Today all top officials and boards of government-owned organizations and companies are headed by Kuwaitis. Even the board members are Kuwaitis. This has been the situation since 1992 based on the “Kuwaitization” policy for replacing expatriates with citizens. As a result, our organizations do not seem to be running efficiently and sufficiently due to lack of discipline, innovation, and creativity.
In all of our governmental departments and companies, the top five positions are for Kuwaitis. As a result, we are facing difficulties in running them efficiently. This situation is evident from oil companies, airport, sea ports and traffic departments to the daily routine of dealing with government sectors where there is total lack of efficiency in almost every department of the government. There is no real productivity and the services are getting poorer, while there are no signs of improvement.
However, in the early 60s, the top positions were taken up by expatriates while the nationals took up the second and third highest positions in order to gain experience and knowhow. The other nationals allowed Kuwaitis to take over gradually and eventually; yes this too happened with the support of expatriates.
Today, the recent example of KPC board’s decisions to approve dealings with trading companies and speculate and play future markets, illustrate our lack of depth in taking such a risky decision without having a strong background about the danger of such a resolution.
We must bring back expatriates to assist us in our decision-making process. Relying on consultants alone is not enough. We should go back to the old days and employee non-nationals in senior positions in all of our departments in order to once again give us the needed experience and not to rely on ourselves alone, especially in the oil sector.
Today, we are running our industry, but totally relying on oil-servicing companies. Most, if not all, of the top five positions are controlled or allocated to Kuwaiti nationals. So how then can we learn? Can we depend on own experience, for instance, which we no longer have?
In the past, we had our own board but the top management was composed of expatriates who were running the business, while the nationals were learning and doing the actual jobs. It is not like the current situation, with all of us being managers or “chiefs while there are not enough Indians”.
Time has come for introducing some fundamental changes, as our human resources are depleted because they are referred for retirement at the age of 50 after up to 30 years of service. Therefore, we no longer can pass our experiences as we have none.
This is the case in all of our K companies that belong to Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC). There is not even a single expatriate in the board, which is in dire need of wider experience and broader vision. In Saudi Aramco, there are a minimum of six to seven expatriates from various American, European and Japanese industries ranging from oil, chemicals, auto industry, finance, and bankers.
Time has come to appoint expatriates in senior positions along with our nationals, unlike the current situation where all top positions from first level all the way to the fourth and fifth are occupied by nationals. This means limited experience and from a single source without any outside influence, education or culture from which the best results can be achieved.
The recent bad decision of KPC board is teaching us a new lesson of bringing back expatriates in the working level as well as in the board of our companies and all government organizations. Fresh and new outlook and outside opinion are necessary to assist us in taking correct and strategic decisions at all levels.
It is the hard reality and a fact that we have to face.
By Kamel Al-Harami – Independent Oil Analyst