Sunday, April 26, 2009

(Architects vs Engineers) vs The Public

Suppose one day that a legislation was put forward in Maldives that states the following:

1. Only physicians who have work experience of 10 years or more are allowed treat patients of certain selected medical conditions such as hypertension(high bp) and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). It is illegal for all other physicians to treat such a patient.

2. It is illegal for a doctor to compete with another doctor by offering lower price for his services. (Assume for a moment that doctor's fees are not controlled in Maldives).

What would such a legislation do to the general public? Most of the patients will then have to go to those 10yr experience doctors (lets call them super-doctors, which are few in number), if they want treatment for common conditions. The price they charge is not controlled, and the patient will have to pay whatever fee that the super-doctors demand. Meanwhile, perfectly capable physicians will not be able to offer their service.

As for the other doctors (opthal, paeds, gyn etc), they are not allowed to compete on price. If one gynaecologist is offering service at 100/- per patient, another gynaecologist cannot offer the same service for a lower price, because that would be illegal!

One might think that such a legislation will never be attempted. Well such a regulation is being proposed not in the health sector, but the building design sector. The "National Building Designers Registration (NBDR) Regulation 2009" hopes to do just that. Though currently in draft stage and opened for public comment by Ministry of Housing Transport and Environment, the regulation proposes such things.

It categorises architects and engineers so that only certain super-architects and super-engineers can design projects of certain size, types and heights. With few architects and engineers practicing, such regulations will give an enormous competitive advantage to the super-architects and super-engineers. Not because they are more capable, but because the others are regulated out of the market. And this doesn't stop here, the plan is to extend this to other professions in the sector such as Building Services, Quantity Surveying etc.

Secondly, under "Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics" clause 11.2 states:
11.2 A member shall not compete with another member by means of a reduction of fees or by any other inducement to any person
Member means a registered practitioner in the building design sector. The public is denied to shop around for a cheaper and better services!!! Such a regulation will definitely be favorable to someone in the design sector, but it is definitely not in the interest of the public.

Unfortunately, this might be the case for other regulations being hectically proposed. The interest of the general public is left out, while the interest of the interest groups are pushed.

Disclaimer:
I happen to be someone who will benefit from such a regulation. But my "Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics" says that this is just plain wrong :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A conversation with a blogger

I am posting a copy of a post by another blogger and my comments and follow ups for archiving here, in case the original blogger decides to delete the posts.

On Tuesday April 21 2009, person non grata posted an article titled Democratic Deism:
Keeping Maldives a Muslim state is being decried by some as a prejudice against the minority of the country. The fact that the vast majority (some would say 100%) of the country's populace are Muslims obviously weighs in on developing the laws and regulations of the country. Questioning this practice is questioning the prudence of democracy itself.

Consider Switzerland, which is one of the world's most revered direct democracies. It is a nation renowned for its tolerance and neutrality. Yet, every now and then the majority exercise their right to rescind that of the minority. A very real example of this is the referendum to ban minarets in Switzerland.

In the same vein, the Maldivian people have a right to refuse the building of churches in the country. They also have the right to ban the public practice of any deistic/theistic beliefs of their choosing. To deny them these rights is to deny them democracy.
My comment for that post:
Is this a troll? Anyway I will bite.

Democracy is a fancy name for tyranny-by-majority, especially if it goes unchecked. But whether it is a democracy or a republic (which by the way is what I personally would prefer), there has to be protection of life, liberty and property of individuals. The problem with the Maldives constitution is that it doesnt protect the civil liberties of people. It gives draconian powers to the Majlis, where the rights of citizens can be revoked at the stroke of a vote by the majority.

Just imagine if you are on the receiving end of the stick. Right now religious sects are proliferating in Maldives, and there is hard crackdown. But such acts will only exacerbate the problems. As a Muslim I do not want the state to dictate and coerce me into following a particular sect of Islam. It used to be that all Maldivians should follow the Shafiee mazhab (not you btw :), but now that the people at MoIA is mostly Wahhabi, do you want Wahhabism to be mandated? Or Shafiee mazhab to be mandated? It should be left to the individual and the state should have no say on that. Similarly, if the Dots want to pray in separate mosque, so be it. State should not coerce them to pray at selected mosques. It is the same as asking the moderate muslims to pray at a church. Same applies to other religions. If someone wants to follow different religion state should allow it. Do you want to see the day if for example there is Christian majority in Majlis, and they amend the constitution to force Christianity upon us? I certainly don't. But sadly, Maldivians will gladly agree to enforce a sect or religion as long as it is his/her sect/religion.

We should be more respectful and tolerant of our fellow humans. I have written on these topics.

Sorry for the long comment.
On April 22 2009, a follow up titled Democratic Deism (a follow-up) was posted:
This is in reply to a few observations made by meekaaku in reply to the last post.

Come the day Christianity ousts Islam in Maldives, the public will have to accept it (this author certainly will). The mosques can be taken down and the Qurans in the libraries replaced with Bibles, but the people will have the right to practice their religions in seclusion (it is a belief system after all, so who can stop people from believing?).

This is the right Christians and people from other religions have. There are plenty of non-Muslims practicing their respective religions in private gatherings. This is not to say that they cannot work towards converting the majority of the country (oppressing these efforts would be tyrannous).

As liberties go, there are few greater than agreeing upon a common belief system which enables optimal communal performance. This liberty was served when the Special Majlis declared Maldives an Islamic state in the new constitution. Consider the consequences of having declared it a Christian state.

Keeping democracy in check is what MoIA and the rest of the government's gestapo-factions are already doing. The Majlis is ineffectual in holding the government accountable because it is constitutionally compromised. The current state of affairs in Maldives can already be summed up as tyrannous. Through this tyranny the government has started seeding the notions of theistic plurality.
My comment for this follow up:
"There are plenty of non-Muslims practicing their respective religions in private gatherings."

Maybe for expats, but for Maldivians it is illegal. Well by definition, you have to be a mulsim to be a citizen. Hence a maldivian practicing a different religion is by definition not a Maldivian! And yet the state lets them keep their passports and other benefits that a mulsim Maldivian gets. So why don't we just get rid of that requirement of being muslim to be a maldivian. Lets put a stop to this recursive definition.
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"This is not to say that they cannot work towards converting the majority of the country (oppressing these efforts would be tyrannous)."

And oppressed it is. No one can preach (let alone openly) another religion legally here.
---

"This liberty was served when the Special Majlis declared Maldives an Islamic state in the new constitution. Consider the consequences of having declared it a Christian state."

Liberty was served by denying the liberty to choose one's own religion?
----

"Keeping democracy in check is what MoIA and the rest of the government's gestapo-factions are already doing."

Keeping democracy in check by suppressing free speech, invading privacy and surveillance? Yeah, Big Brother is watching us.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The rights and liberty at Elvisdam - Part 2

(This is slightly related to my earlier post about Elvisdam.)

The people of Elvisdam lived a peaceful life. Elvians were generally peace loving and law abiding citizens. Over the years, people came to the king for favours and general routine things. Most of the services were available in the capital city of Elam where the king resides. Soon, as the kingdom prospered, the city of Elam became the central hub of the entire kingdom. Many Elvians from other cities came and settled in the city of Elam. As a result there was huge demand for residential and commercial properties in Elam.

Citizens of Elam saw the opportunity and started building their houses as multi-storey buildings. Some were for residential, while others were for commercial purposes. Ten to twenty years ago, there were no financing for such developments from the banks. Thus the citizens of Elam saved money over the years and built their homes. Nowadays, the banks do provide loans with interest for such developments.

As the demand for the properties increased, so did the rents. This is Economics 101. There were periods when rents fell slightly. However recently, the rents have kept increasing just like price of other items such as food, clothing etc.

As a result, very recently, a petition has been put forward to the king, asking for control of the rent in Elam. The premise being that, monthly rent, deposits and advance payments have gotten out of control and the king needs to do something about it.

However, such push button solutions will not work, especially when it tries to defy economics. History has shown that such price controls results in shortages. Now it is upto the king to decide what to do, and what button to push. There are several arguments against rent control or any other price control.

1. Liberty and freedom:
How is it ethical for me to dictate a price for your fruits of labour and investment? Suppose you were doing some other economic activity such as building contruction, fishing or ordinary corner shop. What right do the state have in dictating the price charged by the contractor, or the price that fisherman sell fish or the price that cornershop sells products. After all, the contractor, fisherman and shopowner have to pay their costs of living too. This is what I mentioned in my previous post about Elvisdam.)

. 2. Price control will result in shortages:
If for example the king decides to control the residential rent, and if this rent is below market price, the landowners will only build and rent out for commercial activities (such as shops, office, warehouse etc). This will result in a shortage of residential buildings. This is the same kind of shortage that occurs for some foreign currencies in Elvisdam.
If the king decides to control both residential and commercial rent, then landowners will have to select tenants based on some criteria other than price. It might result in landowners preferring to rent out to businesses instead of ordinary people, thinking that businesses are more likely to pay rent and big deposits.

3. The king is relieved of his duties:
If rent control is imposed, the king can say he has solved the housing problem with popular support from the public. But the real problem of inadequate educational, health and other facilities remain unsolved in the other cities. This is the main reason for the influx of people into the city of Elam.

4: Does nothing to reduce the cost of living:
Almost all elvians face the problem of increased cost of living, be it in Elam or other cities. The prices of food, fuel and clothing has risen, so has rent. Part of the problem is increased demand. The average income remained the same while the prices has gone up. Some have called for controlling the prices as well. But the real problem is inflation, which is not being addressed by the king, and unfortunately there is not much call for correcting inflation by addressing its root cause-Monetising the king's debt.

The king runs a debt country. Previous kings ran a deficit budget, meaning its expenditures were more than its income. Hence the king printed the money to make room for his extravagant spending. Like any other commodity, the money loses value as more is pumped into the economy. As long as such printing is going on, there will be no stop to inflation.

The current petition will gain popular support. It will also have significant opposition. This petition cuts to the heart a majority of people. But the sad part is, popular support was there for suppressing the freedom of the shell collectors in Elvisdam. Their fruits of labour were cartelised and extensive price controls were imposed. Only the few zone holders reap the benefit of the work of shell collectors. But they (the shell collectors) were a minority and lacked political backing, hence they have been deprived of their fundamental rights. Now it is happening to the powerful people, look how much it will be debated.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Majlis statistics

As the parliamentary elections nears, it is worth noting how our elected representatives have performed in their job. We all hear too often that the session has been canceled due to lack of quorum. Lets see how their attendance fares.

The table below gives some statistics about their attendance record for the period of March 2008 to 10 Nov 2008. Note that this does not include committee meetings.

All data taken from the annual report of 2008 available at Majlis website.

Mar indicates March/April
Jun indicates June/July
Oct indicates Oct/Nov (upto 10th)
No.of sessions held/attended.
Mar Jun Aug Sep Oct Tot. %
Const. Member 18 26 18 14 10 86 %
Pres Zahiya Zareer / Ahmed Zahir 15 18 15 14 8 70 81.4
Ibrahim Saleem / Hussain Hilmy 14 21 12 2 0 49 57.0
Ahmed Shareef / Mohamed Saleem 17 23 14 14 10 78 90.7
Azima Shukoor / Lubna Mohamed 14 12 15 11 4 56 65.1
Hussain Hilmy / Moosa Nizar 8 21 15 14 8 66 76.7
Dhiyana Saeed / Ahmed Mahloof 14 15 15 12 8 64 74.4
Fathin Hameed / Abdul Rasheed 16 17 14 14 6 67 77.9
Mohamed Saleem / Rozaina Adam 18 26 15 12 8 79 91.9
Male' Ibrahim Ismail 18 22 9 5 9 63 73.3
Mohamed Shihab 18 25 18 14 8 83 96.5
HA Ibrahim Manik 9 18 14 13 6 60 69.8
Jaufar Easa Adam 12 24 13 10 7 66 76.7
HDh Ahmed Abdullah 14 14 17 14 7 66 76.7
Abdul Shukoor 18 13 0 4 9 44 51.2
Sh Mohamed Hussain 13 23 3 10 2 51 59.3
Ibrahim Waheed 12 19 18 7 5 61 70.9
N Abdulla Yameen 11 23 16 11 4 65 75.6
Ali Mohamed 18 26 18 12 8 82 95.3
R Ali Waheed 17 25 15 0 1 58 67.4
Ibrahim Shaheed Zaki 14 25 15 11 10 75 87.2
B Ahmed Thasmeen Ali 11 20 12 8 7 58 67.4
Abdul Rasheed Abdul Rahman 15 23 9 10 6 63 73.3
Lh Ahmed Mohamed 16 20 15 13 3 67 77.9
Mohamed Solih 12 22 18 12 3 67 77.9
K Ismail Abdul Hameed 16 24 10 10 4 64 74.4
Mariya Ahmed Didi 15 24 18 13 6 76 88.4
AA Ahmed Zubair 11 20 18 13 8 70 81.4
Hussain Mohamed 15 19 4 5 7 50 58.1
ADh Abdul Muhsin Abdullah 17 24 14 14 7 76 88.4
Abdul Rasheed Ali 15 14 15 3 2 49 57.0
V Ismail Shihab 9 20 16 8 6 59 68.6
Abdullah Shahid 7 17 11 11 8 54 62.8
M Ahmed Nazim 9 23 12 14 3 61 70.9
Aneesa Ahmed 17 25 17 13 10 82 95.3
F Ahmed Hamza 12 22 18 13 9 74 86.0
Abdul Gafoor Ibrahim 15 25 18 13 5 76 88.4
Dh Ahmed Shiyam Mohamed 5 5 6 8 4 28 32.6
Ahmed Nasheed 13 25 17 10 7 72 83.7
Th Hassan Afeef 18 23 18 13 9 81 94.2
Mohamed Shareef 16 26 18 14 8 82 95.3
L Ilyas Ibrahim 18 25 17 11 6 77 89.5
Moosa Manik 16 18 17 12 8 71 82.6
GA Abdullah Jabir 10 10 15 8 7 50 58.1
Mohamed Saleem 17 21 18 11 8 75 87.2
GDh Zahir Adam 9 17 10 8 3 47 54.7
Abbas Ibrahim 18 25 18 13 10 84 97.7
Gn Mohamed Ibrahim Didi 18 23 17 13 9 80 93.0
Abdullah Maseeh Mohamed 18 26 18 14 8 84 97.7
S Mohamed Aslam 12 25 14 10 4 65 75.6
Ibrahim Shareef 16 21 15 8 5 65 75.6
Legend
Above 90% attendance
Above the average 76% attendance
Below the average 76% attendance
Lowest attendance

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The crackdown begins

The arrest of 9 Maldivians near Pakistan has raised lot of criticism towards the government, the so called extremists, wahhabis and fellow Muslims. Various bloggers have called for numerous action, including some people calling upon the government to just do something, while others advocate the abolishment of Ministry of Islamic Affairs. Eventually, the government has vowed to monitor the activities of the Jihadis.

But one thing we as citizens have to keep in mind is whether we want to go down that slippery slope. When the police say they are going to monitor them, do we even know how they are going to go about it? Do they start by monitoring the activities of people with long beard? Do they randomly check the suspects on the road for possession of Jihadi material? Are they suspects just because they have a long beard? This kind of monitoring is an invasion of the privacy and freedom of the public, be it beardies or not. This kind of power is something that governments love, since they get the ability to control and police the citizens. Unfortunately, lot of Maldivians will gladly agree to have the habees checked, searched and monitored. Afterall, it won't affect the majority of these moderate Muslims right? And we have nothing to hide, so why be afraid?

Yes, there are many sects such as Sufis, Salafis etc. But cracking down on them just because they believe in different school is very wrong. We need to be tolerant and respectful of other views and beliefs. A hard crackdown is exactly the kind of thing that will make things worse. If some people want to pray separately, why can't we as a society let them? How is it justified to coerce them to pray at a place that they fundamentally believe is inappropriate? Is it not the same as forcing us the so called moderate Muslims to pray at a church? Similarly, we have to accept that there will be different schools within the same religion, and people with different religions and non-believers as well. Do we really have to crack down on them in the name of protecting national unity? Everyone should be free as long as they don't violate the rights of others.

But they are extremists and terrorists, some will say. Who defines extremism and terrorism? Are the journalists who stands for free speech and press extremists because they encourage views critical of the state? Are atheists extremist because they don't believe in God? Are Muslims terrorists because some Muslims engage in suicide bombings?

It used to be Jews and Gypsies in Germany when Hitler came to power. Communists in USA during the Cold War. Terrorists and Enemy Combatants in modern day USA. All these fancy names have one common purpose. It creates a common enemy that ordinary citizens will unite against and give up essential freedoms in the hopes of getting protection. History and even current events around the world can reveal how the state manipulate the fear. It starts with gradual erosion of the rights of the minority and sadly the majority never stands up for it. To paraphrase Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Communists, I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Politics of Fear

It is well known tactic of the politicians to jump on big disastrous events to establish more power over the general populace. Whether it be natural disasters or man-made ones, the power elite always have something ready at hand. This tactic of using politics of fear was well used by Hitler after the burning of the Reichstag. George Bush used the 9/11 attack to push through the US PATRIOT Act.

Right now the world is currently facing economic recession, and the powers that be are jumping at the opportunity to create something that gives the financial institutions more power. This time it is a common world currency and a Global Reserve System. All in the name of reforming the world financial system.

This will be the one of the things that will be discussed at the upcoming G20 summit to be held in London. With trillions in foreign currency reserves, China is also trying it's stake to gain more control over the US and EU influenced financial institutions such as IMF and World Bank. A UN panel of experts (headed by none other than 2001 Nobel laureate) advocates the creation of a new global currency and a new global reserve system to counter the boom-bust cycles that the world economies face.

Currently the dollar is considered the world reserve currency due to the US getting the upper hand after the WWII and the subsequent Bretton Woods agreement, which failed in 1971 resulting in the Nixon Shock. However, the dollar (including most other currencies), are created fiat without any backing by a real commodity such as gold. As such, the US Federal Reserve can print the money just out of thin air (the actual steps involve using a nice piece of paper called T-bills). This printing of money is what causes the real inflation, and the excessive amount of printed paper money and bank credit created this financial mess in the first place.

The creation of one global currency, another fiat one, will most likely not prevent the boom-bust cycle. It will only exacerbate the problem, and will give even more control to these institutions over our daily lives. Already, these financial institutions have so much control over our economies via the network of central banks, and a one world currency will empower them even more.