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It happens only in Kuwait … ‘Take’ 10!

Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli

OUR well-guided government decided to privatize two companies – the Bourse and Al-Zour. The shares of these two companies were floated for initial public offering (IPO) for all the citizens. So far, this issue is normal, given that it has happened tens of times in the past decades.

What is abnormal is the way a government department pampered its personnel and lifted them to a high position without breaking a sweat.

This department is managed and supervised by a minister who issued a decision to float the shares of these two companies for public offering. However, leading authorities in the Fatwa and Legislation Department of Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs decided to render the IPO religiously illegal, i.e., “haram”, and this leaves common citizens in a confusion.

Throughout time, this department and its ministry have come to be known as “a state within a state”. It is ruled by a specific group of people in the society who are known by their appearance and characteristics.

The so-called illegitimacy of the IPO in question and as per the understanding of the Fatwa and Legislation Department, dealing with these two companies through the IPO bears a suspicion of “riba” (usury).

The same jurisprudent thinking render it permissible, i.e. “halal” to deal with transactions which are above usury, but under the condition that such transactions adopt other names such as “Murabaha” or “lease-to-own” and the rest of smart jurisprudence tools, whereas the outcome is the same.

You receive a loan from an ordinary bank at an interest of … percent in order to pay interest as a result of enjoying the loaned money, whereas you pay “murabaha” or “lease-to-own” in installments which sometimes could exceed the declared interest, but in the eyes of the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs’ think-tank, it is absolutely “halal”.

The Al-Zour Refinery and the Kuwait Bourse are two government establishments like the Fatwa and Legislation Department in the “Salafist” Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs. So how can these institutions contradict each other? Where is the ministerial solidarity?

I personally believe this deplorable condition we are experiencing due to the unacceptable laxity of the government will never be of any benefit unless the ministers of Oil and Finance, under whose portfolios these two companies fall, or the minister of Awqaf and Islamic, in whose independent ministry is the Fatwa and Legislation Department, resign.

Would they dare to resign or will they cling to their seats with every influence, strength and ‘wasta’ they possess?

If this happened in another country that respects itself, many big heads would have been chopped off, but in Kuwait – May God have mercy – where such things happen despite being irrational, illogical and eccentric, and unfortunately, these things recur amid the government’s deafening silence on this mess.

Sufficient for us is Allah, and He is the best Disposer of affairs with those who have rendered us in this administrative and political abyss.

By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli

Former Minister of Oil

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