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Thursday , August 18 2022

Development projects or a summer night’s dream?

This post has been read 17500 times!

AN excellent step was taken by the Cabinet a few days ago when it laid out a road map to expedite the implementation of 18 major development projects.

Perhaps, this step could be the kiss of life to revive the development drive, the slogans of which have been decorating ministerial programs for several decades. In fact, it remained as just makeup that beautifies duplicated tendencies of successive governments that preoccupied themselves with bickering and wrangling with the National Assembly, which in turn benefited from exposing the shortcomings of the executive authority.

There is no doubt that such an announcement needs a strong will so that it does not remain mere ink on paper. However, the most important thing is that the systematic and well-known mechanism of corruption quotas does not return to control these projects.

Therefore, His Highness the Prime Minister, the ministers, and the concerned authorities are faced with a real challenge in proving their seriousness in implementation, especially by ending the monopoly of influential people who raise the cost of projects to increase the profits, to distribute quotas to other competitors to keep them away, as well as to bribe some officials.

In this regard, it is not a shame to learn from the experiences of others, especially our closest neighbors who were able to eradicate this scourge despite its rootedness in official behavior. Here we mean the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced in November 2020 that, “Corruption has spread throughout the past three decades like cancer, depriving the state of 15 percent of its budget every year”.

The young prince then launched a bold campaign against the corrupt that led to recovering 247 billion riyals within three years, which represents 20 percent of the total non-oil revenues, in addition to other assets amounting to tens of billions of riyals.

There is no doubt that this step corrected a historical imbalance in the Saudi public finances, and constituted a milestone in governmental practice. It also led to strengthening project oversight and setting the correct costs for them, resulting in a massive decrease in the spending and speedy implementation. Hence, there are dozens of major projects implemented by the government today without any budget deficit, and far from quotas and corruption.

Unfortunately, it is customary in Kuwait for projects to become semi-reservoir for certain influential people. Despite the existence of several anti-corruption bodies and institutions, they work selectively, which is what caused such a huge deficit. Tens of billions of dinars were lost, and all of the Kuwaiti projects are not equivalent to even ten percent of the Saudi projects.

We have publicly seen how the influential, who did not obtain shares in some projects, moved their tools in the National Assembly and deliberately disrupted it, and they cost the state several billions of dinars.

Hence, if the government is serious about this announcement, it must work on two correlative lines – first is to remove all those suspected of corruption from valuing projects, and put them in fair bids through the use of experts recognized for their integrity and efficiency. Second is to overcome all legal obstacles created by the beneficiaries of this monopoly in order to protect their interests and prevent fair competition, which led to the wastage of public finances.

Of course, this does not mean that we should abandon our calls for a Kuwaiti version of “Ritz-Carlton,” or let the anti-corruption institutions toughen up in order to exercise their full role without any selectivity, especially since in Kuwait there is a judiciary that does not favor anyone, is characterized with integrity, and is able to hold anyone accountable without fear.

Nonetheless, all this is linked to the government’s seriousness in implementing major projects, so that this is not just a dream on a sweltering summer night.

By Ahmed Al-Jarallah

Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

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