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WE turn directly to the political leadership and His Highness the Prime Minister to talk about a painful reality that must be confronted boldly; away from emotions and fuss — the reality of drugs, financial corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public money. These maladies need surgical remedy which, some may see as strange or a luxury, but the reality shows the necessity to focus on them.
The Kuwaiti courts have issued more than 50,000 rulings over the course of 10 years against people accused of involvement in drug cases. Security data indicate that there are about 40,000 users of psychotropic substances and the money obtained from them is estimated at billions. This necessitates a radical change in the method of combating such a horrific phenomenon.
In addition, when studies prove that the amount of direct corruption in the country is estimated at KD 1.2 billion annually, while the indirect corruption is estimated at KD3 billion; this means the country will suffer for a long time from the negative consequences of the two phenomena, which strike the depths of society, while the formal treatments are pushing for their expansion.
One of such phenomena is the flow of drugs from abroad or local manufacturing, along with the increase in the number of users. This entails expansion of all kinds of crimes.
Secondly, the citizen will find himself obliged to go along with the corrupt and indulge in corruption against his will.
In both cases, the security and health bills of the State will increase. Then, the State will find itself facing two ferocious beasts, which will lead to a third and more dangerous crime — money laundering entering the legitimate financial system.
In the past, several countries suffered from both phenomena. Hence, they found it necessary to change their strategies. First, by modernizing laws, toughening penalties and changing the patterns of work in their institutions. Second, continuous public awareness campaigns on the effects of the two afflictions on society. Third, changing the national currency with new numbers to absorb the illegal cash mass, expose its magnitude and investigate its sources to dry them out. The national currency is one of the sources of State sovereignty, and its strength reflects the strength of the economy.
Therefore, the issuance of new currency is one of the most important solutions that countries resort to in order to boost the economy. This could bring money that will circulate in the parallel market from outside the official channels of economic and financial activities, while the old one is removed from circulation and the quantities that have not been replaced are cancelled.
Governments, including that of Kuwait, are aware of money laundering; but they do not have the legal basis to confiscate such money, because it passes through legitimate channels with a known commercial cover. It is difficult to track such money.
Thus, changing the national currency within a specific period will dry up the sources of drug money and corruption. This is due to the fact that dealers of psychotropic substances and the corrupt will have to take whatever is under their mattresses to replace it with the new currency. Without a doubt, they will be questioned about the source of the huge money they possess.
All of these will definitely realign the economic wheel in the country, and strengthen the citizens’ confidence in the nation and the national currency; away from illegally acquired money.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times