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THE government has the right to impose taxes. This is clearly specified in Article 48 of the Constitution, which states that “Payment of taxes and contribution to public expenditures are a duty in conformity with the law. The law shall exempt small incomes from taxation in order to guarantee a minimum income for living.” However, the people of Kuwait have the right to know who those people will be and how it will be paid.
In the government’s program, which the Minister of Finance is assigned to refer to the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers presented this thorny issue in an oblique way without any clarification. This can be considered as poison in honey because it is known that such measures start on the companies. However, the matter has expanded to advanced stages such that those with limited incomes are the victims.
The song “Social Justice” was the title of this step. We all know how this matter is measured by two standards or more, depending on the interests of the influential! Frankly, how is it possible to equate a salary that does not exceed KD 1,000 per month with a trader whose monthly income reaches KD 500,000 or more, in terms of paying taxes? Will the prices of commodities remain as they are, or will the traders and major contractors, who acquire the majority of commercial businesses and projects, raise them according to the taxes that will be imposed on them? In some countries, the tax on the profits of companies and the wealthy reaches about 45 percent, while those with limited incomes are exempted from it. What the state collects in this field goes to the services provided to the poor and those with low salaries.
If our governments follow this path, and add to that the payment of fines for debtors and those imprisoned in cases of dud cheques, who are the original victims of moneylenders and merchants, then we can talk about some kind of social justice.
There is no doubt that Kuwaitis will refuse to impose taxes on specific groups, and exempt others. And the National Assembly will be faced with two difficult choices – either follow the government’s lead or to take sides with the people.
Therefore, the Council of Ministers, and before raising this matter, must market it, and clarify the ambiguities in it, so that the executive authority does not fall into the same trap that previous governments fell into when they generalized subsidies for goods and services, which benefited the wealthy and burned the needy and the poor.
It has been customary in Kuwait for the wealthy, merchants, and major contractors to benefit from free treatment, subsidies for goods and services, and not to pay any taxes, something that created a class that enjoys a large percentage of wealth, while about 90 percent of the people live on a limited salary.
Therefore, His Highness the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers should not be under the illusion that passing a title of this kind in the government’s work program without thoroughly studying it, clarifying it and marketing it will lead to the goal they seek.
It was said in the past that, “He who has been bitten by a snake fears a rope.” Because we in Kuwait have suffered a lot from underestimating many measures in various issues, the citizens are terrified of even talking about the welfare regarding which the government is talking about.
This is due to the fact that the government sees in its program what could bring woe and grief upon it, and the embers of successive crises burn all hopes. Therefore, it is necessary to reassure Kuwaitis with actions before words if the government wants to be with the people and not against them.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times