & Asalah Islamic lobby and the fear of Islamists in parliament. I'm not sure what to expect as the "next" phase of this plan.. but I know it will be bad!

And while we're at it, what happened to the plan of establishing a professional tourism authority in Bahrain? I hope I'm not the only one who remembers, but I thought the EDB was supposed to take over regulation of that sector, or so the newspapers said. Of course by the time the Ministry is done, we can no longer call it a tourism regulatory authority. I personally suggest calling it regulatory authority of the "late blessed soul of Bahraini tourism"

53 comments:

error said...

That’s the influence of democracy alright and it’s not necessarily bad! Don’t get me wrong, the ban has some dignity, ba7rain is very cultured and for the past 2 decades or so it has been the whorehouse of the gulf. I would be surprised if the “islamists” are lobbing, in this case, effects are gradual. 5 star hotels are next.

LuLu said...

Thanx error.. Yeh of course I'm not for ho'ing the country out, but I'd say find a way to inspect & control violations rather than ban music and dance! The thing is, the whole thing is just so hypocritical, as 5 star hotels will probably not be touched (they are owned by "those in power" i.e. the PM & co.)

isagreatphilosopher said...

lulu, thank you for forcing me to sign up.
error, what you speak is... erroneous.

For the past decade, Dubai has been the brothel of the gulf actually.

Also, there will always be prostitution at some level or form. Just human nature, some men not lucky enough but got the cash some women willing to give it up for some cash.

I am not a fan of any sort of forced control. I am not quite the greatest supporter for legalizing prostitution, so don't get me wrong.

Yep, completely agree with lulu about it being a hypocritical move. Hate or love it, we like to pretend we are a virtuous and pious society. So long as on the exterior things seem fine then that's what we're going to do.
The impact on tourism is ofcourse collateral damage for these people.

And error, no again, it's not gradual, not only will prostitution take other forms and thus defeats the purpose of your argument, but some people are still untouchable. Denying this is indubitably ignorant.
So do us all a favour and snap back to reality!

Dilmun said...

The funny thing is the PM and others own 4 Star Hotels too, this is just becoming plain stupidity...5 Star hotels finally have been opened to the public to own via publicly listed companies or new ones such as the Marriot @ Amwaj, Al-Futtaim, etc..Yeah so much for the Tourism Law, and Tourism Development Board! Does this mean we are going to have another Spring of Culture??

I think what we have is a move from corruption to stupidity, and I'm not sure which one is worse!

fatima said...

An observation: when we came to Bahrain in 1971 there were only 3 hotels plus the Speedbird and they had liquor licenses, the only ones.
There was no tourism, but there were petrodollars and Bahrain was slowly becoming a financial center.
Then, after 1986, came the causeway and the picture started to change, tourism started. Tourisme? It started off by the "tourists" purchasing one or two cases of Heineken, settle on the beach near the Regency (still there at the time) and finish it off in one or two hours. Very little sightseeing.
And slowly every cafe and restaurant could get a liquor license. Needless to say that it ran a bit out of hand, i suppose that's why we are seeing some sort of a u-turn.
What went wrong? The first Gulf War had something to do with it, but not everything.

fatima

LuLu said...

isagreatphilospher: It's a conspiracy to get you to blog

Dilmun: I just thought of a new slogan for Bahrain.. "Progress and Development: from corrupt to truly stupid"

Fatima: interesting historical perspective. I think we need tourism in Bahrain now whether we like it or not--our retail, restaurants, hotels are all dependent on our "visitors."

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E said...

"Also, there will always be prostitution at some level or form. Just human nature, some men not lucky enough but got the cash some women willing to give it up for some cash."

Calling it human nature is actually an insult to the large percentage of these women who were smuggled into the GCC countries with no choice but to serve as sex objects, only to be tortured and raped on a daily basis so the pimps, many of whom are actually Arabs, can make dirty money. Forced prostitution is a major crime against humanity which should not be justified, tolerated, or dismissed. Ever. We should never say that it's natural when it is the furthest thing from human nature or cultural and social norms. However I agree with you that there will be always be prostitution (that is, those who are willing to participate), but many of them did not choose this path. In Bahrain, you will see the occasional prostitutes walking around Shari3 al Ma3arith but you will never see those who have been locked behind shady buildings, and I would go as far to say that those might equal the majority of prostitutes in our region, especially in Dubai. Okay, actually, considering the number of Morrocans and Ethiopians getting into the business I will take that back.

But the point us, neither the governments nor the nations really investigate or consider these big issues, making it very easy to get away with human traficking.

"I think we need tourism in Bahrain now whether we like it or not--our retail, restaurants, hotels are all dependent on our "visitors."

This is true for any state as many of them thrive on tourism, but my problem with our treatment of tourists is that we are beginning to favour them. When we create businesses, who do we target? Foreign investors. When we create beaches and resorts, who do we target? Western tourists. When are we going to be exposed to a million-dinar project that is actually made to serve the people of Bahrain? Something for OUR convenience and stability for once instead of always thinking of our outside reputation.

This was probably irrelevant to the topic at hand, but the issue of hidden forced prostitution that is largely ignored by the masses had to be said. It is just too important to be dismissed as average prostitution that is 'normal' and done for 'economic' purposes only.

isagreatphilosopher said...

Dear E,

Not only will I not attempt to dismiss your point, but I also do admit that I have failed to acknowledge that problem, or was at the least insensitive towards it in some parts of my earlier statement.

Forced prostitution is a an attrocious crime, no doubt. Yet, its existence is in no way restricted to our region. It is much more severe in some African nations and such networks are not too infrequently exposed in western countries as well.
Yet, such problems will exist due to the financial incentives on one hand and the humane sexual desires in the other.
I am not trying to justify it, I am just shedding light on the underlying reasons why such things do occur. It is not inconsistent with being a human to have immoral or perverse desire. It's essentially greed at its worst, or definately not far from it.

My statements do not deserve that attack anyway, because you have taken them out of the context, that is prostitution in four star hotels! Now I find it hard to believe that forced prostitution is a significant chunk in that category!

With regards to your other point, favouring foreign investments, there are two points you may wish to consider.
Firstly, a substantial proportion of the wealthy Bahrainis chose to waste their money on consumer goods or invest it elsewhere.
The second point is more of simple economics. Foriegn direct investment (FDI) is good because :
- it is an injection to the cash flow in the economy, which is generally considered as good.
- we are an importing nation in, everything but Oil I'm guessing, we need to export something in return to balance our budget and ease our independance on oil revenues for the stability of the economy. FDI serves precisely that purpose, at least in the short run and medium run, as it is a capital inflow invested in physical capital not only numbers in bank accounts.
- it is a tested means to sustained growth, so long as exchange rate is relatively stable at least. UK for one has great dependence on FDI.
That is just of the top of my head.

Tourism, is similar in that it is an injection although would be on our country's current account as it represents exported goods and services. This again serves to improve our overall international trade position, and several theories of development defend exporting as a path to economic growth and development!
Either way, it is not bad.
Sure, you'd think its a shame that a Bahrainis for Bahrainis sorta investment would sound awesome and it is a real shame we do not get more of those. But if you think about it, imagine if all the Transnational Corporation and foreign investments withdrew from Bahrain all of a sudden, because they thought it is best for them to invest in their own countries of origin, wouldn't we be worse off?

Not else to add, just a bit of chat of the top of my head, peace.

E said...

A very thought-provoking response, great philosopher. Thanks for the clarifications.

I am very passionate about the subject of forced prostitution which should explain my knee-jerk reaction to your previous comment.

Johnster said...

JUST IMPOSE THE LAWS THAT ALREADY EXIST!

When I came to bahrain in 2003, within 20 minutes of getting off the plane, I was being offered a woman. I was truly horrified that this could happen here - in a religious country. Aside from Amsterdam, I have never seen prostitution so blatant as in bahrain.

As is usual, there is no need for this new edict -- all they need to do is impose the existing laws (same for traffic, building noise, corruption, drug dealing etc)

And quite frankly, if you want it at a 5* hotel here, you can get it -- it's just a bit more discreet

LuLu said...

I enjoyed reading the comments. I'd probably just add that in my opinion the biggest negative impact of the Ministry's orders is the uncertainty they creat for investors. It is very dangerous for Bahrain, if we really still want to attract foreign and even local investment in any sector. We can't license an investor to build a hotel on the understanding that certain rules/laws apply, then in the middle of the game, just change the rules and threaten the viability of the business. I mean, we already have a problem with many businesses in Bahrain packing up and moving to Dubai (again, it started initially because of corruption but now that's coupled with random decisions and uncertainty.. great).

As for prostitution, it's very true that this decision does not even address it. Those who are powerful and above the law (who traffic prostitutes under the watch of Bahrain's Immigration) will continue to do so as long as they "law" is not applied to them.

error said...

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Dilmun said...

Now I don't want to shamefully advertise my blog, but if you visit it you'll find a law on Prostitution (In the my Flickr/pictures section) since we are on the subject, passed by the British/Bahraini Government in the 1950s... it was signed by Belgrave and basically it organizes Prostitution in certain places. This is a debate along other hot topics that Bahrain is not ready to debate probably... I trully believe there will always be a degree of prostitution in any society, therefore there should be regulations to regulate it or where it can happen. That doesn't mean we legalize it .. but it means we don't open a Bar next to a house.. Saudis use to urinate on our boundry wall at night when I lived in Manama. It all goes back to weak zoning regulations and magical signatures that change restrictions... thankfully now we have municipal councils --- too little too late...Anyway now I live far away nobody urinates on my wall, but when am I going to get a Sewage System... Why do we literally have to live in Crap all the time.

LuLu said...

I actually wonder now.. do we have any written laws against prostitution? I assumed we did but I was not able to gent my hand on one!

isagreatphilosopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
isagreatphilosopher said...

Dilmun, I must say that document amuses me to some extent. Not that I am against such legislations, more that I had the reaction by the Islamists of both sides - ruling our "parliment"- on such matter playing in my head.
I personally think that legislation as such could solve a lot, in an ideal world where prostitution has to exist. Is our society ready for an official red-light district?

I can think of other analogous areas, recreational drugs anyone?

LuLu said...

Well, if Dilmun was really talking about allocating areas for prostitution, then my first reaction is that we're dooming those women! At any point of tension in Bahrain, I'm sure those "un-Islamic" quarantines will be the first target of violence.. and nop, we're not ready.

Manaf Almuhandis said...

I for one am with this decision.
I roamed around hotels before, the decent "artistic shows" are really less than 1% of what is out there. Less by far!
Thier main objective is prostitution, selling booze, dnot caring if the person is indeed intoxicated and selling him more booze, then slapping him with a 3000 BD invoice for the night. That is absolute grade A BS. I'm glad that they don't have a window to breath out of.
We can take our real artistic shows to theaters or things like that.
Good riddance.

LuLu said...

Manaf I'd still say "regulate" not "prohibit"... but then we always take the easy way out, it seems.

Anonymous said...

I think the real problem with the new tourism law is that they havent really thought it through, coz the bahrain economy no matter what we say against the hotel industry is dependent on them one way or the other, whether its alcohol trading companies like BMMI,A&E etc or the Food trading companies or even that the flower shops have their business coming from these hotels...so wat will happen to all these businesses if the hotels r to be out of business? they eventually will loose out too, in the end its bahrains economy thats gonna be affected, i remember in the 90's they brought out a law similar to this, i think 93 or somethin, wat happened then was, if there was 1000 tourists comin across the highway each day it dropped to 2 per day and for 3 months bahrain was dead, and the economy on the whole took a huge beating, So what did they do? they scrapped the law which is most likely to happen this time too.... I think its just a way the new Mps are showing their power out to ppl, but what they dont realise is how many bahraini families salaries come out of hotels, and they will be letting down the same ppl who elected them

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