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GLOBAL events have once again proven that some Gulf countries can be considered as safe investment and economic havens to attract capital. This happened during the global financial crisis, and before that during the war in Afghanistan, and now the Russian-Ukrainian war.
This region is flexible to a large extent with regard to modernizing laws, is able to adapt to developments according to what serves its interests, and attracts intellectuals, professions and craftsmen.
That is why some of those countries can be described by the popular proverb – “Someone’s meat is another’s poison”.
Some in the region were able to attract foreign capital and worked to enact laws that met the needs of investors, either through residency or ownership.
Through such measures, economic activity was strengthened and the prosperity level increased along with the influence in international relations. In fact, those countries have today become important players in regional affairs and the cornerstone in this matter.
The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman worked to benefit from international changes, and did not rely on oil as the only source of income because they managed to turn a curse into a blessing.
The drop of oil prices or a reduction in the global demand for it will lead to massive deficits in their national product, which means abandoning the well-being they have achieved for the people.
These countries also saw that diversifying sources of income, and attracting intellectuals and investors is what the world is trending on. That is why they have made themselves a station for technology, factories and skilled labor.
Today, those countries do not depend on oil by 90 percent like Kuwait. They are not clouded by the immigrant-citizen complex, as they opened their doors to naturalization or granting life-time residency to everyone with experience and financial solvency.
On the other hand, what did Kuwait do? It expelled talent and experienced people, and stuck to outdated laws. It even enacted more legislation and issued ministerial decisions that serve to close the country for those who spent more than 30 years here and reached the age of sixty, requiring them to either leave or submit to humiliating conditions, and pay unimaginable fees.
Also, it prevents the entry of any visitor who does not hold a university degree and is of a certain age. Since 2009, Kuwait has been referred to in international reports as a “repellant state for investment”. Even the people of Kuwait fled to the Gulf states that granted them privileges in order to settle with their capital and invest in projects.
Instead of spending on development projects, about two-thirds of its budget goes to salaries, most of which are disguised and idle unemployment, or to retirees who chose to flee to other countries to live after the closure of all places of recreation, as if the state chose to frown over joy and openness.
Ownership of real estate in the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries has become available today because of the conviction that the owner of the apartment, land, or building will not carry it with him when he leaves for his country, or when he dies, but rather will bear the spending on it, fees and services, and this enhances the national income.
We will not talk about the infrastructure in those countries, as it is sufficient to point out that the Dubai Metro alone has achieved fantastic returns within nine years, as well as the trains, road network, bridges, and the rest of the infrastructure and electronic governments that complete people’s transactions within minutes. On the other hand, it takes even more than a year to receive the civil ID in Kuwait, and the worst part is that no one knows the reason behind such delays.
There is no doubt that Kuwait lives outside the era due to backward laws, and for this reason, the country needs a different vision and open mindedness.
I wish His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Nawaf would read and ponder over these lines, and compare the reality of the brotherly Gulf countries with our bitter reality.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times
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