SHIELDING the decision of the government, any government, is a very important principle to ascertain the power entrusted in the executive authority on the destiny of the country. When the government slacks in this regard, it automatically relinquishes its power to the one it submits to.
Our government must understand this principle since it is the first and last concerned body in terms of protecting public funds and the share of future generations from the national wealth.
At the same time, the government does not have, under any circumstance, absolute authority in disposing this wealth. Instead, the government is subject to Parliament oversight, so the members must play their role in the best way possible especially when it comes to issues concerning public funds.
Unfortunately, this matter does not go as it is supposed to. In fact, the electoral bribery practiced by previous governments has become a norm; thereby, spoiling the parliamentary practices. Today’s citizens are paying the price for such practices, directly or indirectly.
This also deprived the government of its power, rather, its officials surrendered to serve the interests of some Parliament members and those behind them — the businesspersons and influential people.
After long hesitation and comprehensive studies in which the World Bank and global financial institutions participated, the government set up the economic reform program. Everyone was briefed about the program, yet the government continues to waver in its decisions in an unprecedented manner.
Will this move lead to completion of the remaining procedures, especially when it comes to imposing taxes?
Every country in the Gulf region whose financial power is stronger than that of Kuwait witnessed the lifting of subsidies on fuel, electricity and water, among other goods and services; yet those countries did not experience what Kuwait has experienced in terms of arguments over the issue.
Talks on lifting subsidies went smoothly and citizens in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were more supportive and abiding than their Kuwaiti counterparts who left no blemish without linking it to the government and the ruling system.
In several countries whose democratic roots are more stable than Kuwait, the governments increase taxes. The finance or trade minister or the government’s spokesperson in those countries usually announce the tax increase and every citizen abides by the decision without any retaliation similar to what is happening here; where some people think democracy is freedom to insult, accuse and offend others.
This is far from the actual democratic concept that is based on fulfilling duties and engaging in productive criticism which will assist the country in protecting the rights of its citizens without any negligence.
It happens in Britain, France, Canada and other countries, even in the United States of America, where a citizen pays 40 percent of his earnings to the government as taxes without dodging such a responsibility.
In 1920, the government of the United States of America banned alcohol; leading to an increase in the number of smugglers and emergence of the black market. Actually, the crime rate increase was directly proportional to the number of alcoholics.
After 12 years, the government thought the decision to ban alcohol was a mistake as it did not serve the interests of the people and the public funds. Therefore, the government withdrew its decision so the lobbyists for black market traders and smugglers emerged to voice objection. They even used churches and worship houses to incite the public to move against the decision to lift the alcohol ban.
However, the US government at the time pushed through with the decision despite the huge opposition wave, which later led to a drop in the number of alcoholics and the crime rate. Moreover, the State revenues increased in terms of the taxes levied on alcohol.
This example applies on those currently opposing the lifting of subsidies on fuel, goods and services, as well as the suspension of overseas treatment.
Those who are against the government’s decision to lift subsidies were the only ones who benefitted from the previous situation, because the traders sold subsidized foodstuff twice — first, they benefitted from subsidies, and second, they purchased subsidized goods and then sold them at the black market. Either way, the State and the people are unfairly affected by the subsidy that reaches up to KD7 billion annually.
Will the citizens, with subdued emotions, stand behind the traders, exploiters, and owners of palaces and fleet of luxury vehicles, who are attempting to keep the situation as it was? Or will they support the State’s measures to protect their wellbeing and that of their children? Or will they keep on blaming the State whenever a crisis emerges?
An adage goes, “When the axe falls on the head…”, such that the State and the government will bear the responsibility and they will not be able to guarantee even the most basic needs of the people.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times