16 January 2008

A New Era of Leadership in Bahrain?

One of our biggest problem in Bahrain is the lack of a unified leadership with a unified vision for the country. The internal fragmentation within our country's high ranks, especially in the past 6 years, has lead us on a path of disarray, confused accountabilities, and random- often contradictory- policies.

Four years after the first labor reform workshop, the second labor reform workshop, the economic reform workshop, and an education reform workshop, people are still waiting. In fact, the majority of Bahrainis began to doubt that the intention of reform even existed.

The recent call (outcry? please read the letter) by the Crown Prince echoes what most Bahrainis want to scream out but they can't: the government needs to change its ways before the ship sinks. Say what you may about the EDB and its plans, the Crown Prince did what no other in this country was able to do: revive the discourse of "REFORM" (badly needed, badly ignored).

Thanks to the Crown Prince's public letter, the King finally moved to declare intentions to hold ministers accountable (I suppose ministers are a good proxy term to use). The opposition is now again emboldened to call for change... and even the sleeping parliamentarians are riding on the reform wave.

On the other hand, many of us fear another deja-vu in the making. This latest episode is of course significant because for the first time - instead of it being the feedstock of late-night gossip - the struggle between reformists and the "old guard" in the leadership finally came to light. It is also significant more so because for the first time in 4 years, we are starting to feel some sort of hope that someone somewhere is thinking of fixing the country.

The Economic Development Board needs to move, and move fast, to show people it is serious. Now that the "government" resistance is addressed v.publicly, EDB now has the chance to show that its powers can be put to good use. Unfortunately, doubt is still much stronger than hope, but Bahrainis are eager to be proven wrong on this one. As much as Bahrainis detest certain elements within the leadership, they don't want this to be just an episode in the power struggle between the Crown Prince and his foes. Real changes are badly needed-- changes that have a direct impact of people's lives. People need to see Bahrain moving in a unified direction and according to a plan that makes sense and that is transparently shared with all. Moving beyond the Amwaj and "McKinsey" controversies, people need to know that the Crown Prince is working for them.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lulu,
These are my favorite sentences in your post: "they don't want this to be just an episode in the power struggle between the Crown Prince and his foes" and "Bahrainis need to see that he is working for them".
I wish you were more open in discussing what's really behind those two statements.


Anonymous said...

What kind of reforms are we talking about here? I am just curious to know about what Bahrainis are really pushing for?

One more thing, I believe Bahrainis have experienced some form of democracy for some time. I was just wondering, have you noticed any real progress or change in the current era over the previous one? Or have things remained the same, only the outer appearance has changed?

All these questions are from the perspective of an outsider who has never visited Bahrain, hope you will consider that element in your response :-)

Vampire D said...

He may have lost this battle but not the War

ammaro said...

i dont know what to make of this. over the past 7 years or so, there have been so many mixed messages, things moving in different directions, that i struggle to try and understand whether or not we're moving forward. i'm hopeful, but i'm not expecting much. shaikh salman can perform wonders, but again, what is a leader without his support? he needs to grab the bull by the horn and really twist things.

Xaias said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
error said...

you have a good crown prince better than Anwar Wajdi

Tim Noble said...

I did some work with the EDB and Mckinsey Group on the original vision for change. I can tell you that behind closed doors the Crown Prince is totally committed to change and reform...there are certain people from the family that have a vested interest in the status quo. Time is running out though....more and more young people are coming of age in Bahrain with less certainty as regards oil and how long this gravy train will continue!