IT seems our executive leaders along with our parliamentarians are heading towards the direction from where everyone else is coming.
At a time when the neighboring countries are opening up to the world and working seriously on diversifying the economy, rendering tourism to be an important element, we on the other hand are increasingly closing our countries and isolating them from the world.
We have been presenting many bills that do not conform to the world in which we are living, as though Kuwait is the paradise that people will rush for.
In Saudi Arabia especially during the summer tourism festival in Jeddah, it is currently possible to receive a tourist visa online within few minutes. In the UAE, you can receive a similar visa within few hours, and also in Bahrain, Oman and Qatar. However, the case is different with Kuwait which behaves as though applicants come to invade and destroy the country.
People of about 200 different nationalities live in the UAE, which represents more than 150 ethnicities and speaks more than 100 languages and dialects.
The population in the UAE is about 8.3 million, and the citizens constitute about 1.95 million. Despite this population structure, the UAE has not been negatively affected by such a diversity and has not lost its identity. In fact, its economic activities continue to increase, and attract more capital. Its tourism sector is thriving despite having a weather pattern that is almost similar to ours in Kuwait.
We have not seen any campaigns on expatriates that reach the extent of discrimination and racism. This is because the state exercises its role decisively, and preserves security, thereby allowing the creatures of Almighty Allah to earn their living and spend whatever they earn.
The talks about refreshing the national economy continue, but the decisions taken contradict these talks. In fact, the decisions that we take restrain our economy, the latest of which is the bill submitted by some MPs to establish a public authority for organizing the population structure.
It is good to have such a public authority if there is an actual threat to the population structure, but not when there is a decrease in the rate of consumption spending among families, which has reached about 35 percent in a year, and fall in the rental values of residential units by about 25 percent. On the other hand, the number of bachelors are increasing to the point that Kuwait is being transformed into a camp for bachelors.
All this is due to the extemporary under-studied decisions that make people wonder if they are meant to benefit the economy or the visa traders.
Those who apply for visas are treated as guilty, even if proven innocent. Visas are not granted until the applicants sweat profusely. On the other hand, in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia, the authority in-charge does not ask the age of the applicant or the objective of their visit; in fact they facilitate many things for the visitors.
A visitor who comes to Kuwait is also accused of wanting to benefit from the free health services provided in government hospitals, as though we are one of the medically advanced countries in the world, when in reality, majority of Kuwaiti citizens go overseas for medical treatment.
Overseas medical treatment is one of the issues from which the stench of corruption and electoral gains emits. If we had a good health infrastructure, the citizens wouldn’t be seeking medical services outside the country.
Irrespective of all that, it is possible to render the medical facilities in the private sector more active. The private healthcare sector has the possibility of launching medical tourism in the country similar to many other countries including some of the neighboring countries. This will definitely revitalize the hotel sector and end the dry spell of hotels, which seem empty throughout the year.
We have the “Hala February” festivities and other seasonal festivals, but they seem like weddings which are meant to be celebrated only by the house owners. We do not see any visitors from outside. Even if we do, they are very small in number despite the fact that such festivals are meant to attract tourism, but who is there to listen?
Our honorable Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior is the most relevant person in this issue. The role of his ministry is vital in this matter. Much good can be achieved for the country if the granting of visas is facilitated in order to help push the wheel of economy. This is due to the fact that a visitor will come to spend either when receiving health services or for tourism or even learning in the private universities.
Kuwait is working on launching the northern region economy project, primarily, the Al-Hariri City (Silk City), even though the way it currently looks, the tendencies of the MPs and the current backwardness aimed at bringing an end to the concept of pushing forward the wheel of economy would render this Silk City to become burlap.
May Allah be of help for those who are striving to ensure progress for this country amid such mentality that is dominating the legislative decision and fear among some executive officials!
It is inevitable for Kuwait to open up to the world, which should start with facilitating easy access to obtaining entry visa. This is the role of the honorable Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior more than of any other official.
Regarding everyone else, it is time to get rid of the political schizophrenia, either openness or lethal isolation. We should move in the direction that everyone else has taken, instead of heading towards where people are coming from.
Dear honorable Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Kuwait is in need of revolutionizing decisions and procedures in order to majestically enter the present, instead of languishing in the past that will never return as long as extemporary, suspicious and isolating mentalities continue to dominate. Such mentalities will render us almost similar to what South Africa was during the Apartheid era.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times