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YOUR Highness, we address you directly without any preambles because the matter does not bear much talk. We hope that this message will be among the priorities of the future government, and that it is constituted as an act and not as a word sent in its work program.
Since the beginning, Your Highness initiated a campaign for rationalizing spending and combating wastage and corruption. However, the three governments that you preceded over did not take a single measure in this regard. All we saw was the show of referring people to the anti-corruption authority, while unjustified waste in the ministries continued on the ground.
Let’s take as an example the Ministry of Health, which seems to need a doctor to treat its chronic ailments.
The government allocates to this ministry a budget of KD 2.7 billion annually. In the past six years, the government spent about KD 16.2 billion on this particular ministry. However, the health facilities, which consumed all this amount, did not develop in a manner that corresponds with the budget allocations, even though these allocations equal the total budget of some countries, to put the health services in Kuwait in the frontline.
What happened in the past years?
The infrastructure of the health facilities declined, the number of malpractice cases increased, and the rate of overseas treatment trips increased, which annually consumes about KD 135 million just from this particular ministry, while other ministries spend about KD 100 million for this purpose.
It is true that a large part of this amount is used for electoral bribery for MPs, which is evidence of the bad medical sector. Of course, we will not talk to you about medicines being taken from the ministry’s pharmacies and sold on the black market or smuggled abroad. That is another disaster that proves the ministry’s inability to monitor and control its affairs.
Your Highness, in Britain, Sweden, France, Norway, the United States, and other countries whose wealth is greater than that of Kuwait, they have a diversified economy, not like ours where we eat when the oil price goes up, and we become hungry when it falls. They adopt a comprehensive insurance system for all citizens and expatriates, and have privatized a large part of its health sector, with the exception of hospitals dealing with chronic and incurable diseases as well as psychological care, and homes for the elderly. The same was done by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well.
These countries have also imposed group insurance on expatriate workers in their companies. For example, if the number of employees in the company is 1,000, 100 of them get insured. When one of them falls ill, he takes with him the insurance details in which no specific name of the holder is mentioned, and he hence receives the required care.
This procedure would reduce the burden on the Ministry of Health, stop wastage, and raise the capacity of private hospitals. The state could lease its hospitals to major companies, maintain oversight and also benefit financially.
Your Highness, real reform begins with the opening of files that are deemed as a source of wastage and corruption, and addressing its causes, not the results, which will remain as long as the underlying cause has not been eradicated.
The Ministry of Health is not the only one that seems more like Ali Baba’s cave and the hundred thieves who are distributed over its entire facilities. There is also the Ministry of Education which we will talk about it on different occasion, the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Electricity and Water, the subsidizing of commodities, and other ministries in which experts say that rationalizing actual spending and stopping wastage can save the state more than KD 10 billion annually. Saving this much amount would not only address the fiscal deficit, but also stimulate the national economy.
Your Highness, there is a Turkish proverb – “By the advice, he crossed the mountain, and he who did not accept it erred even on the plain”. We hope that you will accept our advice so that you do not err on the plain.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times