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AFTER a three-year period of being included in the ration cards, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has decided to once again exclude 42 commodities from the list. These commodities include tea, cheese, meat, and frozen fish.
It was as if the goal was not to benefit the citizens, but rather to benefit the merchants importing these goods, which means that subsidies are a gateway to wastage at the expense of public money.
There is no doubt that the goods excluded from the ration cards are not what the citizens need. What is important in all of this is to not only improve their standard of living but ensure that the support given is useful, and not intended for profiteering.
When the state spends more than KD 7 billion on supporting goods and services while it still suffers from a financial deficit, it means a deviation from the correct goal.
This is why it is necessary to look at the sustainability of the state’s financial strength, as the well-being of the wealthy and needy citizens cannot be at the expense of all citizens. It is also not fair to generalize support for everyone at a time when the annual deficit is increasing.
When the concerned ministry increases this number of commodities, which, by the way, were included in the year 2021, then does it not constitute an important factor in improving the nutritional status of the citizens, if we have good intentions?
It is actually in the hands of merchants who wanted to get rid of it by including it on the ration card. This is undoubtedly the most obvious form of corruption, and it does not serve the citizens in any way.
Just like others, we said on previous occasions that support, according to what is in practice, serves neither the citizens nor the state’s finances. Rather it enhances the wealth of a few merchants. This is completely devoid of justice.
In subsidizing electricity, for example, the beneficiaries are many property owners who rent housing units to people, without paying the real price for this service.
There are many solutions to getting rid of this concern that annually puts pressure on public finances, starting with completely removing subsidies on goods and services, increasing the salaries of the low-income and low-pension people, and restricting the distribution of ration cards to those who need it the most, instead of generalizing it, according to the segments with minimum and maximum limits for consumption.
The same applies to gasoline and other commodities that are given to those who are not in need. Some of them are even sold on the black market. And when some parliamentarians say that they are against touching the citizens’ pockets, the government quickly acts according to what these people dictate. This is usually done without considering the economic reality of the country, or the ability of public finances to serve those demands. There is no doubt that this is not the correct way to run a country.
To speak frankly, the issue is not about the exclusion of some goods from the ration cards. Rather, it is about stopping the huge financial waste, which, if exploited in the correct manner, can provide enormous liquidity to implement industrial, food and transformational projects that will bring many benefits to the citizens.
As for continuing the game of excluding some goods or including others, this game has become exposed. Anyone who has followed the events from the time of the announcement of the Prime Minister’s grilling until he ascended the podium, and the raw deals that were made, will realize that what we are witnessing is just the tip of an iceberg. What is beneath is far much greater than we can anticipate.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times
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