I do not know why I now remembered the book titled “Kitaab Al-Bubkalaa” (The Book of Misers) written in the ninth century by Al-Jahiz — one of the greatest exponents of Arabic prose of all time.
The book narrated the anecdotes of this group of people — misers — who exist at all times and in all places.
We may excuse misers who recently became wealthy and their fear of returning to poverty, or even exposing their families and heirs to poverty due to their lavish spending.
However, we cannot excuse corporations that operate locally, enjoying the significant generosity of our successive rational governments that have no leash on the charges and prices set by these corporations for the services they offer.
I am talking about the three telecommunication companies operating in Kuwait. I hope their esteemed owners, me being one of the shareholders, will bear with me in what I am going to write about.
The telecom companies in Kuwait earn hundreds of millions from the public — both citizens and expatriates. There is no one — not even children — who do not use mobile phones. These companies make huge sums of money without breaking a sweat. There is no need for stores, factories, inventors, engineers, or even technicians; all that is needed are just antennas which are all around us.
We have unlimited access to the new communication platforms that we use round the clock without taking into account any kind of considerations. We use the services provided by these telecom companies through which we browse the Internet and chat through voice and written messages, whereas these companies are busy with what they excel in by preoccupying themselves with business that could almost run on its own.
At the end of the month, bills are sent. Failure to clear these bills leads to disconnection of the line, travel ban, and even arrest warrants. In addition to all this, the oversight authority — Ministry of Communication — got disbanded, to be left with the blind, deaf and mute telecommunication authority. The officials of this authority and those of the telecom companies are connected on personal level.
I am speaking here on the basis of the fact that we have not yet heard of any financial contributions from any of these multi-earning companies during this period when COVID-19 is choking the whole world.
The government has spent billions of dinars, and individuals and institutions have spent tens of millions of dinars as contributions to cushion the negative effects of the coronavirus crisis in a bid to alleviate the conditions we are currently living in; all apart from “the misers in the corona era”.
I love Kuwait, and I believe you do too. Let us stay at home.
Ramadan Kareem to you all!
By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli
Former Minister of Oil