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BASED on the principle of “better late than never”, China worked in the late 1970s to recover from the largest economic disaster that befell it during the period between 1959 and 1970, which led to the death of more than 40 million people as a result of famine.
When President Deng Xiaoping assumed leadership of the state from his predecessor Mao Zedong in 1976, he did not close the country’s doors to the world. He instead sought the help of the British expert of Iraqi origin Elias Korkis, who was nominated by the University of Oxford to develop an economic plan for the country.
Within 15 years, the economy had made a quantum leap, shifting from an economy based on socialism and state monopoly of services and industries to a market economy. I wanted to preface this introduction to comment on the meeting of His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Nawaf with the members of the Economic Advisory Unit, whose name changes with each government but remains more like decoration. This is due to the fact that it was built on the usual vision, i.e., tribal, sectarian, and partisan quotas and a lack of experience.
It is natural that this vision does not involve building the industry or agriculture sectors or diversifying the sources of income, or solving the crisis shackling the national economy, which is one of the intractable problems we have, because of the prevailing mentality based on personal investment in laws and placing them in specific frameworks to prevent individual initiative, which was prevalent in Kuwait’s pre-oil economic era.
It is true that the Economic Advisory Unit is a modest step in the right direction, but it would have been better to form an advisory council, even if it is composed of non-Kuwaiti experts, with broad authority and with the task of rebuilding the national economy on sound foundations, respecting all ideas and projects presented to it.
In China, there were many reformers who opposed and tried in various ways to obstruct the plan for advancement, but the determination of the leadership to get rid of the consequences of the wrong policy that gave the partisans the upper hand in the state, which led to three decades of decline, crises and famines, had prompted the elimination of all diseases of bureaucracy through the revolution of modernizing laws, which led to this large country witnessing radical transformations at all levels, not just the economy, within 20 years. Relying on others is not a defect.
Instead of the “ghutra and headband” tendency, it is necessary to benefit from the experiences of those who preceded us in this field. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman have used international expertise to advance their economies. No sane person can deny what they have achieved in the past 20 years.
This is due to the fact that the decision-makers in these countries made up their minds, and envy did not work its way in it, or its decisions were not controlled by the racist mentality that developed during the past three decades into a general Kuwaiti behavior. We must admit that there are economic laws that affect society, as well as a way of thinking and life that almost destroys every positive gesture in this country, as each institution creeps on the powers of others and interferes even in people’s personal affairs. O leadership, let us seek knowledge, even in China, in order to get out of the tunnel we dug with our own hands to make us think that we know more than others.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times