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Kuwait needs ‘father’s government’ to solve economic problems

Ahmed Al-Jarallah Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

THERE is a story about a widow who had a very beautiful daughter. Many men approached to ask for her daughter’s hand in marriage, but due to the dowry of a whopping 500,000 riyals set by the mother, many were unable to succeed in their bid to marry her.

However, a young man was determined to marry the girl and did his very best. When he managed to raise 300,000 riyals, he went to his father and told him about his intention.

The father asked his son to give him the money and then go to propose. This led the son to remind his father about how the girl’s mother will never accept anything less than 500,000 riyals. In response, the father said, “Don’t worry, all will be well.”

The two went to the girl’s house, and after sitting down, the boy’s father requested the girl’s mother not to interrupt him until he finishes his speech. The mother agreed.

He said, “My son is here to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage, and here is 100,000 riyals for her dowry!”

The mother replied with alarm, “But …!”

The father reminded, “You agreed not to interrupt me until I finish my speech.”

He then added, “Here is another 100,000 riyals for you to become my wife.”

The mother smiled and said, “May Almighty Allah bless both marriages.”

When the neighbors asked her, “How did you agree to give up 500,000 riyals?”, she replied, “Wholesale price differs from retail price.”

Later on, when the young groom asked his father about the remaining 100,000 riyals, he responded, “This is for pleasing your mother.”

Despite the simplicity of this anecdote, it carries clues on how to manage crises, i.e. through experience and sagacity. Perhaps this is what we need in Kuwait today, given that the current exceptional situation needs quick and immediate solutions in order to avoid transforming the situation into a platform for altercations among various parties.

The global spread of COVID-19 has rendered countries to rush for finding solutions to deal with the pandemic at all levels, except in Kuwait. Here, this pandemic has created an avenue for daily altercations regarding the least of the matters, preoccupying both the government and the Parliament while the people of Kuwait continue to pay a huge price.

In China, the European Union, the United States of America, Russia, the Gulf countries and others, the governments rush to adopt measures to address the negative repercussions of the crisis on the economy. They quickly pumped hundreds of billions into the market; and some governments even paid monthly salaries to their citizens such as in Canada.

However, what did the executive authority in Kuwait do?

The financial stimulus plan is still just ink on paper. All production sectors have been disrupted. Shops have started declaring bankruptcy. The small and medium enterprises are suffering the most. No serious steps are being taken by the concerned authorities to address these challenges.

What is going on these days is mere snarling and sniping. There is skepticism about everything; even the measures that have been taken are subject to scrutiny in the State Audit Bureau.

All this is transpiring at a time when the burden of the crisis increases on the people of Kuwait. Kuwait’s reputation is being tarnished due to what happened in the stock market, while many countries survived the crisis smoothly because they are not subject to the accounts of the influentials, as is the case with us.

On the health level, we have not seen any significant progress either during the partial lockdown or the total one; not even currently after isolating some areas.

We beg to ask — Why do we not follow the methods adopted by most countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE where there is no restriction of movement in areas that are not affected, while at the same time, they work on reducing the number of infections in isolated areas? How will you open the economy when a large proportion of workers cannot go to work?

We are not exaggerating when we say this — Majority of Kuwaitis do not work.

Yes, we admit that we depend on expatriates, and they remit KD 20 billion annually, which is their right because they work. We launch slogans about Kuwaitization and about ushering the national workforce into the labor market, but the absolute majority of them only want to work in the government sector.

Here comes the role of the quota system, favoritism, nepotism and “wasta” in our ministries, and our jobs are also like that. Three quarters of the employees receive their salaries while sleeping in their homes.

It is true that the state is obliged to secure employment for its citizens, but how many people refuse to take such jobs and live on financial aid? Will such people play a role in the production movement?

At the beginning of the crisis, the issue of residency law violators took over the headlines. Numbers were published in hundreds of thousands, but we have seen only a few thousand of them. The state provided them with complete care and travel at its expense, while residency dealers (visa traders) are having fun. All they need is simple “wasta” for their files to be unblocked, after which things will go back to square one.

Unfortunately, this issue exposed hateful and racist speech, which is not contrary to the Kuwaiti culture or morals; it also went on to spark a crisis between the people of Kuwait and some Arab countries.

It is really disappointing to see how the current events exposed the naivety of some officials in dealing with the present situation. Some of them are afraid of “tweets” posted on social media, or a few articles or reports issued by pessimists in which they portray things from the darkest angle, claiming to be experts when they actually are not.

In the midst of all this, we only hear “precautionary measures”, wondering if this is how solutions will be. Doesn’t Kuwait have excess oil reserves of a hundred billion barrels? So if a barrel was sold for $10, wouldn’t we have more than a trillion dollars?

Furthermore, Kuwait has a financial reserve of about $600 billion, which means that the solutions presented to solve the crisis will not affect Kuwait’s financial future; in fact, it will protect the national economy from falling down a dangerous slope, especially when slogans and theoretical plans continue to be addressed without immediate implementation, and when precautions continue while living in poverty, for fear of poverty to persist.

It seems clear that we need the government of the father who solved his son’s problem and won. We do not need debates, conflicts, and skepticism as seen in the situation today.

By Ahmed Al-Jarallah

Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

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