FOR more than two years, we have been warning of what the country could descend into in the absence of a well-studied economic and financial reform strategy that takes into account the changes in the global oil market. And when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Kuwait, we rang the alarm bell several times after seeing the confusion in the procedures, but the government was and continues to be heedless.
What the Governor of the Central Bank of Kuwait Dr. Mohammad Al-Hashel said at the “Financial Stability” forum is an explicit recognition of “the fall of the ax on the head”. He revealed the inability of officials to seriously deal with both financial and economic matters, the flimsy justifications and illogical arguments that still prevail in the government, and its wrangles with the parliamentarians who have mastered the art of lying to people. They take advantage of the current crisis to tickle the feelings of voters by raising the slogan of “Do not touch the citizen’s pocket”.
This slogan has been used dozens of times over the past two years, and the same continues to extend around the neck of the economy and stifle its breath through delay and suspension of development projects. In addition, the failure to support small entrepreneurs came as a punch below the belt.
Therefore, it is a wonder that the officials see all this but do not move a finger, unless it is believed that adding tea, salmon fillets and breadcrumbed shrimp to the ration card is considered as a support for the citizens in order to avoid touching their pockets!
It is assumed that the executive authority researches, studies and consults with institutions that prepare plans before it takes appropriate decisions in anticipation of the expected problems. However, it seems the advisors are only proficient in “rot”; hence the confusion that worsened matters, while the concerned international institutions herald us with further downgrading of the sovereign rating.
In the forum, several extremely uncomfortable signals were made in this regard. Did they hear those voices that concern them? Did they realize the seriousness of the words of the governor of the Central Bank of Kuwait? Or are things still “no worries, it will all be well”?
The government did not take any rational measures to stop this decline. Instead of tactical remedies, the crisis deepened – first with its decision to expel the expertise, then by not attracting foreign investments, followed by its refusal to pass laws for stimulating the revitalization of the economic movement, in addition to its usual argument that the parliament did not approve the public debt law.
The government could have taken a leaf out of the bold steps taken by the Tunisian President Qais Saied in dissolving the National Assembly after making sure that this institution is not working towards achieving the aspirations of the people.
When the sovereign rating was at its best, there was a possibility that the government would borrow $100 billion or $200 billion, and use that amount in foreign investments to improve the sovereign money and revitalize the national economy, like other Gulf countries including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is currently living its best days.
There is no doubt that there is still an opportunity to address everything that the Central Bank of Kuwait governor said. It needs a bold decision and a capable government; otherwise what the days carry will not be comfortable for Kuwait and its people. Instead of not touching the citizen’s pocket, the government will probably take “scrap” from him.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times