Theft early on
As life in Kuwait took a new dimension in terms of growth and expansion, corruption also grew side by side just like many other countries.
No country in the world can claim it is free from corruption. However, the difference in the size, quantity and quality of corruption differs from one country to another and add to this the manner of controlling this vice and accountability.
Before delving deep into the topic, we will review here some of the incidents of corruption that Kuwait has known, although the big issues of corruption lie deep under.
The journey of corruption may have begun with the Hamal Bashi Company (the name of a small transport vessel) when it was given the monopoly to operate in the port of Kuwait to specific individuals, and following the protests, the 1938 Council restored its ownership to the government.
The pace of corruption increased towards the end of the World War II, with the shipment of oil and revenues from which the government started spending on projects. This required the expropriation of many properties for public benefit — for roads, schools and hospitals.
Some influential people became owners of large swathes of land which prompted the late Amir Abdullah Al-Salem to impose a general organizational line that greatly reduced the lapse.
However, corruption continued unabated, starting from the distribution of housing plots in Shamiya and others, the decisions of the assessment committee related to evaluation of the existing houses in these areas were leaked and some people took advantage and made big fortunes at the expense of ordinary real estate owners.
Add to this, the thefts and other corruption tales of the Municipality that cannot be detailed here up to the issues of Kuwait Tankers Co, the theft at the Kuwait Investment Office in London, and the embezzlement of more than $5 billion assets of the Spanish company Torres which led to its bankruptcy, the theft in health offices abroad, scandals of overseas medical treatment, and deposits of millions in the accounts of some parliamentarians.
Also add here the loss of 400 million dinars that went into the accounts of a few companies, most of which supply power generators, kind of scrap material, that are not fit even to operate a portable transistor radio, to the scandal of the distribution of agricultural holdings and barns to earn the loyalty of MPs and others.
This is in addition to the silence of some who have ‘collected’ farms for their own benefits, the scandal (fine) of the Dow Chemical worth two-and-a-half billion dollars, the judicial and administrative expenses, the thefts at the Public Authority which was formed to take care of the printing and publication of Holy Quran and Sunnah, the Moderation Committee which has done nothing, and scandal of the endorsement of the cheques at the Souk Al-Manakh (stock market).
Now, if we put all these issues of corruption in front of us, we will find that most of them have had some negative effect to some extent but almost each incident encouraged others.
If we put aside the tragedy of the Iraqi invasion, the biggest disaster that afflicted Kuwait, we will find that the biggest and most serious corruption issue we have not mentioned above is the issue of forged educational certificates — of degrees and diplomas.
If the government turns a blind eye and remains silent in the face of this issue, it will have a destructive effect and will far outweigh the destructive consequences of the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein which killed and displaced many.
During the invasion we knew the world was with us and we also knew the identity of the enemy. We knew that our country would be liberated sooner or later, but on the issue of the university and higher degree holders, we know not what will happen next, given the lack of government seriousness to reveal the names of ‘cheats’.
The presence of the forged certificates holders among us does not only constitute injustice and humiliation to those who hold genuine certificates because they have spent long years to obtain them, but also constitutes a danger to ethics and young people and even the existence of Kuwait as a respected country.
They are like hidden worms that destroy everything around them while none of us feel their presence. When they are discovered, we will discover that all projects have been affected, the future of next generations dented and development plans disrupted and as a result all dreams about progress and evolution will vanish in thin air.
By Ahmad Al Sarraf