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HAVING aspirations and visions are characteristics of every new leadership, even if they are a continuation of what the previous leadership had been pursuing or rather striving to achieve.
The people of Kuwait are today facing a new-old political era. The role of the media is to shed light on issues that are matters of inconvenience for the people who are waiting for their voice to reach the decision-maker.
On this basis, we would like to highlight to the leadership one of the crises that concern the majority of Kuwaitis, and directly affect their lives and social conditions.
Loans, or rather debts, are a concern that haunts about two-thirds of the people in this country every day. The number of arrest warrants issued against debtors has reached 80,000, and the number of travel bans imposed has crossed the 120,000 mark. This is a shocking number when compared to the Kuwaiti population.
We have to say this loud – The abuse of creditors against debtors in this regard has gone so far to such an extent that arbitrary measures are futile rather than being a solution; therefore, the case must be viewed as a social destruction factor.
For instance, when a person is arrested over non-payment of a debt that does not exceed KD 1,000 or even KD 10,000, and thrown in prison, this will lead to his dismissal from his job. This cuts off his source of livelihood, and his family ends up suffering a lot. So where will the imprisoned debtor get money to repay his debt?
This problem happens nowhere else other than in Kuwait. Imposing travel ban contradicts the human rights highlighted in the international treaties that Kuwait signed. Let us assume that the debtor is required to pay KD 10 or KD 20 or even KD 30,000 … is it reasonable for him to flee his country over this amount?
We are not talking about felonies, but about misdemeanors. Reality, rationale and logic dictates that he who has neglected his rights is responsible for them, as how does he lend to someone who is unable to pay?! In about 80 percent of these cases, the creditor is fully aware of the debtor’s inability to repay, and therefore he is the one who should be asked to find a solution and not the victim who was lured to obtain the loan.
Over the past years, this issue has witnessed a lot of give-and-take. Some have turned it into a matter of social justice, as if the intention is to increase the number of the victims in this regard.
For example, suppose an earthquake struck a city in a country … will its government stand idle or will it come to its aid?
Will anyone say that helping those who were affected is unfair? Rather, the logic requires the relief of all citizens. Since 2008, the world has gone through bad conditions that affected all its inhabitants. The global financial crisis did not stop at certain institutions; consequently, the number of debtors who are unable to pay has increased.
There is no doubt that Kuwait was affected by this, and since the banks, like in all countries, are looking for profit, only the interests on bad loans continue to accumulate. This is even after taking judicial measures against insolvent people, placing them in prison or banning them from traveling outside the country, as is the case with the Souq Al-Munakh crisis, which has persisted since the 1980s.
There are people who have been banned from travelling since 1986. Many of them have passed away. To date, we have uncollected debts worth a total of about KD 7 billion, the interests of which are accruing, while the relevant institutions are not ready to cancel them.
Is it possible for this debt to remain for 34 years and for its interests to double to imaginary numbers when they originally might not have exceeded a few million dinars?
The guardian therefore has one of the most socially sensitive issues to deal with; it will be very simple for him to resolve it – either the state drops these loans one time, and either reschedules the debt after canceling a percentage of the interest or extends the period of the debt after reducing it. For example, if the loan is KD 40,000 and the interest is KD 10,000, why is it not deducted and after that, the installments are made over 30 years, while the state guarantees these debts? In this case, there will be no insolvency, and the debtor gets his rights, while the financial cycle is activated in the country.
This is one of the issues that plagues the minds of tens of thousands of Kuwaitis. It should therefore not be subject to the whims of the miserly, the greedy or the envious who seek to take possession of everything. Its solution will be credited to the political leadership on which Kuwaitis have high hopes.
There are other crises that we will discuss in succession and put them before His Highness the Amir and his Crown Prince – May God protect them – in a series of discussions on the crises afflicting the country.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times