ARE we supposed to rejoice over the government’s responses to the parliamentary grilling? Should we stop frowning about the state of the public funds? Should we take “the knowledge” and “expertise” of the full-bellied advisors who are overwhelmed by drowsiness and laziness, and seek relief from the same drowsiness and laziness?
Or should we put the facts before His Highness the Prime Minister and the concerned ministers in an attempt to light a candle in the tunnel of wasted and squandered public money? The State coffers are almost empty, and everyone is silent because the matter has been entrusted to a ministerial committee that will treat the incurable disease with sedatives, while the corrupt continue to graze in the wilds of neglect.
There are facts that His Highness the Prime Minister must be well aware of and in detail, such as the fact that the monthly housing allowance given to 30,000 Kuwaiti families in six years amounted to a total of KD 1.1 billion, which is equivalent to $3.3 billion. With this amount, a city could have been built to accommodate all of them, as well as eliminate the housing crisis permanently.
This kind of approach is seen in the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where residential cities have been built on the latest model, and at costs that did not exceed such huge and lost figures. There is no doubt that every year this amount increases with the entry of new Kuwaiti families in the category of those deserving housing allowance.
If the experts in the Cabinet had advised the government about this matter, they would have saved Kuwait huge sums of money, and the State would have even been able to recover it through installments of these housing loans. Whatever is spent on rent allowances do not return to the state.
However, because of laziness and the policy of benefiting from the status quo, we are in this deep financial crisis, which can only be treated through painful surgeries.
There is another issue through which public money is being wasted openly, which is the overseas medical treatment. However, the COVID-19 crisis has proven this form of spending to be absurd, and the fact that patients can be treated in Kuwait itself.
Nonetheless, this matter is taboo for those who work based on the popular saying – “What is not yours is none of your business”. Through this, they buy votes with the overseas medical tourism, while the Ministry of Health and other ministries pour money into their aspiring parliamentary candidates.
As for the great calamity in all of this, it is the subsidy of food supplies that has ended up benefiting only traders. The annual spending for food subsidies has reached about KD 4 billion, or the equivalent of $12.5 billion, which in itself constitutes a State budget but from which the Kuwaitis do not benefit. It rather has turned into a trade in the black market, or for smuggling abroad.
Need I say more?
Yes, there is more. Another door for wasting tens of millions annually is the renting of embassies and diplomats’ accommodations abroad. This can be dealt with by owning those headquarters, or buying land and building housing for employees, and these will definitely be sovereign assets.
We have a very good example in this matter, which is the real estate that Kuwait bought in Britain, Japan, Switzerland, and several other countries, and how high their values have risen.
Unfortunately, delegations from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs travel every year to several countries in order to buy embassy headquarters and houses for diplomats. After roaming around for days, they return to the country with the hope that the same will happen next year. The issue thus becomes a source of wastage of public funds and personal benefit, and there is no accountability.
We believe that the hands of His Highness the Prime Minister are clean, but he must be aware of all these facts. If he devises a remedy plan accordingly, he can close the taps of squandering forever.
Furthermore, there won’t be the need to consult the lazy advisors who do not care about anything other than saying, “Long live the boss” after which they go back to sleep following a heavy meal of “meat Machboos” without any concern for the decline in the sovereign credit rating or the purchasing power of the dinar.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times