O HH the Prime Minister, question: Are the owners of palaces and beautiful villas with private gardens in Abdullah Salem, Yarmouk, Qurtobah and other areas unable to pay their electricity and water bills due to their consumption of tons of kilowatts and thousands of liters?
Is an owner of a palace or villa whose price ranges from four to five million dinars unable to pay that bill?
I do not believe that these people are in need of a bag of rice or gallon of cooking oil or bags of macaroni in addition to bags of sugar and dates, to a point where the populace’s representatives engage in a fierce battle with the government to maintain the ‘status quo’ of wasting seven billion dinars annually under the pretext of subsidies that never reach the rightful beneficiaries.
I am among those who have been following up this issue since a while ago. What I see through experience and information that have been gathered is this subsidy program is a mistake.
For instance, the fuel price hike caused tremendous uproar, up to an extent that you would think we are not in Kuwait, but in a country which asks for aid. I beg for your frankness, how many Kuwaitis need 75 liters of free fuel?
These alleged reactions were common in a popular group for years in the past, when the group tried to push the country towards the unknown to serve selfish interests. At the time, a match was organized with the tagline, ‘national honor’, given that the outer cover of this tagline appears to be a blessing, but it is hell inside.
Today, this group is attempting to buy its ticket back to the National Assembly through the fuel price increase issue, so it can do the same practices that almost made the country disappear after its unattainable laws paralyzed the national economy.
If there were agencies in the past that colluded with the group of destruction and false reports were presented on the marches with the number of the participants amplified, today there could be those advocating for the group and spearheading campaigns through the social media to portray the current Parliament as unable to protect the interests of the people.
In reality, everyone knows that the current Parliament is engaged in a fierce and destructive battle with the government to free the country from the legacy of the nullified Parliament whose members are striving to return to the National Assembly at any cost.
This fact should be the window to look at what is happening in Kuwait, a country of a million politicians where everyone sees himself to be an expert on a variety of issues, while failing to ask about the proper means to serve the people with low income.
The low income earners deserve to aspire for more income and to improve their expenditure in a manner that suits their capabilities, not to make them as the focus of campaign slogans when the ones benefitting are the affluent.
If it is required to be fair to the low income earners, then it is imperative to review the entire subsidy system that costs the State about seven billion dinars annually. This could be done by lifting certain subsidies and cutting enough from them to increase the salaries of low income earners who, by the way, constitute not more than 10 percent of the employed citizens.
Indeed, when a citizen realizes that a kilowatt of electricity costs KD 0.060 and the government sells it at KD 0.002, he is the one bearing the cost in place of the owners of investment buildings, real estate, huge villas and places benefiting from the status quo. They will not be harmed by paying electricity and water bills fairly, if everyone is obliged to do so.
The State is not supposed to submit from time to time to these beneficiaries by writing off their bills under the pretext of helping people who are facing difficulties and the same applies to other types of subsidies like rice.
Due to the subsidy system, Kuwait imports 80,000 tons of rice while its actual consumption is only 20,000 tons so whatever remains is sold in the black market, smuggled to other countries or thrown as fodder for animals. This is mere ingratitude.
O HH the Amir of the country… in other countries, which are wealthier than Kuwait, people pay fees to use roads, either when renewing their driving licenses or directly as they intend to use the road, and there are fees to use water drainage.
What harm will it do if an owner of a truck entering from Saudi Arabia, Iraq or any other country, carrying goods valued at about KD 30,000 pay a fee of a hundred dinars or more?
Since 40 years ago, we have been talking about diversification of income, whereas the laws endorsed by consecutive parliaments and the practices of officials in some concerned authorities, e.g. the Public Authority for Industry, rendered Kuwait a country which repels investment, after the nullified MPs made their support to be in control of that authority.
Furthermore, the immigration process and flow of goods discourage and do not help in investing capitals due to Kuwait’s absurd conditions on visitors as if it is the Garden of Aden, such that no one enters it apart from the chosen ones. This will never attract investments. Why don’t we open the country like Turkey and other countries which have become investment paradise?
Let us take Dubai for instance, although I don’t wish to make this comparison, but the situation of the country prompted me to do so. In Dubai, the re-export sales alone are estimated at about 80 billion UAE dirhams annually. This is in addition to what the UAE industries produce and export, making it a focal point of the economy. It does not need crippling bureaucracy as the situation is in our country.
In our country, the Ministry of Commerce issues a license only to be cancelled by the Kuwait Municipality, hampered by the Public Authority of Industry or even the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor which has mastered the art of setting conditions for approving the number of laborers needed by the investor.
Haven’t officials in the country’s administration asked: Why is the country full of marginalized labor due to ‘wasta’ (influence) and bribes that dummy companies offer to bring thousands of laborers from outside only to leave them on the streets, in the name of visa trading which adds burden on the infrastructure?
O HH the Amir … It is now and not tomorrow that we need an administrative revolution to abolish all laws imposed on us by the previous parliaments, laws which control individual demeanor and repress social relations, such as the Segregation Law obliging the State to build separate study halls for men and women, and employing teachers for each gender, thereby, making the country incur more cost. Is it not true?
O HH the Amir … the reports and studies in your possession and prepared by experts, international establishments, World Bank and International Monetary Fund as well as the recommendations in those reports, are enough to rescue the country’s economy because they are based on proper and scientific facts, data and information. These are the ones which should be implemented.
Therefore, we turn to you in putting a stop to every wrong in our country, the same way to stop the frivolity of individuals who were keen on taking control over the central domains of the State by alleging that they are the majority, but in reality, they are the minority — masters of the art of deception.
In countries which witnessed economic or political prosperity and progress, a person with a vision to prosper was behind such advancement. In Singapore, it was Lee Kuan Yew; in Malaysia, it was Mahathir Mohamad; and in Spain, it was GenFranco, and many other such names.
O HH the Amir… experience has proven in the last six decades that the success of countries depended on the private sector in terms of providing services to citizens, whereas the government settled for administrating security, financial policies, foreign affairs, education and health, in addition to declaring peace and war.
This is because in the private sector, people become partners, they consume as per what they own. That is why there is no squandering of public funds, justice prevails and support goes to those who actually need it.
O HH the Amir … you politically rescued our country when the one-vote decree was issued as it warded off those who tarnished political work.
Today, Kuwait is in need of the economic ‘one-vote’ decree. We have big hope in you. May Allah bless you with a healthy life and more success.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times