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Saturday , February 27 2021

Govt, parliament … jumping from frying pan into the fire

THE parliament and the government are two opposite sides that will never come together or compromise on any matter as long as both sides continue in the same mode of approach. Even if they decide to compromise, it will be a temporary sedative concession.

The current parliamentary formation is unprecedented in terms of its political and social components, thanks to the government’s heedlessness of advice, misreading of reality and lack of solutions that would meet a large portion of people’s aspirations and demands; let alone its tendency to appease a small group of the influentials.

We are now well aware that the path that the two authorities – executive and legislative – are treading on is full of mines, and both sides are wary of conceding to the other.

This stance has narrowed the government’s options, given that it has lost its populist confidence to the extent that it has to defend itself with actual measures that are meant to rescue the country.

There are several reports confirming that about 67 percent of companies and small and medium enterprises, and some large ones, are heading to bankruptcy. It is true that the bankruptcy law, which was recently approved, may protect some of them, but that is not enough, because the financial crisis continues. Testimony to that is the losses incurred by Kuwait Stock Market, which is supposed to be heading towards profit as seen in the regional and global markets.

All of this is due to the stimulus plan that did not meet the needs of the people, and was not implemented because the set conditions were unrealistic. Also, the executive authority has taken almost impossible measures, as it closed the borders, prevented the entry of people, and did not work to compensate the affected.

On the other hand, other countries of the region took more serious and realistic measures, as it supported its economy and its people on all levels. In the UAE, for example, the government wiped off about seven billion dirhams from citizens’ loans, provided financial incentives of about a hundred billion dirhams, and imposed on banks to delay the payment of the remaining loans for six more months, as well as reduced the interest rates. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia allocated 226 billion riyals to support individuals, enterprises, investors and the private sector. This is how the rest of the GCC countries dealt with the crisis.

As for Kuwait, the remedy of this pandemic was timid. Indeed, the tens of millions of dinars that were spent on the plan to confront COVID-19 were subjected to a lot of waste and lack of control. People continued to wait for promises that ultimately led to this terrifying scene of financial downfall and drop in the credit rating as a result of the government’s lack of seriousness, or its disregard for popular claims. All these facts add up to a failure in the administration.

There is an Arab adage — “A good, decent and well behaved man qualifies to marry my daughter, but I wouldn’t rely on him to manage public affairs”.

This applies to His Highness the Prime Minister, who has a clean hand and a good reputation, but that is not enough. He has to manage the files based on the facts, and deal with the concerns of the people. He should not be on one side of a valley and the people on the other with the parliament in between with all its representatives who seek to achieve personal objectives, even at the expense of the state and the people.

Currently, there is much talk about the lesser evil solution for the executive authority, which is to either resign and reassign His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled and then delay the formation of the Cabinet for a month or two, or postpone the convening of the parliament for a month, or to dissolve it and repeat the elections, which is according to the current prevailing approach.

Nonetheless, none of the aforementioned solutions will solve the problem; rather all will lead to further complications in the relationship between the legislative and executive authorities because of overlooking the source of the problem, which is popular discontent with the actions of the concerned authority.

 In addition to that, the government has brought hostility upon itself through the press and social media platforms. Also, His Highness the Prime Minister has not fulfilled the pledge he made to meet with the editors-in-chief and the officials of the media every month in order for them to convey to him the concerns and demands of the people.

 After the only meeting that took place of this kind, the MPs have been juggling the populist discontent, which is a very risky phenomenon if the government does not remedy it.

 Perhaps it is useful to look into the relationship among the press, social media platforms, and the governance in the Arabian Gulf states, as the governments have been able to market themselves with great flexibility and meet the demands of the people, while in Kuwait, it is like talking to a wall.

The democracy that the Kuwaitis are proud of in terms of freedom of expression shouldn’t be countered with censorship or prosecution over some Twitter post as long as it does not violate the constitutional values.

 Therefore, there must be a solution to the crisis, and it is not in the presented options.

If the constitution is suspended and the parliament is dissolved, the next move should be to amend the constitution, which has become of urgent need as it is not a divine text.

The United States has amended its constitution about 30 times, France 25 times, and so has other countries that are more democratic than Kuwait … it was intended for the sake of developing the state and the society.

 As for the livelihood and economic crisis and remedying the loan crisis, the government can guarantee the principal debt and reschedule it. The interest rates of the local banks and other financial institutions can be reduced, in addition to investing in the Future Generation Fund which other countries, except Kuwait, invest and get positive returns from such investments.

Our government can invest by pumping 100 billion or 200 billion dollars from the future generation fund into sectors that would generate profits in the country, which will benefit all concerned aspects of the society, let alone the state.

 Regarding the housing issue, Kuwait has several examples to follow, including the Saudi plan, or the situation in Morocco, the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Bahrain. There the state provides land and guarantees the loans at a very low interest rate, and there are banks that are always interested in lending for this purpose.

 There is no doubt that any disregard for these issues and resorting to the usual sedative short-term solutions will accelerate the financial collapse, as well as exacerbate the political crisis. Then the government and the parliament will end up being like someone who jumps from the frying pan into the fire.

By Ahmed Al-Jarallah

Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

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