THE oil minister’s presentation of the new budget proved that the State is a cash cow. It is an indication that there is no clear and practical development plan, considering salaries and support constitute 71 percent of the budget.
This makes one wonder how the State will implement projects if it sets aside a small portion of the budget for development. Inflation of the salary and support clause is due to parliamentary interference in employment, particularly some MPs pushing for legislation to increase unproductive spending in order to buy electoral loyalty.
These MPs are supposed to be busy endorsing laws that attract investments and encourage citizens to join the private sector to take jobs occupied by expatriates, considering citizens deserve these jobs more than the expatriates.
Governments in some neighboring countries implemented ‘employment replacement’ policies in various sectors and provided incentives for citizens working in the private sector like retail, food industries and many other commercial establishments.
If citizens are working in these fields; they will contribute to efforts to reduce the spending burden of the State and money will remain in the country, not transferred outside. In the last two decades, the consecutive governments failed to present a comprehensive vision for development which can be implemented without hitches.
All we hear about governmental programs are phrases in the future tense such that we are fed up with promises, while we see major projects slipping away due to parliamentary altercations or bickering on quotas. It is not possible to solve the major flaw in the budget without encouraging the private sector to employ citizens in all professions, in addition to changing the role of the State from being a manager to supervisor.
Through this, various sectors like infrastructure, water and electricity will become holding companies where citizens are working. Without a doubt, the crisis of settling bills will end. Even if the price of electricity and water increases, it will not affect the citizen.
Other sectors like health, information and ministries can be privatized in order to reduce the burden that the public fund bears due to spending on these sectors.
The clause on support costs the State KD 5.5 billion annually, whereas the subsidized items provided as a form of support end up in the black market — a lost benefit for the citizen. It is now time to end this State support. If a citizen needs such support, it should be given through salary increase.
Undoubtedly, the public fund will save about four billion dinars once this step is taken. In addition, there should be rational planning in housing welfare by providing apartments for the newlyweds as it is done in several other countries, instead of offering a piece of land and villas. The way public fund is being milked does not look good at all.
The future is grim as long as this situation continues in terms of public spending and succumbing to the will of parliamentarians whose main objective is to siphon the State pocket and that of the future generation in order to satisfy the desire to remain in the Parliament for the longest possible period.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times