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FOR nearly five decades, the subsidy has become like a perforated bag that drains the State treasury; while increasing the wealth of the rich and burdening those with limited income.
Successive governments failed to find a logical solution to this ‘hemorrhage’, because of populism on their part or that of successive parliaments for fear of eroding the popular balance in each of them.
On the other hand, the State has been under pressure due to the budget deficit for years. This deficit accumulates year after year, until it reached a record level in 2021 — KD 10 billion, while the actual expenditure totaled KD 21.3 billion.
Perhaps, it will be useful to recall the pension crisis and how the government ‘failed’ to secure such a small amount; as well as the settlements between the previous government and National Assembly, along with the protest action of pensioners to emphasize the absence of proper planning about this financial matter.
Without a doubt, the imbalance started with the approval of the subsidy to help citizens at the beginning of the oil boom. Given that the subsidy policy was not built on the right foundation, it continued to pile up until it reached the level at which the State could no longer reconcile its income and expenditure.
This happened at a time most countries, which subsidize goods and services, amended their laws to harmonize with their incomes; while some Gulf countries changed that policy completely because it reached the point of injustice inflicted on citizens as a result of the rich benefiting from subsidies and using them to keep on accumulating wealth.
It is ironic that Kuwait is the only country in the region which has not solved this problem. Rather, it expanded the scope of subsidies to include some luxury goods — a popular scam. These luxury goods were added to tea, salmon fillet and breaded shrimp in the ration card.
Also, when electricity and water are almost free, the owners of palaces and luxury homes do not feel the wastage at a time the price of a liter of gasoline is cheaper than any other country. It does not bother those who have the ability to own luxury cars, which consume in a day what a small car consumes in a week.
This is in addition to free medical care and medical tourism which, by all accounts, led to wastage of medicine, equipment and money. The same applies to education, which costs the State billions, while the result is an almost illiterate graduation.
All of this can change if the next government realizes the huge financial challenges the country is facing in the absence of non-oil revenues and lack of proper support for the needy.
It would have been more appropriate to allocate the wasted money for the implementation of development projects, to lay down smart plans to help people with limited income by raising their salaries as it happened in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the establishment of segments for the consumption of electricity and water.
Undoubtedly, those advocating for the so-called ‘social justice theory’ are considered a smoke screen. It is not justice for the citizen, because such people are keen on ensuring the bag of public money remains pierced and riches falling on them. They do not care if the future of the next generation must be protected. Majority of their investments are abroad and their children do not live in the country. Rather, they view Kuwait as a market that they can reap and where they do not build any root.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times