• Mohana Prabhakar

The boy who cried Wolf

Updated: Apr 22, 2019

I was at breakfast with some friends last week and one asked: “So tell me, as an expat are you worried or feeling uneasy about being here? All these crazy laws....” I knew exactly where she was coming from the minute she asked the question and then it was confirmed. Newspaper headlines and Facebook posts: All of which could be filed under one important subsection called Rumours.

This is what I would say to any national or expatriate who asked me that question. Am I uneasy? I am. Am I worried? Yes. I worry about making sure that my revenue streams continue unabated, that my receivables stay under control, about managing my costs more efficiently, getting clearances to hire much-needed staff, and so much more. These are the business realities of 2016 and of course, we should be worried.

All of us in the region, nationals and expatriates, have actual things to worry about at the $37 per barrel price point. Why waste time over crazy people saying crazy things? Strange things happen everywhere, in every country. After all, we are living in a world that could actually see Donald Trump become the President of the United States.

I remember reading a while back that incomes of expats could be taxed soon. Then it was the turn of expat remittances to be taxed. Later we read that only expats would have to pay the higher non-subsidised price for fuel. Nothing happened except in the heads of an expat journalist and a couple of expat residents who obviously had an ‘Oh my God’ moment. On the matter of taxes by the way, how many of us expats are from countries where we don’t pay income tax?

It seems that any news that can get people uncomfortable is big news these days.

Take the recent Page 1 news item that made it seem that any moment now expatriates would have to pay three per cent of their total salary over two years as their visa fee. Therefore for a salary of RO1,000 per month, you would pay RO720. It is something that would have a huge impact on every company here, let alone individuals and in these times, it was naturally alarming news.

When Muscat Daily spoke to Majlis A' Shura to reconfirm, their official spokesperson was rather forceful in his statement that the report was baseless and that such a proposal hadn’t even been submitted. A member speaking about his wishes does not make it a reality. “Anyone can say anything. But there has to be some common sense in whatever is said.” I wonder whether it would make Page 1, if someone said, ‘I propose all expats (or just expat women) be given a 488 Spider’.

Doubt it. People share bad news at the speed of light and unfortunately not enough of us have the time or inclination to question its authenticity. There’s also the question of the angle you take. For example, if the visa fee story was real, it would be the media’s duty to go to town with it as a harmful and short-sighted move that would seriously hamper corporates. Going the ‘conspiracy against expats’ route is unnecessary on so many levels.

I am tired to my bones of rumour-mongering and think it’s time to reiterate that news created for the sake of boosting Facebook likes is not news. I am not a digital/social media expert by any means and wouldn’t presume to tell any individual, let alone an organisation, how to manage their virtual interactions. However, as kids, we were told the story of ‘The boy who cried wolf’ for a reason. Now would be a good time to refresh our memories.

#rumours #oman #muscat

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