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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mobile phones, Inflation and Press Freedom

There are a number of interesting stories in the rounds today.

Vodafone have gained the fixed line licence after winning the mobile licence several months ago. No-one seems to be very surprised, and in contrast to the first round only two companies actually bothered to bid against them. The company got the licence for a song too - they only paid QAR 10 million for the fixed licence, as opposed to QAR7.72 billion for the mobile licence.

Surprisingly, Qtel do not seem to be too concerned - I hear from a friend that works there that the employees are more concerned with their inter-departmental football matches.

Vodaphone, in the meantime, might do best financing their operations by borrowing in riyals. Despite the fall in the value of the dollar, which has been labelled by us as well as others as one of the main causes of rising prices, inflation has continued to grow and now stands at an incredible 16.59 percent. See Arabian Business for the full story.

Those thinking of coming to Qatar on a contract might do well to check if their salary is indexed linked, and start asking hard questions about what price rises they might have if any - the salary/bonus at the end of contract could be worth a lot less than it is at the start. Especially if the Qatar Central Bank continues to play with price control measures instead of doing what they need to do - raise interest rates.

Finally there is the opening of the Doha Medium Freedom Centre, which will be building a monument to journalists. Things have already been busy with Qatar flying women journalists from abroad after they have been threatened. Ironically, since the opening of the Centre has been announced several journalists have been taken to court for the stories they have written.

This included one journalist, sentenced to jail in absentia, for defamation of Hamad hospital. The journalist covered the story of a patient who had "come back to life" at Hamad hospital after being declared dead. The sentence was despite the fact that the woman who had supposedly fabricated the story had obtained documents, photographs and a taped recording of the man.

Still, I am sure all these journalists will feel happier when they can see the centre's monument. Hopefully, it will be in view of Doha's prison!

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