In a previous article, I had criticized the miserable conditions prevalent in the Free Trade Zone. I talked about how it has transformed into a place for stray dogs, large quantities of garbage and vacant buildings. I called upon Minister of Commerce and Industry to restore its former role.
What I wrote did not sit well with Mr Muhammad Ali Al-Qadi. On July 12, he sent me a letter which included some sarcastic messages. Before I answer him, I would like to clarify a fact which is based on the doubting characteristic of Kuwaitis. This fact is that there is nothing that links me with the Free Trade Zone or with the late Jamil Al-Sultan. I also have nothing to do with the National Real Estate Company and I never possessed any shares in it.
Al-Qadi explained that the land on which the Free Trade Zone was established was never intended to be used for running a free trade zone. The concept behind a free trade zone (which, according to him, is not clear to me) is allocation of an area that is not a subject to the customs laws enforced by the state as well as availability of a number of facilities related to entry of foreigners and their residency for fixed periods. The aim is to catalyze the re-export process by removing the customs charges imposed on imported goods and allowing them to be re-exported again.
He went on to explain that it also requires the installation of a fence around the free trade zone in order to prevent the infiltration of goods that are intended for re-exporting to the local market.
Al-Qadi said what happened since the first day of the inauguration of the Free Trade Zone was illegal and in violation of the laws based on which the free trade zone was established.
He stressed that part of the Free Trade Zone was used as headquarters for some government bodies, and the gates were always open for allowing the entry and exit of goods and for deals to be set, adding that such violating actions became part of the normal Kuwaiti attitude in terms of violating the laws.
All this was followed by the sarcasm of Al-Qadi when he enquired about the reason behind my frustration over the conditions at the Free Trade Zone. I will stop quoting now. I will overlook the accusations directed at me by him about the reason behind my desire for the Free Trade Zone to return to what it was before. I will not reply to his statement that my request to the Minister of Commerce and Industry includes calling for legalizing violations because, as I have said earlier, this is not the purpose of this article.
Jamil Al-Sultan has passed away and will not able to reply and I will not replace him for such task. My objective is different. It is the objective that Al-Qadi could not catch from reading between the lines of my article.
Listen dear Al-Qadi, the current conditions of Free Trade Zone is applicable to an authority that rescued a child who was maltreated by his parents and then thrown out on the streets to beg for food.
The laws of the Free Trade Zone were enforced to be respected. Those who violate them must be punished just like those who violate the traffic laws. If the General Traffic Department delayed in issuing citations, the violations will increase to such an extent that they will cover all parts of Kuwait.
Did the government try to put an end to those violations? Did it order for the installation of a fence around the Free Trade Zone? The managing company ran Free Trade Zone based on a contract that was bound by the relevant laws. If the company violated those laws, the responsibility would fall on both the company that violated the laws and the authority that did not punish the company and chose to instead withdraw the Free Trade Zone from the company.
Therefore, the decision to withdraw Free Trade Zone from the company was wrong and it was not in the favor of the citizens, traders or the managing company. Everybody is loser while only envious are happy.
What you did not realize Mr Muhammad is that I requested the minister to intervene in the matter in order to restore and revive the spirit of the Free Trade Zone. I did not request anything for the heirs of Jamil Al-Sultan or even for the National Real Estate Company.
Lastly, the government that previously had appointed you for a number of honorable and senior positions and in a number of committees that did not result in the correction of the economic track is the same government that delayed in correcting the mistakes. It is this government that led the situation in Free Trade Zone to its current miserable state, but you never criticized the government.
By Ahmad Al-Sarraf