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AFTER 75 DAYS … GOVERNMENT REVIEWING PERFORMANCE, STANCES
Many successes achieved, of which citizen has no share
■ Government’s program includes giant projects, but left the impression that it only cares about the structure, not the human being
■ Government rejected ‘retirees’ benefits’ without batting an eye despite its promise to improve their conditions
■ Last salary increase was more than 15 years ago in spite of the terrible inflation and steady price hikes
■ Strategic alternative to the salary scale is like a rare gem whose goal is financial sustainability, not improving the citizen’s livelihood
■ The two authorities prioritized political laws at the expense of the demands and needs of citizens
■ Executive authority is stagnant in terms of dealing with urgent files, zero effort!
■ Neighboring countries have turned into manufacturing and exporting nations, while Kuwait still imports almost everything
■ Some laws are obstacles to development, the legislative authority must meet the good expectations of the leadership
■ Decision-making circles are closely monitoring the Bedoun issue and want to end it without harming higher interests
■ The ‘Cassation’ ruling regarding the unconstitutionality of the travel ban is a signal for decision-making circles to act accordingly.
■ Some laws are outdated and have not been amended for 50 years, they must be developed to keep pace with the present needs
■ Diversification of sources of income and ending dependence on oil files receive great attention from decision-making circles.
KUWAIT CITY, Sept 2: With today’s sunrise, the fifth government of His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah completes 75 days since its inception according to Decree 116 of 2023 issued on June 18, 2023. If it is a political tradition for the government to submit a list of its achievement 100 days after its formation, then 75 days should be sufficient to evaluate its performance to a certain extent. The fifth government came after the pivotal and historic parliamentary election, when everyone witnessed transparency and integrity.
The election results were protected by the rulings of the Constitutional Court regarding the appeals it received. Although the previous (fourth) government organized the election, it can be said with satisfaction that the success of the election and the strength of its results in the midst of attempts to challenge them can also be credited to the current government, given that the latter is a relatively modified version of its predecessor and there is no significant difference between them.
The government presented its program to the 17th legislative term of the National Assembly entitled, “Adjusting the Course: A Productive Economy and Sustainable Welfare”. It includes 133 projects — capital projects and others. These projects are aimed at improving the quality of life of the people, enhancing their well-being, raising Kuwait’s educational and health rating, increasing the productivity of the government sector, and improving the participation of the private sector. The program is clear and practical, and most importantly, it is implementable, as it includes timetables for each project. It reflects the existence of a clear vision, even if it has been the subject of disagreement or controversy over some details, and although it did not contain any reference to fundamental issues such as political reform, Bedouns, and priority of the people who deserve subsidy and care.
Although the program includes a huge number of giant projects in infrastructure and vital industries; it left an impression for many that it is concerned with the structure only, not the human being, even though the latter is the focal point of development — the engine of development and the locomotive of change. This impression was strengthened among many during the meetings of government officials with members of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee to discuss “the fair demands and entitlements of retirees; including pension increment, increasing minimum pension to KD 1,000 and increasing the soft loan ceiling to 21 times the salary.”
The government rejected these proposals without batting an eye despite its repeated promises to improve the standard of living of retirees whose conditions have become unacceptable. This position resulted in the indefinite postponement of talks on the entire issue! The government took same the path regarding the proposal to increase salaries in spite of the fact that the last increment was in 2008, that is, about 15 years ago. Despite the terrible inflation and steady rise in prices, the government is contented with referring to the strategic alternative to the salary scale project, which was described as like “a rare gem” that we hear about, but have never seen.
Then, the resigned Minister of Finance came out to confirm that any treatment of the strategic alternative to the salary scale must “not affect the sustainability of the State’s finances or the government’s ability to launch concrete projects,” through which everyone understood that the goal is not to improve the standard of living of citizens. In the same context, the government cooperated, to a large extent, with the Assembly in issuing four laws as follows: adding more segments to the beneficiaries of the health insurance (Afia), establishing housing city construction companies, and amending the Election and Constitutional Court laws. Despite the optimism that prevailed following the ratification of these four laws, and that the last two laws in particular will contribute to correcting the course of political action; the political laws gave majority of citizens the impression of bias between the two authorities and a defect in their priorities, as members of both sides focused on their own demands, not the demands and needs of the ordinary people.
These conditions have contributed to the continuation of the state of popular stalling and distress. Everywhere I go in Kuwait, everyone is frustrated and restless. This situation is especially fostered by corruption scandals, to the point that everyone feels the country is threatened by waves of the damned corruption, attacks on rights and curtailment of freedoms without limit. None of the executive officials whom people describe as good is moving a finger, as they remain stagnant and effort has been zero — nothing has been done.
In this regard, sources close to senior decision-making circles affirmed their understanding of the dissatisfaction of some groups, saying: “Those who complain about the situation have every right to do so; because they see neighboring countries recording new achievements every day, issuing decisions to improve the conditions of their people and transforming into manufacturing, producing and exporting countries, while Kuwait still imports almost everything.” Sources believe that “the laws in Kuwait constitute a major obstacle to the development of the country. Thus, the legislative authority must live up to the good faith of the leadership, which has given full support for the development of Kuwait. This is why the ball is now in the legislature’s court.”
Sources pointed out that neighboring countries resolved the Bedoun issue long ago and it no longer exists in their dictionary, while Kuwait is still suffering from it. The issue has turned into a snowball that grows daily even though the solution is easy. This necessitates a legal framework that the legislative authority should work on.” They added: “The decision-making circles are closely monitoring this matter, as they want to end it without harming the supreme interests of the State.” Sources tackled another issue concerning citizens.
They stated: “The Court of Cassation’s decision on the unconstitutionality of the travel ban was greatly welcomed by citizens. This was a sufficient signal for the higher decision-making circles on what should be done about ending the injustice suffered by many citizens, especially those who obtained personal loans, taking into consideration the loan amounts that could prevent a citizen from traveling.” Sources pointed out: “Some of the country’s laws have not been amended for 50 years and a big number of of them are outdated. Therefore, laws must be developed, not only in the field of freedoms, but also with regard to diversifying sources of income and ending total dependence on oil as a source of national income. Decision- makers are focusing on diversifying sources of income and weaning off oil.”
On the success of neighboring countries in transforming into tourist destinations that attract millions of people annually, sources said: “The decision-makers are closely paying attention to the country’s transformation into a tourist destination and opening the country to those wishing to visit to learn about its heritage, history and landmarks.” Regarding the proposals of some parliamentarians that could hinder the country’s openness, sources asserted: “No one can change the identity of Kuwait and this must be in everyone’s mind. There is no turning back, as the higher decision-making circles can no longer accept anything that affects the future strength of Kuwait.”
Source added the “adjustment of the course” under which the government’s program falls, will address the forgotten and neglected issues during the new session of the National Assembly and will include all marginalized groups. Sources revealed the recorded comments of parliamentarians regarding the program were — and are still — subject to review and scrutiny, and will be of great interest for the government and the political leadership based on the rhetoric of adjusting the course itself.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times
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