Long list of priorities needs clear governmental vision and strong leader
The government has promised 15 objectives to our newly elected Parliament last week. They are a mix of goals varying from fighting corruption to improving government services and infrastructure. Oil, being an element of top priority, continues with its weak level. It is still within the $50 per barrel range, which is far too short of the $85 a barrel standard set for our balanced budget.
Finding new sources of income is currently ranked number 9 in the list of objectives, while fighting corruption is ranked number 1. This should not be the case, as fighting corruption should be an ongoing process for the state with its freedom of press and media of almost full transparency for all sorts of media all over Kuwait. Despite the fact that there is increased civil and governmental move to fight against corruption almost in every field besides the Parliament and the State Audit Bureau, a fact to keep in mind is that oil alone can no longer be considered the only source of income considering the ongoing deficit reaching the sixth consecutive year. The long list of priorities needs clear governmental vision and a strong leader to lead these objectives.
It needs a coach or a manager to implement such goals. Economic reforms should be our utmost priority, as fighting corruption is supposed to be part of any government’s priority without any announcements. It should be its core motive and responsibility … that is simple common sense, unlike economic reform that Kuwait is embarking on, as we are facing a real shortage of funds and we must borrow. However, borrowing will not receive the necessary approvals due to the many conditions and demands that will be imposed by the parliament before any approvals.
Solving the issue of shortage of funds must come with a complete package which may probably include imposing Value Added Tax (VAT). This is implemented in all Gulf countries except Kuwait, ignoring the fact it will hurt the economies of our neighboring countries. Out of the 15 goals or objectives, none seem to be implementable, as they are all mixed up and are simply written as part of regular routine presentation with every new parliament.
These 15 points are hard to implement as they come in a mixed bag under one speech. It will require new processes, new thinking and strategy, and perhaps a new full team that can be trusted with implementing these goals and objectives. There are other challenges that need to be addressed such as creating jobs for the approximately 20,000 fresh Kuwaiti graduates every year, privatization, pushing for other sources of income, and figuring out the tools and mechanisms needed to move forward instead of backward as we do now. These objectives and goals need a dedicated, hard working, and committed work team with clear, sincere and practical plans. Such a thing is not refl ected in the current Cabinet.
Any plans should be accompanied with dates, numbers and figures. Written composition that is far away from reality becomes mere words. In conclusion, we wish the government all the best and for it to succeed so that we will not be disappointed. It will certainly be for the good of all of us. Nevertheless, Kuwait is facing a challenging time economically and we must face it openly, considering we are blessed with our wealthy sovereign wealth fund, the annual interest income of which should be utilized for financing long-term viable projects outside the oil arena. Here we need brains to come with bright ideas. Should the government succeed with its 15 items for economic reform, then it will be another added value to benefit from.
By Kamel Al-Harami Independent Oil Analyst