Monday, October 31, 2005

 

WTO Impact on Saudi Oil Industry

With Saudi Arabia admittance to the World Trade Organization the petroleum consuming world may now receive a much-needed glance into the inner workings and details of the Saudi oil industry. Although Western oil firms have been in Saudi Arabia for more than a century, speculation still abounds about the exact depth of the Saudi oil reserves. From what I understand, the location, depth, and life span of Saudi Arabia’s oil fields is one the state’s most closely held secrets. Could this admittance to the WTO eventually lead to the disclosure of the scientific and geological foundation of the Saudi oil industry?
I’m not certain it will happen over night. If Saudi Arabia is like all the other members of the WTO, it will bend the rules of the organization to the point of violation in the defense of its most cherished and essential industries. However, it should be interesting to find out what impact market forces and WTO membership will have on the opaque nature of the Saudi oil industry. Perhaps once those numbers are released the question about the future of oil supplies will be answered with greater authority and accountability than the official announcements of the monarchy.

Monday, October 24, 2005

 

Instruments of Democracy

I admit, I like the President's vision about the power of democracy and every person's right to freedom. I believe those people who have a reasonable expectation to the tools of self-determination will use those tools to make a better life for themselves. I guess I tend to think if people have access to the tools of self determination, they will be too busy making a better life for themselves legitimately to be corrupted by illiegitimate and empty ideologies.

I just read something a few minutes ago and it upset me a little bit. It also reemphasized a point about democracy I think escapes most debates about its power to transform societies. An editor in Afghanistan was arrested when articles assessed to be anti-Islam were publsihed in his magazine. Apparently the democratically elected government in Afghanistan approved a bill in March 2004 banning all news and media content insulting to Islam. The Primary Court in Kabul convicted the editor for violating the law, but luckily the editor has the right to appeal the conviction to the Second Court.

The presence of the freedom of press, transparent and accountable political leadership, separation of powers, freedom of speech, rule of law, political parties and other institutions of freedom are the truest measure of democacy's influence in a society. People tend to equate democracy with elections and then assume the story ends there. However, without the most essential elements and instituations of democracy the possibility of elections being manipulated and perversed in the hands of an oppressive leadership remains a significant threat.

Don't get me wrong elections are important. Ounce for ounce they are probably the most important aspect of a democracy because they represent the people's most direct voice in choosing how they will be governed and what sort of society they will represent. However, without those other important institutions elections could be a one time event in fledgling democracies. One time elections in new democracies usually lead to only one thing, dictatorships.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

 

Annan Gets Report

Well, here we go. I just read the Reuters report indicating the head of the UN team investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Harari has handed over his key findings to Secretary General Kofi Annan. I've jumped around different blogs, websites, and think tanks, trying to get a handle on what's going to happen if the report does in fact implicate the highest levels of the Syrian government in the assassination.

If the report does point to high level Syrian involvement in this I wonder if we'll see protests in Beirut of a similar scale to the ones witnessed in the wake of Harari's assassination in February.

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