THE loan issue has become a source of daily apprehension for thousands of citizens, while someone is profiting from it politically without presenting any practical solution.
This is happening with the government having a blind eye for the sake of serving the interests of a group of creditors who control the fate of a significant number of citizens. This issue concerns most citizens directly or indirectly, especially since civil financial cases have been filed against about 80,000 citizens.
Therefore, it is imperative to talk about the issue frankly to the furthest limit without reservations, because disclosure leads to plausible solution. If some people claim injustice in writing off debts because not all Kuwaitis endure such a burden, then the reality is that writing off the burden will be in the form of assisting defaulters for them to be equal with the other citizens.
In all other countries, the State usually compensates the victims of natural disasters and nothing is given to those who were not affected. In this case, the loans of citizens can be dealt with on the basis of victim’s compensation just like what happened after the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation.
Article 25 of the Constitution clearly states: “The State shall ensure solidarity of society in shouldering burdens resulting from public disasters and calamities…” This issue is part of public calamities.
Some are against the idea of writing off debts on grounds that debtors should bear the consequences of taking loans while knowing they are unable to pay. This idea is partially sound, but it neglects the enticements that creditors present — whether banks or investment institutions; in addition to the high living standards which push people to take loans.
In all other countries, offi- cial institutions take practical procedures such as seizing the property of the defaulter; not imposing travel ban on citizens or barring them from renewing the residency permits of their employees or licenses of their vehicles as such acts are tantamount to depriving them of their most basic rights. Such acts are in violation of the Constitution, even logic and rationality.
It is undisputable that irrespective of the level of hardship, a Kuwaiti will never leave his country for good; thus, imposing travel ban on citizens because of loans is absolutely unnecessary. However for expatriates, the threat of them fleeing the country is real, so the creditors will incur losses.
It is unfortunate for a citizen to be barred from traveling or accomplishing transactions just because he failed to pay a phone bill, car installment or even two Kuwait dinars as it happened to many citizens. In fact, this does not happen even in underdeveloped countries which deal with the issue in a more flexible manner than how it is handled in Kuwait.
In every country including the United States of America, governments endorsed economic and financial stimulus packages when financial crisis hit the world in 2008; except Kuwait where baseless voices were raised against any stimulus measure.
But if the matter concerned them, we would have seen them running day and night to benefit from the financial aid. If the loan crisis affected major businesses, we would have seen them running to MPs to demand for intercession in endorsing a law that would protect them.
As long as the matter concerns ordinary people, we will continue to see big mouths emitting many theories to prevent the government from taking any fair measure. There are several solutions considering that banks insure loans. The Central Bank has various means to protect them, not to mention the huge profits that banks gain. The government, with the help of the Parliament, can endorse a law obligating banks to write off the interests on loans or the government can guarantee them provided the citizens pay within 20 or 30 years.
Without a doubt, the government and the banks will not lose any fils. Another solution is to reschedule payment of loans to 20 or 30 years after writing off the interest. If all these solutions are rejected, the government should at least reconsider the judicial process by amending the law or canceling measures which restrict citizens’ freedom of movement.
Evidently, there is exploitation especially when a defaulter is thrown into prison as his family and friends are forced to raise funds to secure his release.
The greed of lenders has blinded them. It is unfortunate that institutions in the Interior Ministry have become debt collectors for companies and lenders by pursuing and arresting defaulters, which will eventually cause social and family problems.
This means absence of mercy. This is in violation of the Constitution, particularly the principle stipulated in Article 25 as mentioned above.
We put these suggestions and the reality in the hands of our leader. We all know our leader has the desire and ability to address this issue. We also put the matter in the hands of the Parliament whose duty is to take the side of citizens, without coming up with justifications which serve only a few as this malignant tumor continues to spread in the society while someone is profiting politically from the suffering of citizens.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times