WHENEVER we talk about “state of institutions”, we always refer to the system that was built in the early years of independence. It is still the backbone of the state today, despite all the challenges it suffers from due to the corruption that has spread in it in the absence of oversight and decisiveness. This occurred after the influential individuals and MPs became the decision-makers in the administration, as they tilt matters towards their interests rather than those that serve the country and its people.
This conviction did not exist in the 1960s when democracy was tender and could be used for anything other than its main purposes. The elites at that time who had a hand in running the affairs of the country did not have personal ambitions other than the progress and development of the country. The overseas visits were not aimed for show or recreation but were aimed to benefit from the experiences of other nations.
On this basis, the late Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad visited China in 1965 when he was the Minister of Finance and Industry in the first government of independence. He possessed enlightened philosophy based on the principle of “give me a fish and you feed me for a day. Teach me how to fish and you feed me for my lifetime”.
During that trip, he became acquainted with all the institutions that could serve the country, despite the contradictions between the socialist communist approach of China and the Kuwaiti pragmatic approach.
From that trip, he obtained the idea of cooperative societies where the consumer is the owner. He also worked on revitalizing the private sector by stimulating it through its participation in projects.
He established productive industrial companies and made them equity companies whereby the state pays part of its shares and allows citizens to own the rest. He also launched the development fund.
This step led to the establishment of the National Industries Company and many others, which became the lynchpin of the national economy. After taking over the presidency of the Council of Ministers, he established the banking profession law and the Central Bank of Kuwait, which allowed banks to transform into a large investment and contributing force.
Soon, this legal and institutional system began to bear fruits quickly through the marriage between the state and the private sector, turning Kuwait into an investment destination in the region at that time.
The state’s goal at the time, as it is prevalent today, was not for everyone to work in the government sector, but rather to put the right man in the right place. No one accepted the idea of turning the official institutions into a source of electoral benefit.
This means that the corridors of the ministries and institutions would not be crowded with employees, bringing about disguised unemployment because of ill-studied employment policies, or by working with the communist principle – “Work as much as you can and take as much as you need”. This unfortunately is what Kuwait has become today after populism and the spread of electoral bribery.
Here, we must highlight the fact that the rise of China, Japan, the United States, Britain, Norway and Switzerland was neither due to employee-overload in official institutions nor due to the state sponsorship of citizens from womb-to-tomb, which currently exists in Kuwait. The country’s flaws are becoming more exposed with every drop in the oil prices.
Those countries pursued the tradition of pushing their people to work in various fields, and did not adopt the policy of “citizens turning down professions that they assume are beneath them”.
In addition, these countries have entrusted most of their activities to the private sector, starting with education, health, electricity and water, and even roads. The state was instead the supervisor and regulator, and collects taxes to improve services and impose security and justice.
The policy of subsidies did not focus on food or services. On the other hand, the subsidy in Kuwait has reached the level of giving away cheese and pasta as if the Kuwaitis are minors or chicks fed by the state.
There is no doubt that the way out of the current crisis is by changing the mentality of the administration, enhancing the involvement of the private sector in all fields, and getting out of the tunnel of the state policy of womb-to-tomb support, which has perpetuated dependency, laziness and corruption.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times