Responsible financial reform in safekeeping of the unknown

Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli Former Minister of Oil

IN my opinion, the November election did not produce members who have responsible financial agenda. Majority of the candidates won votes through manipulation of the populace mood by vowing that their income will not be touched regardless of its size.

This phenomenon has been common for the people of Kuwait since the discovery of oil and luxury became a norm in the country, followed by the fraudulent naturalization of people being uncovered day after day.

All of these people are brought together financially in Kuwait based on the principle: “Are you full?” And they reply, “Are there more?” This is supported by some members of the National Assembly who presumably erred when they stood in favor of the recent rationalization and financial reform measures which led to the fuel price hike.

It is unfortunate that the government — both the one which resigned and the new one — does not encourage rationalization and financial reforms because it looks at returns from the fuel price hike estimated at KD150 million on one hand, and on the other hand, it spends hundreds of millions on loans and grants for foreign countries which is a controversial issue.

Many of the countries that were lucky to acquire loan or grant from Kuwait stood against the latter at a time it needed their support during the catastrophe which befell this country — when Saddam Hussein and Iraq’s military forces occupied Kuwait in August 1990 and wiped it out of the political map.

The positions taken by such countries and some organizations baffled Kuwait up to a point they were named ‘countries against …,’ in addition to government spending on funds and organizations invented by some in a bid to please relatives and friends. This is where millions of dinars are spent without returns or benefits.

Add to this the bonuses and allowances given to government employees and its foreign advisors, among many other examples which indicate inability of the government, represented by the finance minister, to propose and execute financial reforms.

Moreover, hundreds are spent on crippled development projects without any return, or holding anyone accountable for violation of contract. With the contractor being above the law, some government employees, who received bribes, allow the value of contracts to exceed millions just for kickbacks which are ‘haram’. Nevertheless, the issue is that those people misbehave because they know nothing will be done to them.

The opinion on government’s inability to take reasonable measures with regard to financial reforms is supported by Fitch Ratings. A newly elected member of the Parliament criticized the ratings and asked Fitch not to interfere in Kuwait’s internal affairs because, according to him, “The people of Kuwait know best about their issues,” vowing to vote against the financial and economic reform document.

I believe the government with its ‘new-old, repeated’ formation will retreat and retract its promises. With its own hands, it will drop the financial and economic reform document. This is why we declare that responsible financial reform measures are now in the safekeeping of the unknown.

By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli

Former Minister of Oil

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