Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Beirut: The stories beyond the headlines

The Stories Behind the Headlines is an entry that summarizes what I have learnt thus far into my stay in Lebanon. There are four blurbs titled

  1. Beirut Needs to Calm Down
  2. The Lebanese Ministry of Public Works and Transportation Needs a New Minister
  3. AUB Needs Qualified Business Instructors and Professors
  4. Lebanon is Running Out of Engineers

As I stay longer in Lebanon, I will learn more and update this blog accordingly.

Beirut Needs to Calm Down

Today, at around 1:00 PM my brother called me and asked that I turn on the television. He said that he had heard rumors that a bomb went off somewhere in the country, and that he needed me to confirm whether or not it actually happened. As you all know from internet news sources, nothing really happened.

This little incident is evidence of the tension that most residents of this city and country are living under. Everybody seems to be going about doing their own thing, seemingly oblivious to political developments. Scratch the surface only a little, and it turns out that this indifference is only skin deep. Edginess is to be expected of course, but the experience with my brother was still hair-raising.

The Lebanese Ministry of Public Works and Transportation Needs a New Minister

My uncle is an American-educated traffic engineer. He is one of the only members of that profession in Lebanon, and has been working as a consultant for the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation for the past ten years.

Apparently, the worst minister he has ever advised is the current one, Mohammed Safadi. Mr. Safadi has no agenda (official or unofficial) for the post he was appointed to. He is simply using public office as a PR stint to further his personal goals, and to illegally asphalt roads he personally deems need to be asphalted.

AUB Needs Qualified Business Instructors and Professors

Rumor is rife: the AUB student body, specifically the segment that attends the business school, claims that around 60 percent of the faculty employed by that school (officially known as the Olayan Business School) is unqualified. Specific anecdotes from my sister’s experience support these rumors.

One of my sister’s lecturer asks her students to come to class 10 to 15 minutes late because that is when she usually shows up. She then leaves 45 minutes later despite the fact that the class is supposed to last for another half an hour. Her excuse is that she just delivered a baby.

Another one of my sister’s lecturers was just fired because the students petitioned to the administration and claimed that he was a miserable teacher. Only those of you who actually attended AUB will realize the audacity of business students petitioning to replace an ineffective teacher. A demanding one, maybe. But an ineffective one?!?!.
A sample of his behavior includes the following: 1) not returning any assignments graded, 2) postponing the midterm three times because he either didn’t show up on the day of the test (funny, I thought it was the students who didn’t show up to tests), and 3) having an overall attendance rate that even students would be ashamed of.

The ridiculousness of this situation can only be appreciated if you keep in mind this is happening in a business school, where if anything, punctuality and deadlines are emphasized more than quality of work. Follow that up with the fact that the Olayan Foundation donated tens of millions of dollars only a few months ago to improve the school, and then you start to wonder what the hell is going on.

I am going to do AUB a favor right now: If you have a master’s degree in business administration, finance or marketing, and are punctual and can communicate effectively to peers as well as subordinates, apply to the Olayan Business School. God knows, they need you and they definitely have the money to pay you!

Lebanon is Running Out of Engineers

The Gulf region has returned to its heydays. This year alone, it is investing $250 billion dollars in physical infrastructure. The consequence: Lebanon is running out of engineers, and AUB engineering graduates do not have to work for $400 dollars a month as site managers in Beirut. Urban myths are all over the placet. One such myth (I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it were true) is that a Lebanese architect who works in Switzerland went to Qatar to visit family. While in the hotel he met a Qatari man. He is now designing two residential towers for that individual.

Let me therefore recommend that if you have family in Qatar, or any where in the Gulf, give them a call, tell them you are going over for a visit (it doesn’t matter how distant these relatives are), insist on staying in a hotel, and mingle with as many khaleejis as possible. Who knows? You might hit the jackpot!


Doha said...

Since when in recent history was a qualified minister of public works was appointed who had a transportation policy in mind?....

Anonymous said...

Another headline:


Emile Lahoud has not done anything good for the country (besides promoting speedos) during the 7 years he has held office. He needs to walk away from the presidential palace ASAP!


Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

I heard that a Syrian was arrested because he asked for the Mukhtara direction. Calm down people!

Anonymous said...

Point 1 - It does indeed. You should have been here during the rumors about the "black saturday" after tweini was assasinated.

Point 2 - Walaw! You needed your uncle to tell you that? I am sure he is no better off than any other minister.

Point 3 - 3ashra bil myeh ya 7aramyeh.

Point 4 - Khay!


Anonymous said...

I agree with Doha completely. Since when did the minister of a certain ministry have any expertise in the agenda of that ministry? I'd like to remind you that Sulaiman Franjieh used to be the Minister of Health. Need I say more? In fact, the only time we came close to an appropriate appointment based on skills was under Mr. Najib Mikati.

According to Der Generale we should go back to a completely political system. In fact, he wants to be the sole 'Christian lord' (you can refer to last week's speeches). What a freak.

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

And I agree with you, AUB is a wreck. Cheating is a common practice in engineering, a student told me that some teachers are selling the exams' answers! It's a pity! AUB has so much potential!

Abu Lanjri Al-Farran said...

I know it for a FACT for I got the “info” from my stepsister’s janitor who works part-time at that little hostel in Davos where he coincidently met the crown prince of Saudistan…and know the guy has become governor of the province of Riyadhabad! I mean like Jeez dude, can you believe it? But then again, that’s Arabia, the fairytale land of Scheherazade and Sindibad: if you can’t make it anywhere, you’ll make it there…or vice versa for that matter

So I pursued my investigation at the AUB B-School and asked Abdul-Jahân Doe that hapless professor of applied econometrics: why work in Lebanon or Switzerland when you can make a fortune in the Rub3-al-Khâli?


Anonymous said...

Lebanon produces more engineers than it needs. And by the way, AUB engineering students have more of a chance than others in the gulf, while they are hardly more competent.