IN his first statement after being reappointed to form the new government, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled offered an olive branch to the parliamentary majority despite the existence of suspicions of dissolution or abolition that hover over the National Assembly.
Nonetheless, it is necessary for the new government to be armed with the required abilities and capabilities that qualify it to confront the Parliament. By this degree, the Prime Minister offering the olive branch is tantamount to offering it to the people who are the ones who voted for the MPs. They have the ability to vote for their return to the parliament or otherwise.
His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled identified a number of priorities that his future government will work on, the first of which is developing the economic environment.
Frankly, we are not sure if His Highness the Prime Minister is seriously aware that there are decisions and laws that were issued in the past stages and made Kuwait repellent of investments.
How can development happen in light of decisions that can be described as “irrational” in every sense of the word?
For instance, among those irrational decisions that cannot reassure investors is the so-called “60 years law”. We wonder how can we tell an investor who established a company here in Kuwait and worked hard to develop it that he cannot renew his residency because he has exceeded 60 years of age?
How can we deprive a Kuwaiti trader or investor the experience of a person who has been working on his business for years, but now he has to let him go because he has reached 60 years of age?
In all countries, the public and the private sectors seek the help of experts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the US White House sought help from a Moroccan. China sought help from an Iraqi to achieve its economic renaissance. The neighboring Arab countries, particularly the Gulf countries, have passed laws that encourage investors to invest their money in those countries. They also opened doors of opportunities for expatriates to spend their money locally, without setting any age limit on them.
In Saudi Arabia, those who can pay the fees approved by the government can remain in the country, and such residency is not restricted by the age.
This matter came as a blow to the private sector, which has to bear the burden of these ill-considered decisions. To prevent it from escalating, we ask the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry about its role in this regard. How does it not defend itself and the sector that is suffering from the burden of decisions and laws that make Kuwait incapable of keeping up with modern developments?
The second priority announced by His Highness the Prime Minister is “achieving prosperity”.
Can His Highness kindly answer this obvious question posed by the majority of Kuwaitis – How can prosperity be achieved when about 120,000 Kuwaiti families are facing the threat of falling apart and prosecution due to personal loans that burden the heads of these families?
This situation is the result of procrastinations in dealing with issues related to loans that have continued for years without achieving any progress, while MPs and political aspirants exploit it in every election to increase their popular credit.
How can prosperity be achieved when the housing crisis has continued for decades without a solution? The number of people in need of housing is increasing daily. While the state spends tens of millions of dinars annually on housing allowances, a Kuwaiti citizen has to wait 15 to 20 years for his turn to get a plot and loan.
Your Highness, the Kuwaitis are not asking for much. The rhetoric raised by the MPs are not among their demands. Total amnesty and reinstatement of withdrawn nationalities – the two issues brandished in the face of the government – are not popular demands.
Those fleeing from justice or those who forge their nationalities know which channel to follow if they want to be pardoned or rectify their residency status. As for making these the most important issues, it means the MPs have given up what they had presented to the voters in order to reach the Parliament.
Your Highness, Kuwaitis are not calling for more anti-corruption legislation. We have an arsenal of that. If applied, the scourge of corruption will be eliminated, as it will save billions of dinars for the country that is currently suffering from the continuous reduction of its sovereign credit rating. Your Highness is undoubtedly aware of what this means, and its negative effects on the national economy and financial reputation of the State of Kuwait in the global arena. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to plague the world and not just Kuwait, the common citizens do not want slogans.
They realize that the deals between some parliamentary blocs and the government are a scourge for them and not aimed for the good of Kuwait. They await for the financial stimulus that will get them out of their crisis, and restore spirit to the small and medium enterprises, which stir up stagnant water even in large projects. They also expect an openness similar to that initiated by neighboring countries where we already see its benefits.
Your Highness the Prime Minister, we are saying it again – The olive branch that you offered the parliamentary majority must be given to the people, because it is your weapon and the biggest supporter of your government, and not any government, which unfortunately remains reprehensible as it does not meet the people’s demands. Instead, such a government leaves the matter to the MPs to portray any reform or popular step as a result of their stances, and thus incur more losses than wins.
We wonder if the situation will change with the upcoming government. We wonder if Your Highness will heed the voice of the people or continue to live in the circle of unrehearsed and unrealistic decisions and laws.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times