During the last days of Ramadan, I used to visit Free Trade Zone in Shuwaikh regularly because I was working on furnishing the office of Kuwait Friendship Society.
I felt gloomy whenever I was in that place. It was previously filled with manufacturers, businessmen and owners of new projects. All of a sudden, everybody left, leaving Free Trade Zone behind for those who seek the failure of the project. In fact, those people succeeded in their mission, as the area has become desolate with vacant iron structures and uncompleted buildings as well as tens of advertisements for renting out the buildings but without any response. Streets are in a deteriorated state with lots of potholes, dirty sidewalks and yards filled with garbage as well as stray dogs wandering around the place but extremely emaciated.
Jameel Al-Sultan once had a dream of establishing an active and fruitful free trade zone but he died heartbroken not only because his dream was not fulfilled but also because of the actions taken against him.
We neither want to criticize the court verdict issued against him nor carp about the reasons that led to the obliteration of the idea of establishing a free trade zone. Instead, we want to talk about the future of Free Trade Zone.
The government represented by Ministry of Commerce and Industry took over Free Trade Zone; and contradictory decisions followed in succession which resulted in the destruction of Free Trade Zone. Then, a former minister of Commerce and Industry had assigned Public Authority for Industry to run Free Trade Zone temporarily until a suitable solution was found.
However, Public Authority for Industry could do nothing more than dealing with Free Trade Zone just like the way it deals with the Shuwaikh garages in terms of the issuance and renewal of rent contracts and collection of rents. Basically, Public Authority for Industry was not qualified for running such a project.
In my opinion, Khalid Al-Rawdhan is one among the best ministers of Commerce and Industry since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Perhaps he is the best of them all. I believe Al-Rawdhan is capable of reviving Free Trade Zone under new regulations such as handing it over to a shareholding company for the next 20 to 30 years.
Kuwait is in urgent need of a free trade zone that is not involved in the complications witnessed in ministries. It should be a free trade zone that is truly free instead of being an area where ghosts reproduce and ruin reigns.
The geographic location of Kuwait and the strategic location of Free Trade Zone qualify it to play vital role in free trade without facing any obstacles prevalent in government departments such as bureaucracy.
Many of those who invested their money in Free Trade Zone suffered major losses while others lost everything they had. Some of them shifted their businesses to Bahrain and Dubai. They might come back to Kuwait if they see seriousness and an encouraging investment environment that is devoid of governmental bureaucracy.
O’ Abu Nasser, the issue is in your hands. All you have to do is visit the Free Trade Zone, preferably at night, and see for yourself what I say here. You will see the extent of neglect a place in Kuwait can face such that it is illogical.
By Ahmad Al-Sarraf