IS Kuwait really serious about transforming itself into an economic power in the region like its Gulf counterparts, and benefiting from its strategic location? Or does thinking within the box prevent us from seeing what is around us and the changes that have occurred in the past three decades?
The answers to these questions are not complicated, and do not require seminars and conferences. It is quite simple and straightforward.
The solution starts with abolishing the law on residency and sponsorship. This law dates back to the 1960s, and amendments have been made on it instead of developing the laws positively, which made Kuwait more closed to itself, and subject to human traffickers who dumped hundreds of thousands of marginal workers in Kuwait just to earn a few dinars.
In fact, this negative aspect deprives the state of that income. Also, some employees in the ministries and concerned authorities colluded in this forbidden trade. They do not hesitate to place obstacles through irrational decisions to persist in their crime, which is inconsistent with the international treaties signed by Kuwait.
All this is due to the absence of a clear vision on how to kick start the country’s transition process to implement New Kuwait 2035 vision, which seems to continue as ink on paper as long as the visa traders are the ones deciding the country’s economic policy.
All this continues to exist at a time when the majority of the region abolished the “kafeel” (sponsorship) system, and made room for all who wish to enter it by obtaining visas directly from its embassy, or through electronic services. On the other hand, a visa in Kuwait remains a rare currency, and the requirements even reach the point of impossibility.
Here we beg to ask – How do you want to revitalize the national economy when you prevent even the issuance of transit visas, and not only visit visas, which can generate a lot of money for the country? Is this how you will bring foreign investments into the country?
According to some Gulf statistics, about 60 million tourists entered the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council between 2018 and 2020. Guessing Kuwait’s share in that … It is absolutely nothing.
The income of the Emirate of Dubai from tourism alone amounts to about 300 billion dirhams. As for Bahrain, its tourism income before the COVID-19 pandemic had reached about two billion dinars. Saudi Arabia is currently seeking to achieve 80 billion dollars by the year 2026 after the great openness that it witnessed in the past five years.
These countries have taken bold measures to stop visa trade. They abolished the sponsorship system, the latest of which is Qatar whose share of tourism reached 63 billion dirhams in 2019. On the other hand, Kuwait did not record any income from foreign tourists. In fact, its citizens spent more than KD 4.028 billion in 2019 on tourism abroad, in contrast to the rest of the Gulf countries. So we wonder – Does this closure lead to a healthy economic movement?
This crisis is responsible for the underdeveloped sponsorship law. Why is the state not making the sponsor obtain without any complexity a visa for those who want to visit the country and will bear the responsibility of spending on themselves?
This is unlike what is happening now as the deportation centers are crowded with residency law violators. The specific agencies have suspended their campaigns to arrest them due to their inability to accommodate them, especially while waiting for the sponsors to provide a ticket for his or her soon-to-be-deported sponsee.
The abolition of the slavery system titled “Kafeel” will reduce the financial burden on the state, as it spends more on detaining violators than it collects from fees. All this is for the benefit of human traffickers who abuse Kuwait, and the state turns a blind eye on them.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times