Asia: An Irreverent Look

From the oil fields of Kuwait to the bureaucracy of China, what eludes the mainstream press?

April 29, 2002

From the oil fields of Kuwait to the bureaucracy of China, what eludes the mainstream press?

After a series of oil field disasters in 2001 that killed five people and put two of Kuwait’s three refineries out of action — not to mention a January 2002 explosion at the Rawdatyn plant — the mega-rich Gulf sheikhdom is having difficulty finding candidates for the post of Oil Minister.

Part of the problem is institutional — years of corruption and “Kuwaitization” has filled senior government posts with incompetents. Corrupt contracts have also played a role, draining Kuwait’s operating budgets.

Information Minister Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah (a member of the ruling family) has been filling in at the Oil Ministry.

He has now been told to stay in the job until next year’s Majlis elections — which may or may not break the country’s logjam of corruption, nepotism and incompetence.

“The state is on the brink of collapse,” former minister Ahmad al-Rubai told the Majlis. “The state is on the brink of collapse,” former minister Ahmad al-Rubai told the Majlis. “The country is not running properly.”

“It is a country running without a compass,” he continued. “We need new reforms, new parliament, new government — and a new trend.”

Warning of damage to Australia’s international relations, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has tried — and failed — to stop the declassification of secret government files from 1947.

The disputed files show that revered Australian scientist and 1960 Nobel prize winner for medicine, Sir Macfarlane Burnet, proposed biological warfare as a military option. Burnet, who died in 1985, recommended that Australia develop biological and chemical weapons to target neighboring countries’ food stocks and spread infectious diseases.

The Nobel winner noted that this would be “the most effective counter-offensive to threatened invasion by over-populated Asiatic countries.”

Considered Australia’s greatest biologist, Mr. Burnet also stressed the economic advantages of biological warfare: “Its use has the tremendous advantage of not destroying the enemy’s industrial potential which can then be taken over intact.”

The vibrant nightlife of Shanghai and Beijing is about to dry up. The National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference now complains that the party’s finest are partying too hard.

“If leading cadres fail to discipline themselves, not only will they be looked down on by the masses, but their behavior will also directly affect the images of the party and government,” warned conference spokesman Yang Xingkai, in a speech reported only in the Chinese language version of the official Xinhua news service.

“A sound supervision and restraining mechanism,” is recommended by Yang, including overt and covert inspection in restaurants, hotels, and other places providing entertainment. “These are strict demands imposed on leading cadres as well as a way to show our love for them,” Yang added.