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Cutting down on expat labour will create jobs for Kuwaitis ‘Time ripe to find solution to Bedoun problem’

IT IS unacceptable to have in Kuwait a group of people like Bedouns living a low standard of life. Bedouns issue has become critical and that is why we are working for its solution and so we will not accept any procrastination or retreat in resolving this issue, says Chairman of Parliament’s Bedoun Committee, MP Abdullah Al-Tamimi. In this interview he expressed regret that Bedouns issue has been the most pressing issue that has been politicized and used as bargain by some politicians for several years. He, however hopes that time has come to find solution to this problem He also explained who among Bedouns deserves citizenship and those not but entitled to social and basic rights.

Question: What are the programs you want to adopt in Parliament to benefit particularly your constituents and the country at large?
Answer: There are so many important programs in this regard, but as you know among the GCC countries Kuwait was ahead in terms of development, human development and construction boom, but unfortunately the development wheel has completely stopped for 30 years now and Kuwait has become the last in the list of developed countries among GCC states and many countries are now ahead of us. This came as a result of numerous circumstances including 8 years of Iraq-Iran war which had a negative effect on us because Kuwait is a neighbor to Iraq and secondly we were the hot spot in this war and immediately after two years of stoppage of this war, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq on 2nd August, 1990. During this invasion, Kuwait was occupied by Iraqi army and about 70 percent of Kuwaiti population was displaced and the country’s infrastructure was destroyed which had a negative impact on the social and economic life of this country.
Thank God we got out of the invasion and Kuwaiti people returned to their homeland and under Kuwait leadership and its regime we have now spent two decades but still without stability due to many failures that occurred in addition to the impact of the 10-year Iraq — Iran war which caused disruption of life and instability to the country in terms of development and reconstruction boom.

However, we as MPs, through this parliament, have to speed up the wheel of development, the wheel of economy and human development once again and the government should have a clear vision and a feasible development plan to the interest of Kuwait and its people so that Kuwait returns to the forefront as it was in seventies and this requires combine efforts from the two authorities — the legislative and the executive. So, by the grace of Almighty God and with stability of this parliament which is almost eighth months old of its term and left with 3 years more, many important and pressing issues and bills will be finalized and addressed. There are also other important servicing issues that concern citizens such housing, health, education, employment and security, in addition to hot issues like high cost of living and traffic jams which are having direct impact on the people in the country.

Q: Are you satisfied with the performance of the current government?
A: Citizens have lost confidence in the performance of the government for several years. The government performance in the past three decades has not been up to the expectations of Kuwait people for lack of achieving their hopes as there have been many failures. We understand the anger and frustration of Kuwait people towards government failures, so our role as legislative and oversight authority is to supervise the performance of the government and support and cooperate with it to move forward without retreat to address the pressing and pending issues. But if the government failed to improve its performance, then it should be fully held accountable. Indeed there are many challenges from the problems and crises that have accumulated for the past years as a load on the government as well the parliament. So the question is, should we retreat or move forward? Of course the best solution is to move forward.   

Q: Are you satisfied with the performance of the current ministers, and if not would you give them chance to correct their mistakes or is the best way to grill them, taking into account that this is a new government that started its term just about 6 months ago?
A: To be frank, the performance of some of the ministers has been good so far and they deserve credit for they are productive and making a lot of achievements, developments and improvements on their ministries. But by the same token, there are some ministers who have questions marks on their performances, but the supervision approaches that is applied on the government should not start straight with grilling request rather it should be a gradual process starting with parliamentary questions and if need be to form an investigative committee to investigate the matter in question and then if there is no response or cooperation from a minister, then at this stage MPs can resort to grilling requests which is their constitutional right. Nevertheless, there are some issues that require going for interpellation directly without the need for any question or investigation.

Q: The issue of Bedoun has been on the radar for a long time without solution and it is damaging Kuwait’s reputation internationally, so as the head of parliament’s Bedoun Committee how do you see solution to this issue, taking into account the government announcement of providing Bedouns with their basic rights and intention to grant citizenship to those who deserve it.
A: We have to understand that Bedouns issue is very important and sensitive. There are among Bedouns those who deserve citizenship in accordance with the conditions of granting citizenship, and there are Bedouns who do not fulfill these conditions but deserve basic, social and humanitarian rights. It is unacceptable to have in Kuwait a group of people like Bedouns living a low level of life. So, this is a critical issue and that is why we are working for its solution and we will not accept any procrastination or retreat in resolving this issue. Unfortunately, the Bedoun issue has been the most pressing issue that has been politicized and used as a bargain by politicians for several years, but we have at the moment to find solution to this problem and by the grace of God , we will see the solution soon.

Q: Does this issue really damage Kuwait’s image internationally?
A: As a matter of fact, we want Kuwait’s image in the international arena to be clean. Kuwait is a democratic country and accepts human rights as guaranteed by its constitution and the law. So we will not accept infringing on the rights of any person living in this country - whether Bedouns or other expatriates. This is because the character and the system of this country is to treat everyone living here humanely and with respect. Here Bedouns live in a low living standard and this issue deserves great attention and the government must understand that we will not accept any delay in this issue, but to speed up in employing Bedouns and providing them with better life including free housing, health and education.

Q: In one of your recent press statements, you indicated that state own agencies, ministries and other government authorities are full of non-Kuwaiti employees and that this has not only caused unemployment among Kuwaitis but also traffic crises and demographic imbalance. So in your opinion, how this problems should be address?
A: There is a flaw in the demographic structure and the expats density is not just in the government institutions, it is also found in all companies including that of the private sector. At this point, we see that Kuwaiti employees and Bedouns are being marginalized because you cannot secure them jobs when all institutions are filled with expatriates marginal workers. We welcome everyone living in Kuwait but not at the expense of suppressing job opportunities for Kuwaiti citizens as well as Bedouns who have no any country than Kuwait.

Q: Do you see that Kuwait youths are prepared skillfully and professionally to take on the available jobs in the country?
A: The problem is not with the youths, rather than with the government. Kuwaiti youths are competent and were put on trial to work in the private sector and they performed excellently and efficiently. They were able to set a good example in terms of performance and productivity, but it was private sector that fought against Kuwaiti youths and drove them away and as a result Kuwaiti youths have become despaired and discouraged.

Q: Does this mean you are one of the MPs who support the proposal which demands reducing the number of expatriate by 1.5 million within five years?
A: Yes I support that proposal, but this needs gradual process through clear mechanism or program so as to avoid flaws in the population structure. Yes Kuwait needs to cut down expatriates number of more than a million so as to give job opportunities to citizens and even to qualified expatriates, especially there are a lot of marginal and unskilled workers in the street of country roaming without work.

Q: Many experts and the government say Kuwait cannot adopt this proposal as there are many jobs that can only be handled by the expatriates and that Kuwait’s economy will crumble if this proposal is carried out. So, what is your opinion on this viewpoint?
A: Arranging the demographic structure should not be indiscriminately. The country needs people who have skills and companies that comply with the laws and not in haphazard manner as we see today. Even in some ministries there are companies that don’t want to employ Kuwaiti citizens and Bedouns, so the process of regulating the demographic structure will pave way for more job opportunities and even improves security in the country.

Q: The Reports of State Audit Bureau indicate that corruption is rampant in many government institutions and ministries, not to talk about bureaucracy and wasta in executing transactions. What is your comment on this report.
A: Unfortunately, there is a lot of financial and administrative corruption widespread in this country and this comes in the form of bureaucracy and old system of work, hence our call for an e-government and electronic machines in the system in addition to a developed and advanced government that moves in pace with modernity time. We don’t want a government that still uses old and traditional system that is not accepted by the contemporary era. Unfortunately, we also have trend of widespread of bribing, embezzlement of public funds and suspicious projects and other types of corruptions which bleed public funds.

Q: One of the problems facing Kuwaiti youths is the unemployment issue as many of them are still on the waiting list of job-seekers. What should the government should do to create jobs for this youth?
A: This must come through developing the country by establishing mega projects and recruiting these youths to work there, in addition to correcting the flaws in the demographic structure which will create more job opportunities for the jobless. This also includes funding small and medium enterprises SMEs for the youths to establish their own businesses to benefit the country’s economy. The SMEs law was recently passed by this parliament to achieve this goal.

Q: In one of your statements, you stressed the need to involve new blood (youths) in the management of the country, do you still stand by this suggestion and why?
A: Yes of course, because youths’ capability the foundation of any development and every country or nation grows and develops with the capabilities of its youth. Youth blood, Human development and seriousness with human element in terms of competency and professionalism are very important matters that cannot be overlooked. We cannot simply go and develop projects and construct them without first going to the basic and most important element, which is the human development.

Q: The National Unity law, despite its passage by the parliament, and despite its importance, has not yet been implemented on the ground, what is your comment?
A: This law is very important and was passed with the support of the government and it must be activated and implemented accurately without any exception or prejudice. The National Unity law is a safety valve for this country and its unity as well as a strength for the internal front against any external and internal dangers. This is what we are all working for, and the government including all its agencies should execute this law and not put pressure on Interior Ministry alone to implement the law, but also other ministries, such as Information, Social Affairs and Labour, Education and other NGOs should contribute in activating this law.

Q: Housing issue is another serious issue facing citizens. In your opinion what is the importance of the Housing Care law that was passed recent by the parliament towards addressing this issue.
A: The Housing Care law is very important in paving way for establishing more housing units for citizens especially as there are more than 110, 000 citizen registered for housing care which looks very frightening, so we need a quick and immediate solutions to address this issue.

Q: With regard to the relationship between the government and the parliament, do you see any cooperation between them?
A: Personally, I wish that the two authorities - executive and legislative, have positive relationship and cooperate for the interest of the country and its people.

Q: In your opinion, is the country’s economy moving in the right direction?
A: In my view, the country’s economy is solid, but there are also some flaws and dangers to the economy as well, which is our dependency on only oil as the main source of revenues. Therefore, we need to diversify sources of revenue of this country, we need to find alternatives for revenue resources. Many countries are looking for alternative energy to stop using oil for energy purpose and if this happened Kuwait will fall behind.

Q: The one man one-vote system was introduced lately to replace the old four-vote system. In your opinion, which system serves the best interest of the citizens?
A: Of course the one- vote system is the best as it has given opportunity to minority to reach parliament. The system eliminated favoritism, tribal primaries , partisan and political blocs in some constituencies. It has also eliminated sectarian and many negative things which were seen in the old system.


Abdullah Al-Tamimi was born in 1965 and holds a high-school degree. He works in Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), member of KOC’s labor union and holds Diploma in Journalism from the defunct Soviet Union (1989). He was a member in the annulled 2012 parliament. In the 2013 parliamentary elections Al-Tamimi, an independent Shiite MP won first place in the 5th Constituency with 4,135 votes. In the previous election, Al-Tamimi won second place with 2,899 votes behind MP Faisal Al-Kandari who secured first position with 3,570 votes. Al-Tamimi was elected a member of Interior and Defense committee and Protection of Public Fund Committee.

In this parliament Al-Tamimi has been elected Chairman of Illegal Residents (Bedoun) Committee and member of Public Fund Protection and Public Utilities committees. The previous parliaments he served as member of Interior and Defense Affairs and Public Fund Protection committees and a member of Parliamentary Follow-up Team.

By Abubakar A. Ibrahim
Arab Times Staff

By: Abdullah Al-Tamimi

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