IT IS now time for Kuwaitis to face the bitter reality. It is time for the government to stop using the tone of flattery in dealing with the worsening economic crisis that has been battering our country, just like other oil-producing countries which depended on oil as the only source of income and did not benefit from oil in terms of diversifying national revenues.
The time has come for us to set matters straight. The extravagance and squandering of funds have been the major features of our budget throughout the past decades. It is time to completely stop such acts, if we really want to leave the wealth we enjoyed for years to our children and grandchildren, and to avoid leaving them in debt and poverty.
This can be done only by taking drastic measures to pull out the source of crisis from its roots, instead of using sedatives to reduce the pain while the disease keeps on getting worse.
Since the export of the first oil shipment in the 1940s, the government has been subsidizing goods and commodities because of the economic environment at the time. However, there have been changes in the last six decades due to the continuous population growth, so a significant portion of the budget now goes to subsidies.
This turned out to be a public fund catastrophe caused by random ill-advised employments, in addition to the overseas medical tourism in the last two decades – a new way of squandering public funds coated with political and electoral exploits.
Today, under the latest crisis and after some GCC countries, which have a more stable economy than Kuwait, took austerity measures and lifted subsidies; it is time for our government and parliament to deal with this issue seriously. They must let go of political and electoral flatteries heard from our finance and trade ministers, among others.
It is time to face the Kuwaitis with courage, especially the people with limited income who bear most of the cost of public fund wastage, whether through delays in the implementation of strategic projects or distribution of medicines or the prices of commodities considering the subsidy value goes into the pockets of commercial ‘mafias’ or those who ‘smuggle’ these goods to other countries.
Indeed, it is now imperative to lift subsidies. If the poor Kuwaitis deserve support, there must be a better and more practical way of helping them or just grant them the goods and services for free, instead of using them as an excuse to avoid acknowledgement of the inability to stop the misappropriation and wastage of public money.
Kuwaitis with limited income do not have a fleet of luxury cars or palaces where the wastage of fuel, electricity and water happen. In fact, most of them have four-cylinder cars which are enough to cater for their needs. They conserve electricity and water in order to avoid paying high bills, whereas those who enjoy squandering and wasting public funds don’t have to pay electricity and water bills.
On the overseas medical tourism, why not improve and develop the entire health infrastructure and its facilities and seek global medical expertise to provide treatment and other medical services in Kuwait? Whoever is able to go overseas, must shoulder their expenses.
We are not exaggerating if we say that Kuwait is the only country in the world which pays for the overseas treatment of its people, more than what it spends on the development of its health facilities. Until when will the country remain captive in the hands of MPs and exploiters?
Let us talk frankly. It is inevitable to lift subsidies. It is necessary and urgent; hence, the need to do so along with serious measures to set up proper principles and policies on the diversification of income.
This should be done in order to avoid being left under the mercy of staggering oil price. At the moment, there is no indication that the price of oil will return to what it was in the past.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times