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ONCE again we address the Minister of Commerce and Industry.
Land has no value if it is not used in building facilities. Its value is based on what is built on it, and what is produced from the industry existing on it.
This is what all countries in the world do. Land is granted to industrialists and entrepreneurs in order to invest their ideas and build industries on it, create more employment opportunities for the people, support the national product through exports, and provide the materials that the people in the country need.
In all countries of the world, there is a system known as B.O.T., which is the acronym of Build-Operate-Transfer system. Through this system, land is granted by the state to the investor in order to build a facility on it and run it for 40 or 50 or even 99 years.
This is the case in some European countries. After the expiry of the period, its fees are either reconsidered, or the ownership of that land is returned to the state. This is applicable in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and currently in Qatar and Bahrain. There are no obstacles impeding the investor like raising the fees every year as is the case in Kuwait.
An official targets a particular facility because his “cronies” want it. He hence works to impose unrealistic conditions on the investor and the industrialist to push him to leave the facility with its buildings and equipment, displace his workers, and throw them on the street, as it happens in Kuwait.
Given that the country imports 92 percent of its needs from abroad, it is necessary to reconsider the investment, industrial, agricultural and financial policy. This observation is addressed also to the Minister of Finance. This is because a country like Kuwait, whose annual oil revenues amount to USD 98 billion, has not built an industrial or agricultural system for decades, or developed an advanced infrastructure.
This means that it is sterile in ideas and visions, and its executive authority did not comprehend its basic role. The ministers responsible for finance, trade, public works, and health, in fact all ministers, were not qualified for the task that was entrusted to them.
Is it reasonable that we import tissues, gauze, and medical cotton from abroad, while the neighboring countries have begun the stages of military industrialization after they were crowded with manufacturing industries?!
Is it reasonable that an emirate such as Sharjah was able to cultivate vast areas of wheat, which made the UAE reduce the amount of imports from it in pursuit of self-sufficiency in the next few years?
While some Gulf countries have reached the point of sending astronauts into space, we are still drowning in polemics and disagreements between parliamentarians and ministers. The documentary cycle is still stuck in the “our letter and your letter” box, and what the Ministry of Commerce licenses, the municipality prohibits it.
As for the Minister of Finance, managing the state’s finances is not like managing a shop. While the country seeks to turn into a global financial center, it must have an attractive policy for investment and investors, and be able to meet people’s needs. From 2017, a vision known as “New Kuwait 2035” vision was approved. We wonder what plans your ministry has made in this regard, and what steps have been taken.
Frankly, nothing. In fact, the successive cabinets, including the current one, have worked to suffice with issuing decisions that increase the closure of the country, burden the expatriates everyday with fees, and harass them to leave. So how can a foreign investor come to the country when he cannot obtain a driving license, cannot bring workers, and cannot bring his wife and family into the country?
If you do not want the expatriates, expel them from the country, roll up your sleeves, and go ahead and work in the construction field, pave roads and maintenance, and even clean your homes.
In Saudi Arabia, the percentage of expatriates is about 50 percent. In the Emirates, the percentage of expatriates is 83 percent and citizens is 17 percent. They helped develop the UAE’s national product until it reached about USD 415 billion in 2021. On the other hand, in Kuwait, oil revenues amounted to about USD 183.6 billion in 2021 due to the fact that there is no industrial, financial, commercial, and agricultural policy that keeps pace with the developments of the time.
Dear Commerce and Finance Ministers, you are part of the specialized team – as it is assumed – to set the executive policies of the state. We urge you to ponder over this line – “Knowledge has come to you”.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times