Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Bahrain has spent $4 million on an international prize which no one knows anything about. This figure includes the total amount awarded by the "Isa Award for Service to Humanity" to 4 winners in four sessions since its launch. This means that this number does not include any other expenses such as the remuneration of the 22-person administrative and arbitration staff, the costs of its annual ceremony, guest stays, publications, gold medals and other expenses. But who has really heard of the "Isa Award for Service to Humanity"?
The award was established in 2009 for purposes of competing with Gulf awards such as the "Booker" Award for Arabic Fiction, the Owais Cultural Award and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award. It was baptized the name of the late Prince Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa and the king's current father to ensure it will always be funded by the Royal Court. It is held every two years, during which $1 million is awarded to the annual winner, who should have "served humanity and made contributions that changed the world for the better".
In the past four years, Bahrain has given the award to a Malaysian woman, an Indian businessman and an Egyptian dispensary and this year to a Pakistani businessman. That's how $4 million of the country's finances were spent on a prize which has no reputation and makes no sense at all, even though the prize is the highest in amount among all other Gulf awards.
For example, Qatar's Katara Prize for Arabic Novel costs $575,000. It covers five different categories, $300,000 for the first category, $150,000 for the second, $75,000 for the third, $50,000 for the fourth and $60,000 for the fifth (i.e. about half of the value of the Bahraini prize)
Meanwhile, the UAE's International Booker Prize for Arabic Fiction costs $110,000. $50,000 is given for the first winner and $10,000 for the six shortlisted writers. (i.e. about 9 times less than the Bahraini prize.)
However, Bahrain gives $1 million at once to one foreign winner for no good reason! Roughly equivalent to the prizes awarded by the Nobel Prize to the winners in its various fields.
Despite this, the Arab and foreign public opinion awaits the "Booker" and "Katara" award events each year eagerly, while media outlets race to cover them and predict the results in proactive reports.
On the other hand, no one hears of "Isa Award for Service to Humanity". One can simply google the name of the $1 million prize awarded on Tuesday (November 12, 2019) to Pakistani national Abdul Sattar Edhi to see the low level of the prize, which does nothing but overburden the country's budget.
Apart from the local newspapers and the state-run BNA agency, no respectful news outlet or agency mention anything about the award, even though the king himself presents it to the winner. If we hadn't been reminded of it every two years through the state media, we wouldn't have known about it in the first place.
The administrative team of the award consists of a huge staff that is one of its kind compared to any of the other Gulf awards. It includes four ministers from the ruling family, a former minister, a member of the Shura Council, a former undersecretary, a poet working as a research adviser at the Royal Court, as well as about six staff members working in different locations. It also has 7 fixed judges (which means the judging panel is not rotated or replaced as those of prestigious and reputable award events). They are all foreigners except for one Bahraini.
At a time when the country is plunging into an accumulated public debt, about 15 billion BD, all of the above-mentioned share the additional funds allocated (apart from the $1 million granted to the winner) for organizing the award every two years, making the "Isa Award for Service to Humanity" the most expensive Arab and regional award ever.bCongratulations to the $1 million foreign winners and good luck to the Financial Balance Program!