‘To forget a wrong is the best revenge’
KUWAIT is neither the only country in the world to be overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic nor is it the best one in dealing with it.
However, throughout the past nine months, it appears as though this country is living in a huge confinement due to the exaggerated precautionary health measures, which failed to either reduce or flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections.
In fact, the rate of infections has risen higher than what it was prior to the total lockdown.
It is true that health is more important than wealth, but unjustified delusion and apprehension has led to a great economic disaster, the negative effects of which have started appearing in their ugliest forms.
Today, we are facing the fury of two pandemics. The first is the COVID-19 pandemic which can be addressed through realistic measures, and the second one is the shrinking economy, which is heading to a recession, the effects of which will continue to prevail for several years to come if there are no proper economy stimulus plans in place.
Nonetheless, the vicious circle has become inevitable, because of either disregard for the fate of people, or a certain demeanor of the Ministry of Health which rectifies a mistake with another mistake.
Due to the continuation of these unrealistic measures, Kuwait incurred huge losses that were not endured by countries that suffered more during the pandemic. The countries of the European Union, the United States of America, Latin America, and even our neighboring countries took realistic health measures, but also worked in parallel to stimulate the economy through a series of billion instant stimulus plans.
Even some middle-income countries such as Bahrain, and also bankrupt ones such as Lebanon, worked on reviving their economy through immediate aid, while others worked to transform the threat into a great opportunity, as is the case with countries that secured soft loans and interest rates, with which they paid salaries; for instance, Canada and the United States of America.
Your Highness the Prime Minister, what did your government do?
It launched a completely unrealistic stimulus plan, and left the banks to impose their conditions on borrowers, such as signing mortgages in the event that they requested for any amount of money, unless they had sufficient or parallel solvency for the loan.
While borrowers were striving to fulfill the requirements for obtaining loans, the traditional health measures continued to place the country under lock. This led the borrower to wonder how he would pay back the loan that he took when his business was still locked down.
What is worst of all is that the government, instead of focusing on dealing with the crisis immediately, deflected by engaging in side shows, either with the MPs or by agitating issues that could have been postponed such as its campaign against human traffickers (visa traders) who did whatever they wanted in front of the concerned agencies throughout the past years and were not deterred by these agencies.
When the fire of that campaign started to dim, the government ignited other scandals related to the money laundering networks, celebrities, the Malaysian fund, and “Interior Ministry’s leaks” among others. This means the executive authority escapes from a crisis by igniting another crisis. All of this caused chaos of a kind that Kuwait has never witnessed in the last three decades.
Your Highness the Prime Minister, we had previously raised the issue of the sovereign credit rating, the way this matter can be addressed, the increase in Kuwait’s investments in international stocks, and the major projects that represented a real opportunity for seven months, as well as the local spending to raise the national product.
On more than one occasion, you said efforts are focused on improving the business environment, attracting capital, and that the white shark is for the black day. Have you sought to achieve this?
When the pandemic began, the government established a series of health quarantine centers and spent tens of millions of dinars on them. It reached such an extent that some of us imagined that these field hospitals, rented hotels and shelters for the quarantined would include all of Kuwait’s population, but they remained empty of its thrones. Instead of the government investing in them, it issued an imaginary decision.
The government mandated every citizen or expatriate returning to the country to spend 14 days in a third country and obtain a COVID-19-free certificate, so that Kuwait became scarce in newspapers and regional media. It is this decision that revived the economies of those countries. At the same time, most of the countries were satisfied with just such a certificate, and when the environment opened up, they even worked on activation of tourism based on a deliberate plan.
Among the government’s strange decisions is that any citizen returning to the country with a PCR certificate that proves he is free from the COVID-19 virus has to stay under quarantine for 14 days, and after this period ends, he must obtain a new certificate if he wants to travel to any country, and repeat the same procedures all over again. Where is the rationality in all of this?
Unfortunately, all this did not happen. The government did not pay any attention to all the talk by observers, experts, the press, and even ordinary people. It seemed as though the government was working in line with the famous proverb – “Your uncle is dumb”, until Kuwait turned into a big prison because of the pointless reservation.
Your Highness the Prime Minister, there is no logical explanation for what is happening. It instead leads to the closure of the country, intensification of its economic crisis, and suffocation of people in the end. It is confusion in itself, and the absence of a vision and feasible decisions. Is this what the government wants?
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times