KUWAIT CITY, June 27: Nearly 20 years have passed since the government made some promises to support entrepreneurs and owners of small projects. There have been dozens of ministers from different governments who issued statements in this regard which were published in the newspapers. Hopes of people have been kept on hold; all they are guilty of is that they thought outside the box, because they wanted to get out of the burden of government work. However, the abysmal documentation and bureaucratic procrastination is like a rock upon which their dreams were shattered.
The last of these promises was made during the COVID-19 health-economic crisis. The small business owners took pleasure in supporting the efforts like in most of the countries of the world. After a flood of statements and reassurances, the government eventually chose to direct spending towards other areas and removed the entrepreneurs from their priorities, despite their contributions to the GDP and the national economy by employing thousands of citizens.
For many years in several instances, either through news, investigations, interviews or seminars, in support of the aspirations of youth there have been reports. On July 26, 2005, the government announced its assurance for the salaries of Kuwaitis who wish to work in the private sector for a period of five years. A fund was created to support the national workforce that exceeded the needs of the ministries.
Walid Al-Wahaib, the then Secretary- General of the Manpower and Government Restructuring Program and the state’s executive branch, said, “The government examined the reason why men and women were not heading for self-employment, especially technicians and professionals”.
He stressed that, “The government should work to direct them to self-employment, as it has succeeded in recycling private recruitment and activation of its mechanisms”. On April 19, 2011, five MPs proposed allocating a special incentive for national manpower in the private sector to grant KD 300 to university degree holders and above, KD 230 to diploma holders and their equivalent, and KD 150 to holders of secondary certificates and less.
On June 6, 2011, the most prominent news at that time was the amendments to the law that support SMEs, and to send private sector employees abroad for training courses. All of this was aimed to encourage young people to engage in private work instead of anticipating government work.
On May 13, 2012, Al-Qabas daily had published an investigation titled “Officials draw dreams… but projects are stagnant. Young people are growing up but government promises do not grow old.” That investigative report published nearly nine years ago said, “With every Cabinet formation, government statements and promises are renewed to entice young people who grow up in exchange for promises that are not implemented and do not grow old”.
On April 16, 2014, the Minister of Information and State Minister for Youth Affairs Sheikh Salman Al-Hamoud announced during the opening of the Small Business Forum that, “We are encouraging young people to do business to diversify our economy”. Among other things, he said, “The Ministry of Youth Affairs is currently working on developing its tools with the cooperation of international organizations in order to enhance youth appetite for business, crafts and art. This comes parallel to the main role of the state, by creating a kind of interaction and dialogue between the entrepreneurs and owners of SMEs, while creating more job opportunities for the sons and daughters of Kuwait”.
On April 10, 2015, the team studying development of the southern islands had recommended that the project for developing Umm Al-Maradim Island should be approved through the main uses of Kuwaiti islands for recreational and entertainment activities, marine activities and public beaches, and to encourage the private sector to participate in providing recreational activities.
On October 2, 2015, MP Askar Al- Enezi proposed the creation of an information center for various job specialties that the country needs to provide the required workers the labor market needs from these specializations. He stressed the need to expand technology and modern management, as well as technical and marketing expertise.
Al-Enezi suggested activation and expansion of the role of Kuwaiti private sector and for creating job opportunities for the national manpower and contributing to their training. However, has any of this been achieved or has the executive authority implemented what was proposed by the legislative authority?
On January 12, 2018, Minister of Commerce and Industry Khaled Al- Roudhan announced that the Public Authority for Industry would distribute 1,036 plots of land in Shadadiyah area for delivery to investors and entrepreneurs from mid-2019.
On January 30, 2020, he said the bankruptcy law serves owners of small projects; but after about two months, specifically on March 23, he said the government has started evaluating the effects of COVID-19 to develop solutions. The minister was quick to add that the protection of small business owners comes “first”. Statements after statements, and promises after promises; but majority of them were like needles of anesthesia and attempts to sow ash in the eyes. Reality proves a state of inaction that confirms absence of a future vision for the economy.