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DIVERSIFICATION of the sources of income remains a major challenge for the state; hence we urge the leadership to tackle this issue effectively.
This is despite 60 years of having democratic institutions that are concerned with promoting individual initiative as per the constitution, which necessitated the involvement of the private sector in development. Many conferences have been held over the past decades, and laws were approved, despite their inadequacy, and they constitute a foundation upon which to build on in this regard.
However, all this is still in the theoretical realm, and has not been transformed into an economic behavior.
With every new ruler, even a government that seeks to gain confidence, this important matter becomes a big title, and its themes glow, but it is lost in daily political practices.
The closest evidence to this is the theme “Kuwait 2035” and the transformation of the country into a global financial and commercial center, which has become like “an egg of a squawk” that we hear about but have never seen in real life.
On the contrary, the country is becoming increasingly closed, putting obstacles in the way of local and foreign investors.
It is surprising that when all ministers meet the political leadership, they do not say what they have to say in this regard, but rather reassure them that “all is well” and try to dispel fears. However, when one of them vacates his post, he begins talking about obstacles.
This clearly means that they hide from the facts. This is one of the worst political practices that eventually paves the way for the failure of any state.
Frankly, if Kuwait, after going through a series of crises since the invasion until today and the continuous fluctuation in oil prices, does not start developing a realistic and bold plan to diversify sources of income, then it will turn into a labor-exporting country after a few years such that its citizens will start migrating to other countries to find employment.
This is due to the fact that it will suffer from an uncontrollable financial deficit. The non-oil incomes must exceed the state’s budget in order to increase the factors of financial stability, provided that oil income becomes a substitute and not the primary source of revenues, as is the case today, because the rate of dependence on oil income currently stands at 90 percent.
Levies and taxes, despite their importance and necessity, are not the only source for diversifying the sources of income.
It is necessary to strive for privatization, activate partnership between the private and public sectors, activate domestic tourism like other Gulf countries, activate small and medium enterprises, attract foreign investments, and encourage the transportation sector and manufacturing industries.
Nonetheless, the most important aspect is the educational output, which must keep pace with the needs of the labor market. We cannot talk about dispensing with expatriates when we do not have qualified craftsmen among our people.
In addition, we have experience with the future generations fund, which was our savior during the invasion to spend on the state and on Kuwaitis who were scattered around the world or on those who remained steadfast at home.
Unfortunately, this fund, which is supervised by the Kuwait Investment Authority, lacks a clear vision to help in diversifying the sources of income.
It seems that it is devoted to filing lawsuits against the press that raise any observation or criticize any behavior related to it, while all the world’s sovereign funds are setting bold policies.
The Norwegian sovereign fund started with a hundred million dollars and is today the largest in the world.
Undoubtedly, all of this needs a series of advanced laws and people who have the will and determination to implement, as well as transparency.
These reforms must be at par with the aspirations of the country’s leadership, with the firm measures taken by the political engine, and with the directives and follow up of His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishaal Al-Ahmad.
It is safe to say that we are on the verge of walking the path of a thousand miles, but all this remains dependent on the executives who have to be faithful, transparent and good managers, and who stay away from quotas and self-seeking objectives.
In this regard, it is not a shame to benefit from non-Kuwaiti experts, similar to what China did when it hired a British expert of Iraqi origin to draw up a plan for its transformation into a market economy. This expert had helped China achieve this great renaissance.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar did the same, as they brought in foreign experts to develop plans for its development and transition to competing countries. The earliest example of this is the giant “NEOM City Project”.
It is true that the idea is Saudi, but the supervisors of planning and implementation are foreign experts.
Continuing to think within the box will only lead to a bleak vision.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times